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Now here’s a map to help you report and avoid the flooded streets in Chennai

While Chennai is battling with torrential downpour, helping the citizens is a website that gives an overview of the areas that are flooded in the city.

Through open source web portal, Github, five individuals, Arun Ganesh, Prasanna V Loganathar, Aruna S, Sanjay Bhangar and Sajjad Anwar created a map which highlights the inundated roads in Chennai. Users can report a flooded street by zooming into the map and clicking it. The data on the website application is open for all to use.

(Top, clockwise) Arun Ganesh, Prasanna V Loganathar, Aruna S, Sanjay Bhangar, Sajjad Anwar Image Courtesy: Github(Top, clockwise) Arun Ganesh, Prasanna V Loganathar, Aruna S, Sanjay Bhangar, Sajjad Anwar Image Courtesy: Github

(Top, clockwise) Arun Ganesh, Prasanna V Loganathar, Aruna S, Sanjay Bhangar, Sajjad Anwar Image Courtesy: Github

According to The Economic Times, the map-based project highlighted over 1500 streets that had been flooded in the last 24 hours. Aruna S is quoted as saying, “My friend Aruna Shankarnarayan and I thought of such a map over the weekend as we wanted people to have a real sense of what is happening on the ground. There was no platform that was offering exact details.”

Adding to this map-based indexing of waterlogged regions in the city, Google Maps offered a solution by adding ‘layers’. The customised version of Google Maps lets people to mark areas which are flooded and unsafe for travel, helping them navigate through alternative routes for commuting, reported The Next Big What.

Screengrab of the open source website highlighting the flooded areas in Chennai.Screengrab of the open source website highlighting the flooded areas in Chennai.

Screengrab of the open source website highlighting the flooded areas in Chennai.

Singing national anthem in theatres doesn’t make anyone patriotic, says AIMIM MLA Imtiyaz Jaleel

Aurangabad: Local AIMIM MLA Imtiyaz Jaleel on Tuesday said national anthem need not be played in cinema halls as people go there for entertainment.

He said that merely singing the national anthem in a cinema hall does not make anybody patriotic.

“I love my country and have great respect for our tri-colour and national anthem, but I don’t want to show my patriotism, respect and love for this great country by singing the national anthem in a cinema hall,” Jaleel said in his post on social media.

He said playing the national anthem in cinema halls is “a big no as people go there for some entertainment and not for getting any certificate on patriotism”.

Imtiyaz Jaleel. Image Credit: TwitetrImtiyaz Jaleel. Image Credit: Twitetr

Imtiyaz Jaleel. Image Credit: Twitetr

The MLA said playing the anthem could be made mandatory in schools and colleges.

His comments came against the backdrop of an incident in a cinema hall in suburban Mumbai wherein a family was being asked to leave by the audience for not standing up while the national anthem was being played.

In Maharashtra, it is mandatory for all cinemas to play the national anthem before every film.

Jaleel said that love and respect should come from within and not just by singing the national anthem before start of a film.

Jaleel said an MNS leader, who was one of the panelists on a television programme, had said that he be sent to Pakistan.

“I don’t know when these nautanki artists learn to call a spade a spade. Don’t thrust your superficial patriotism on us. It’s my country and I don’t have to prove my love for India to any Tom, Dick and Harry,” he added.

Meanwhile, MNS activists demonstrated at Shivaji Park in Mumbai over Jaleel’s comments.


Chennai rains: How Twitter users are making a difference to those affected by the disaster

It’s December and Chennai is submerged with torrential rain that has broken all records and disrupted daily life. The downpour hasn’t abated in days and the death toll is nearing 200.  The Armed Forces have been deployed and even the Navy is on standby as water-logging is reaching dangerous levels. Additionally, the forecast only predicts more rain for this week. CM J Jayalalithaa has also said police, fire and rescue, national and state disaster forces and Coast Guard were on standby for need-based evacuation.

As the government and Army try to help the residents stay afloat, social media has also been flooded with relief efforts and updates on situation in Chennai as #Chennairains #Chennaifloods started trending in India. Be it shelter or other material through crowdsourcing and a dedicated Google spreadsheet, Twitter has been a crucial tool to reach out to the people affected by the disaster.

Here’s a sample:

Many influential personalities also joined in the plea for help

Even Chennai’s IPL team, the Chennai Super Kings has been active in trying to help out the city

Lastly, here’s a tweet that will  show that one can always make a difference, no matter how small

Facing harassment, female passenger seeks help on Twitter, Railway Ministry comes to the rescue

On 26 November, a woman travelling alone on a outstation bound train in Maharashtra took to twitter to seek help in a harassment related issue.

The woman tweeted:

NDTV reported that a senior officer, Ved Prakash took notice of the tweet and told the Central Railway chief PRO, Narendra Patil to help the woman. Patil also replied to her tweet, seeking information about the train and she was also asked to contact the security helpline number 182. The Railway Ministry’s twitter account responded:

Patil is quoted in the website as saying, “the man had a wait-listed ticket and his behaviour and body language did not seem to be decent and since Mahajan was travelling alone, she felt terrified.”

The Times of India reported that as the train reached Bhusaval, she was helped by RPF Jawans. The male passenger was moved to another coach as he had a valid ticket to travel on the train.

How many years to correct mistake, Salman Rushdie asks about ‘Satanic Verses’ ban

New Delhi: Hours after former finance minister P Chidambaram described the ban on Salman Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” in India as wrong, the author asked how many more years it would take to correct the “mistake”.

Salman Rushdie in a file photo. ReutersSalman Rushdie in a file photo. Reuters

Salman Rushdie in a file photo. Reuters

Rushdie’s remarks was prompted by Chidambaram’s admission on Saturday that the Rajiv Gandhi government’s decision to ban the controversial novel was a mistake.

Chidambaram, who was minister of state home affairs when the ban was imposed in October 1988, had said at the Delhi Times LitFest on Friday that he had “no hesitation in saying that the ban on Salman Rushdie’s book was wrong.”

Rushdie took to Twitter to say, “This admission just took 27 years. How many before the ‘mistake’ is corrected?”

The publication of the “Satanic Verses” in 1988 was followed by a fatwa by Iran’s religious leader Ayatollah Khomenini calling for Rushdie to be killed, forcing the author to go into hiding.

Earlier in 2012, the author had to pull out from the Jaipur Literature Festival citing threats by some Muslim groups and had to even cancel a subsequent video address in the same festival.


Indian group hacks into Pakistan websites, post patriotic messages as ‘payback’ for 26/11

The group, identified as Team Indian Black Hats, hacked into Pakistani websites, including a high profile Pakistan government website, according to a report by The Hindu.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

They then marked their success by posting photographs of the Indian tricolour or of the 26/11 martyrs along with a patriotic song as background music on the compromised websites, says India Today.

Meanwhile, IBTimes India reports that another group of hackers, called Kerala Cyber Warriors (KCW),  also hacked into Pakistani servers.

“It is cyber pay back for 26/11 Mumbai attack against Pakistan. It just took a day for us to hack all these 125 sites with the background song Oru Yathramozhiyode from Mohanlal’s Kurukshetra movie. We have access to many Pakistan servers, so the defacing was easy,” one of the hackers from the KCW were quoted as saying by IBTimes India.

The incidents of hacking were on the rise this week and it was attributed to the seventh anniversary of the multiple strikes in Mumbai back in 2008.

Kislay Chaudhary, cyber security analyst and CEO of Indian Cyber Army told India Today, “There has been a sudden increase in the number of attacks this week, and the reason clearly is 26/11. Hackers from both the countries launch attacks on days of historic importance. Indian hackers keep tracking Pakistani websites and find their vulnerability. They wait for a particular day to deface it and post their message.” 

Move over Bhajji, this is the new Slapgate: Slap Aamir Khan and get Rs 1 lakh reward, offers Shiv Sena

As if the hullaballoo over Aamir Khan’s remarks hadn’t spiralled enough out of control, the Shiv Sena’s Punjab unit (be honest, how many of you actually knew the Sena even had a Punjab unit?) has gone one step further and announced a reward of Rs one lakh for each slap landed on the actor.

That’s right, the party’s Punjab chairman Rajeev Tandon made the announcement during a protest outside Ludhiana’s MDB Radisson Blu, where Aamir is staying for the ongoing shoot of his upcoming film Dangal, reports The Indian Express.

Before this turned into a nationwide slap-a-thon, Tandon was quick to clarify the terms and conditions of his ‘Slap Aamir’ contest.

The report quoted him as saying, “We give an opportunity to the manager and employees of the hotel and also the team of his film to slap Aamir and get Rs 1 lakh from us. The courageous and patriotic persons who will slap Aamir Khan in Ludhiana will get Rs 1 lakh reward per slap from us.”

To recap: You have to be a manager or employee of the hotel, or from his film team to qualify for the reward. Also, slapping undertaken in Ludhiana will be honoured.

That’s Madhuri Dixit out of contention, then:

It’s possible that being ‘courageous and patriotic’ is also a prerequisite, but that’s likely also the catch.

Never mind patriotism, would a courageous person slap someone for expressing an opinion?

Keeping it classy as always, the Sena mouthpiece Saamana carried an article accusing the actor of having become a ‘self-appointed mullah’. The piece goes on to add that “such persons already enjoy too much freedom”. And of course, there were the usual refrains of “Go to Pakistan”, which actually merit a bit of investigation.

Could it be that the Shiv Sena is the covert PR wing for the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation?

If that’s not something you want to wrap your minds around, here are some tweets in response to ‘Slap Aamir’ contest:

Delhi govt to organise ‘Car Free Day’ on 22 Jan, CM Kejriwal to cycle to office on that day

New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday announced that his government will organise ‘Car-Free Day’ across the national capital on 22 January, saying he will also cycle to his office that day.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

Addressing a gathering at an event of ‘Car-Free Day’ held on the road stretch between Dwarka Sector 3-13 and Sector 7-9, Kejriwal said his government vows to take Car-Free Day from being symbolic to a reality.

The Chief Minister also appealed to people to forego cars and opt for cycle or public transport to go to their offices.

“On January 22, we will organise Car-Free Day across Delhi. I appeal people to go to their offices by cycle or public transport on that day. I will also go to my office on cycle on January 22,” Kejriwal said.

“If 5-10 per cent of people follow our appeal and use cycle and public transport on January 22, it will also be big achievement for us,” he added.

Kejriwal also said that the Aam Aadmi Party government was working on cycle-tracks in the national capital to further bolster the initiative.

The Delhi Government presently holds Car-Free Day on separate stretches in different areas on the 22nd of every month. On 22 October, the transport department had held such event between from Red Fort to India Gate.

The next Car-Free Day here will be held in East Delhi’s Patparganj area on 22 December.

“22 Dec-Car free day in East Del. 22 Jan-lets all leave car 4 one day n go office on cycle or public transport. I’ll go 2 my office on cycle (sic),” Kejriwal later tweeted.

He said there was a 60 percent reduction in pollution level on stretch between Red Fort and India Gate during Car-Free Day on 22 October.

Sunday’s event in Dwarka area kicked off with a cycle rally led by Chief Minister Kejriwal.

Members of Indian Administrative Services (IAS) and Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service (DANICS) Officers’ Association also participated in the cycle rally, which was also attended by Delhi Chief Secretary KK Sharma.

Transport Minister Gopal Rai on the occasion said the government was getting warm response from people towards its Car-Free initiatives.


I have not been able to eat: Alwar’s Imran Khan overwhelmed after PM Modi hails him at Wembley stadium

Jaipur: Imran Khan, a maths teacher in a government school in Alwar district of Rajasthan, still can not believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned his name during his speech at London’s Wembley stadium.

“It still is like a dream… PM mentioning my name is unbelievable… When PM was delivering his speech I was half asleep. I do not have a TV in my house. I came to know only after my friends and well-wishers started to call me. To confirm this, I watched the prime minister’s speech on YouTube… watched it again and again to confirm… reconfirm it… he was mentioning me,” Imran Khan told IANS on the phone on Saturday, a day after Modi’s address.

Imran Khan. TwitterImran Khan. Twitter

Imran Khan. Twitter

“You will not believe that since yesterday evening I have not been able to eat food… there are media persons… my friends… my relatives calling up… coming to meet me… absolutely no food since yesterday evening,” said a happy Imran.

“I made a small effort and it has been praised by the PM…. it feels great… really very great,” he said.

Modi, during his speech, said: “In Rajasthan’s Alwar there is a man called Imran Khan. He has made 50 mobile apps. And Alwar’s Imran Khan dedicated those apps to the students for free.”

“My India is in that Imran Khan from Alwar,” Modi said.

The 37-year-old teaches maths in a government school in Alwar district.

Imran has so far developed 52 education-oriented mobile applications since 2012.

“I do not have any background in computer technology but I had a computer in my house and I used to devote lot of time on it developing websites and other things. When I met the then district collector of my area he told me to develop apps as he said that future will belong to mobile apps. After reading some books that had chapters on apps, I started to develop mobile apps and since 2012 I have developed 52,” he said.

“My mobile apps have been downloaded by over 30 lakh users so far,” Imran claimed.

With inputs from IANS

London, New York and now Delhi: Madame Tussauds to open wax museum in national capital

London: Madame Tussauds, the world famous wax museum, will open its new venture in New Delhi for Bollywood stars as part of the India-UK Year of Culture in 2017, it was officially announced in London coinciding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s maiden visit to the UK.

Bollywood stars such as Amitabh Bachchan and Katrina Kaif are among the most popular exhibits at the famous waxworks in London.

Katrina Kaif (right) poses next to her brand new wax figure unveiled at Madame Tussauds in London , on 27 March, 2015. AFPKatrina Kaif (right) poses next to her brand new wax figure unveiled at Madame Tussauds in London , on 27 March, 2015. AFP

Katrina Kaif (right) poses next to her brand new wax figure unveiled at Madame Tussauds in London, on 27 March, 2015. AFP

According to the announcement by British Prime Minister David Cameron, a Shakespeare First Folio, treasures from the British Museum and a copy of the Magna Carta will go on touring displays in India for the 2017 cultural exchange. A festival of India will be staged in the UK during the year.

“The great partnership between India and the UK extends beyond economic ties to the boards of The Bard and the beaches of Bollywood. We have some of the best cultural exports in the world – and it’s about time we celebrated this, together,” Cameron said.

A year long-programme to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Indian independence and UK cultural ties has been announced by Cameron. The Year of Culture 2017 will see an exciting festival of events celebrating the vibrant cultural history of the two countries. Top UK institutions will partner with their Indian counterparts to strengthen cultural and economic ties between the two nations, and showcase British creativity on the global stage.

The British Library will be digitising 200,000 pages of their South Asian archives.

“Two centuries of Indian print will be part of a major programme to make the wealth of Indian printed books held by the British Library dating from 1714 to 1914 accessible to anyone around the globe,” he said.

The parent group of Madame Tussauds, Merlin, is set to invest 50 million pounds in India over 10 years, rolling out other UK favourites – such as Sea Life aquariums and Legoland Discovery Centres – across Indian cities.

Two of the most iconic British texts will tour India as part of the programme. The British Library will showcase Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of the Bard’s plays – and the 1225 edition of the Magna Carta.

One of India’s premier museums – the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai – will tell the story of Indian civilisation in the context of world history using some items on loan from the British Museum.

The UK is already a big hit with Indian tourists. Last year saw a record breaking 400,000 visits to the UK from India and in the first half of 2015, Indian tourists spent 199 million pounds during their stays.


Never faced issues working in India, groups that work against Pak should be ignored: Fawad Khan

Peshawar: Pakistani actor Fawad Khan on Wednesday said that he never faced any issues working in India and the groups that work against Pakistan should be ignored.

Fawad Khan. Sachin Gokhale/Firstpost

Fawad Khan. Sachin Gokhale/Firstpost

Khan was attending a tree plantation event at the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital (SKMCH) and Research Centre.

Talking about the growing cases of religious intolerance and the mood against Pakistanis in India, Fawad said one should ignore the groups that work against Pakistan.

“I have never faced any issues working in India. The groups that work against Pakistan should be ignored because there are similar groups present in Pakistan too. We as artists should ignore such groups and concentrate on our work,” he said.

The Shiv Sena has in recent weeks targeted Pakistani artists and have said they will not allow artists from Pakistan to work in India.

The party forced popular Ghazal singer Ghulam Ali to cancel his concerts in different parts of India last month.

The group has also said it would not allow Fawad and Mahira Khan to promote their upcoming films in Maharashtra.

While Fawad has completed shooting for Kapoor and Sons, Mahira will be making her much anticipted Bollywood debut alongside Shah Rukh Khan in Raees.

The Pakistani star who made waves with his first Bollywood film Khubsoorat said he would love to invite Khan to visit the latter’s native city Peshawar.

“Peshawar is very beautiful and peaceful, and I will invite Shahrukh Khan to visit his native city,” he said.


Now, historians overseas join their counterparts in India in criticising govt for intolerance

After historians, writers, filmmakers, scientists, artists and other intellectuals in the country speaking out against the Narendra Modi government over the alleged rise of intolerance in India, historians overseas have now raised their voices over the issue in support of their counterparts in the country.

PM Narendra Modi. AFP

PM Narendra Modi. AFP

“What the present regime seems to be promoting, as our colleagues in India note, is a legislated account of the past, glorifying a homogenised and inflexible ‘Hindu’ tradition,” the historians wrote in an open letter, published among other websites, on South Asia Citizens Web.

The historians also made observations on both the Dadri killing and the brutal murder of two Dalit children in Faridabad, saying that both the incidents showed how farcical India’s proclaimed traditions of democracy and tolerance really were.

The letter also said that the murder of established scholars (like MM Kalburgi) just for expressing their intellectual opinions, their research and writings was the example of intolerance.

“What makes the situation worse is that the Prime Minister and leaders of government have not felt it necessary to speak out promptly and strongly against these acts of criminal violence,” the hisorians overseas said in their open letter.

This is not the first open letter that has criticised the government or the BJP for intolerance in the country. Journalist Barkha Dutt on Saturday wrote an open letter to Shah Rukh Khan, condemning the clearly intolerant remarks made against him by members of the right-wing.

Shah Rukh Khan had been called an ‘anti-national’, ‘Pakistani agent’ and had even been compared to Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.

In late October, former chief of the Indian Navy and former internal Lokpal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Admiral (retd) Laxminarayan Ramdas had written an open letter to PM Narendra Modi, asking him to direct his government to take action to prevent the spread of religious intolerance in the country.

Many artists and intellectuals had returned the National Awards given to them as a sign of protest against the government over the rising intolerance. Instead of ensuring action, many people from the government had criticised the intellectuals and accused them of selective outrage and political bias.

“Sadly, time and time again, the response of the government seems to indicate an almost studied, but certainly not benign, indifference . The co-ordinated response of those in government seems to be to downplay the serious and vicious nature of these allegations and attacks,” Ramdas had written in his letter.

‘Haathi chale Bihar,… bhaunken hazaar’: Shatrughan Sinha returns fire at Vijayvargiya

Shatrughan Sinha just escalated his tiff with the BJP as he responded to an insult hurled at him by a party leader infamous for consistently sticking his foot in his mouth.

After Kailash Vijayvargiya — yes, the very same one — on Monday compared party MP Shatrughan Sinha to a dog, Sinha took to Twitter to reply.

For the uninitiated, ‘haathi chale bazaar, kutta bhauken hazaar‘ is a very popular Hindi muhavra, or expression, which encourages a person to be thick-skinned, because there will always be  baseless and harsh criticism hurled at him/her.

Sinha obviously played around with the expression and changed ‘bazaar‘ to ‘Bihar’ to suit the occasion and censored the word ‘kutta‘.

Shatrughan Sinha gave a befitting reply to Vijayvargiya's remark.

Shatrughan Sinha gave a fitting reply to Vijayvargiya’s remark.

On Monday, Vijayvargiya, a BJP General Secretary and a party strategist for Bihar Assembly polls, was asked to comment on Sinha’s remarks that the poll outcome could have been different had he been projected as the chief ministerial candidate and that those responsible for NDA’s defeat “should be taught a lesson”.

“When a car moves, a dog moves under it too, the dog believes that the car is moving because of me. This party is not dependable on one person, it’s a whole organisation and there’s a big hierarchy here. Those who are out of it were on a ‘Maun Vrat‘ and now they are speaking,” Vijayvargiya, a former minister in Madhya Pradesh, had said.

The dog analogy was being used by a BJP leader for the second time in recent weeks after Union Minister VK Singh did so over the Dalit burning incident in Faridabad.

Moreover, Vijayvargiya had earlier also taken a cheap dig at Shah Rukh Khan. “Shah Rukh lives in India, but his soul is in Pakistan. His films make crores here but he thinks India to be intolerant,” Vijayvargiya had said in a series of tweets.

He also said on Monday that Sinha’s identity in politics is because of the BJP and he alone should decide on his loyalty to the party.

“Shatrughan Sinha’s identity in politics is because of the BJP, and BJP’s identity is not because of him. How much loyal he should be towards the party should be decided by him. Causing loss to the party even when you’ve taken so much from the party, that is for him to decide. I disagree with his behaviour,” he had said.

Vijayvargiya also went on to say that a person is assessed by how he or she behaves during a victory or loss.

“It’s the party’s honest workers who did their hard work, winning and losing happens in a democracy but a person is identified by their behaviour after winning or losing. Everbody’s character is coming to light whether it is Shatrughan Sinha or anybody else,” he had added.

Sinha, who has been severely critical of BJP leadership, particularly those in the Bihar unit, after he was left out of the campaign for the Assembly polls, had said he was “deliberately sidelined”.

“I am not bragging, but I do feel that when the darling (laadla) of Bihar’s people, the dhartiputra (son of the soil) and the original ‘Bihari babu’ was deliberately sidelined, it definitely had an impact on my supporters and fans.

“I can’t say how much difference it could have been, but I can definitely say, some difference would have been there. We could have definitely got more seats than what we got,” he said.

The NDA got just 58 seats in a House of 243.

With inputs from PTI

Mahira Khan posing with ‘Shiv Sainik’: No one should have to say sorry for good humour

It all began when the Shiv Sena announced in the last week of October that it will not allow any Pakistani actor to step on Maharashtra’s soil. The party also made it clear that Pakistani actors like Mahira Khan or Fawad Khan would not be allowed to promote their upcoming films in Maharashtra.

Mahira Khan’s response, however, could not have been wittier. An image surfaced online a few days back showing Mahira at a Halloween party in Lahore posing with film director Asim Raza, who was dressed up as a Shiv Sena leader holding the placard that read, “Mahira ko bahar nikaalo“.

Anger and outrage erupted against Mahira Khan because of that image, reported IANS. Filmmaker Ashoke Pandit, who has thundered in support of the right-wing several times on TV news channel debates and has also tweeted saying that “Shiv Sena was so right in their act of blackening” Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face, also tweeted against Mahira.

Pandit said that he condemned the ‘intolerant’ act of Mahira Khan, stressing on the fact that she was a Pakistani artist.

Eventually, Mahira Khan apologised for the picture. She said she didn’t intend to hurt anyone’s sentiments and artists should not be dragged into politics. She also said the image was made out “to be something it never was”, although she didn’t mention who the people responsible for that interpretation were.

But why should Mahira Khan have to apologise for that picture in the first place?

Did that picture contain any communally offensive jibe?

Was it sexist, racist or elitist?

Was it anti-India?

The answers, we can all agree, are no, no and no.

The picture was just a response to a political party whose idea of patriotism is to ban everyone from Pakistan from entering Maharashtra — except Malala Yousafzai, of course.

(From left) Asim Raza and Mahira Khan. Image courtesy: @TOIEntertain/Twitter

(From left) Asim Raza and Mahira Khan. Image courtesy: @TOIEntertain/Twitter

The picture was a counter-view (and that too, in the form of a joke) to a hardline stance taken by a political party. What seems to be lost on the likes of Pandit is that if what Mahira and Asim did was indeed an act of ‘intolerance’, then political cartoons and caricatures — which by nature take digs at political parties and their ideologies — become ‘intolerant’ acts.

Without belabouring the point, the biggest irony is that the picture is being called ‘intolerant’ by a person who could apparently not tolerate a light-hearted joke about the behaviour of a certain political party to which the person has taken a fancy.

Far more unfortunate, however, is the fact that one should have to justify the context of a picture. Bear in mind, this wasn’t an inflammatory statement delivered from the pulpit of a rally, or oven a television broadcast. It was a photograph of two people at a party.

The merits of freedom of expression notwithstanding, so long as that expression is not sexist, or communal or racist, or biased against a community, this sort of attack on someone’s expression is baseless. Disagreeing respectfully with that point of view is one thing, attacking the right to make a point — not to mention turning the whole issue personal — is a different thing altogether.

Moreover, one of the most ridiculous aspects of this situation was that Mahira Khan had to apologise whereas the person actually dressed up like a Shiv Sena leader and holding the placard was Asim.

Of course, this doesn’t mean what he did was wrong.

This just goes to show that the outrage, apart from being wrong in principle, was also misdirected. Is this also a thinly-veiled case of sexism or just the fact that Mahira is probably better known in India than Asim? Whatever be the reason, it’s laughable when the person who faced the most criticism was someone standing next to the person who caused all the outrage.

Intolerance against a point of view which opposes a political party’s stand is exactly the kind of thing that worsens the already terrible reputation of tolerance in India.

When people have to worry about what they can wear at a Halloween party, we’re entering a truly dangerous time.

After Zuckerberg’s Delhi townhall, Savetheinternet questions Facebook’s platform

New Delhi: Even as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg expressed commitment to net neutrality, volunteers of have raised questions over the platform.

In an open letter to Zuckerberg, the savetheinternet team said it’s “a matter of distress” that Facebook through its platform and lobbying on regulatory consultations, has sought to undermine net neutrality in India.

Mark Zuckerberg at his townhall at IIT Delhi. PTIMark Zuckerberg at his townhall at IIT Delhi. PTI

Mark Zuckerberg at his townhall at IIT Delhi. PTI

During his townhall address on Wednesday, Zuckerberg said his company is committed to net neutrality, but supported zero-rating plans which have been criticised by many as violative of the principles of a free Internet.

“Even today, has restrictions that those services which compete with telecom operator services will not be allowed on it,” the letter said.

The letter said its concern with Basics is that it will create a new digital divide: those who access Facebook and its partner services, and those who access the open Internet.

The letter said is not an open platform and “all we are asking for is for you to ensure that any such effort to bring access to the Internet ensure that users get access to the entire Internet, and not through a pre-determined menu or filter, which primarily benefits those who are selected for the platform”.

The letter flagged worries that data for all the websites on will be with Facebook and restrictions on them publicly disclosing usage of their sites and services by users on

“Facebook, along with its intention to connect billions to the Internet, should support and advocate Net neutrality and permissionless innovation in India, the way it has done in the US,” the letter argued., which aims to bring free Internet access to the developing world, has faced a backlash, with activists alleging that it violates net neutrality, an idea which means that all online traffic should be treated equally.

Read the full letter here

STI Statement on Mark Zuckerberg


National Award was given by nation and not govt, won’t return it, says Vidya Balan

Mumbai: Bollywood star Vidya Balan on Thursday said she will not give back her national award as it was an honour bestowed on her by the country and not the government.

Vidya Balan. Reuters

Vidya Balan. Reuters

The comment come in the backdrop of some eminent film personalities returning their National Awards in solidarity with FTII students and against growing intolerance in the country.

“This honour (the award) is by the nation and not the government. So I do not want to return it,” Balan said at the ‘India Today’ Conclave in Mumbai.

Balan had won the National award for the best actress for her performance in The Dirty Picture in 2012.

Filmmakers Dibakar Banerjee and Anand Patwardhan were among the 10 film personalities who have returned their National Awards in solidarity with FTII students and against growing intolerance in the country.

Banerjee and other filmmakers said their decision to return the awards was taken in view of the apathy displayed by the government in addressing the issues raised by the FTII students and the general environment of intolerance against debate.

Yesterday, the FTII students ended their 139-day-old strike to return to the classes against the appointment of actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of the prestigious institute, but said they will continue to seek his removal.

Meanwhile, Vidya Balan said she was not interest in joining politics and would “fail miserably” at it.

She also said that working towards social causes should be an individual decision and no one should be compelled to work for a particular cause.

The 37-year-old actress will be next seen in the Marathi film Ek Albela, a biopic on actor-director Bhagwan Dada. She will be portraying golden era actress Geeta Bali in the film.

The film is scheduled for release in January next year.


#GeetacomesHome trends as Geeta’s return from Pakistan is hailed by Indian Twitterati

Geeta, the deaf-mute Indian woman who has been stranded in Pakistan, arrived in India over a decade after she was found aboard the Samjhauta Express train in Lahore. Geeta, now in her early 20s, was around 11-years-old when she was found in Pakistan. In 2003, she was spotted by the Pakistan Rangers in Lahore station, and handed over to the Edhi Foundation.

Geeta landed in New Delhi from Karachi and was accompanied by members of Edhi Foundation, a social welfare organisation that has been looking after her since 2003.

Geeta arrives in India. Image Credit: Twitter @MEAIndiaGeeta arrives in India. Image Credit: Twitter @MEAIndia

Geeta arrives in India. Image Credit: Twitter @MEAIndia

As Geeta set off from Pakistan, there was flurry of activity in Delhi and both Indian and Pakistani officials were present to welcome her. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj even hailed her as ‘Bharat ki beti’ (India’s daughter) on Twitter.

Several others on social media wished her well and praised the combined effort to reunite Geeta with her family. #Geetacomeshome was one of the top trends on Monday and though certain people did talk about the strained Indo-Pak relations, most tweets welcomed her home.

Here’s how Twitter reacted to Geeta coming home.

‘Response of govt seems to indicate indifference’: Ex-navy chief writes heartfelt open letter to PM Modi

Former chief of the Indian Navy and former internal Lokpal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Admiral (retd) Laxminarayan Ramdas has written a heartfelt open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to direct his government to take action to prevent the spread of religious intolerance in the country.

Laxminarayan Ramdas. Reuters

Laxminarayan Ramdas. Reuters

“My religion taught me values of love and respect for all beings. My brand of Hinduism was not filled with the kind of violence, intolerance represented by the current brand of “Hindutva” that seems to be fanning the flames of division and fear across the country,” Ramdas wrote in his open letter to the PM.

He also said that people from minority communities, especially Muslims, were being asked to repeatedly prove their loyalty to the nation. He said their places of worship was under attack and they were even being targeted for their eating habits.

Ramdas added that the more disturbing fact, however, is that “Sadly, time and time again, the response of the government seems to indicate an almost studied, but certainly not benign, indifference . The co-ordinated response of those in government seems to be to downplay the serious and vicious nature of these allegations and attacks – by terming them ‘sad’ and ‘unfortunate’ – whereas there should be outrage and a demonstrated will to ensure that this society will not tolerate such behaviour.”

The ex-navy chief also pointed out that there were MPs and cabinet ministers were leading the way in making provocative comments.

Ramdas’ open letter comes on the same day on which Prime Minister Modi, through his Mann Ki Baat address on radio, said that diversity of religions and castes is the beauty of India and that the ‘mantra’ of unity should be carried forward through thinking and expressions.

Invoking Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel ahead of his birth anniversary, he strongly batted for ‘unity in diversity’ while asserting that peace, harmony and unity are the key to progress.

“The mantra of unity should always be the medium of our thinking, our behaviour and expression,” Modi said.

“India is full of diversity. It has different sects, different religions, different languages and different castes. There are so many diversities in our India and this diversity is our beauty,” the Prime Minister said in his 35-minute programme.

He said if this diversity was not there, “we would not have been able to feel proud. Therefore, diversity is the mantra of unity.”

Mentioning the upcoming birth anniversary of Patel on 31 October, Modi said, “Let us pay tribute to Sardar (Patel) Sahab. Take the unity mantra forward.”

With inputs from PTI