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  • This is the best body of work in infra-red photography that I have seen in India.
      Shri S. Paul
    Photographer, on the infra red exhibition Ladakh Huess
  • I am proud to know this couple- Shamim and Sasmita. This book reflects the labour of their love. We could reach the place because of the power of his lens.
      Janab Arif Mohammed Khan
    Former state minister, at the inauguration of the book
  • Words fail me; outstanding!
      Mr. Rajiv Lochan
    Director NAGMA, on "One Fine Tuesday"
  • At times Delhi looks beautiful but the kind of flavour Shamim has brought about in black and white is not only very beautiful but after this book we all will see these monuments from a fresh perspective.

    ( while unveiling of the book 'Forgotten Dilli - Portrait of an immortal city')

    Extraordinarily taken pictures. Akhtar is someone we are proud of.

    ( on 'Ladakh Hues " )
      Mrs. Sheila Dixit
    Ex-CM Delhi
  • When stones burst into songs

    Qutub Minar must count among the most sketched, painted and photographed monuments of the world. What the Eiffel Tower is to Parisians, the Big Ben to Londoners, the Brandenburg Gate to Berliners and the Statue of Liberty to New Yorkers, the Qutub Minar is to Dilliwallahs. It is older and more spectacular than all the other monuments.

    I have seen hundreds of photographs of Qutub Minar but none to match the cover of Forgotten Dilli, Portrait of an Immortal City by Sasmita S. Akhtar and Shamim Akhtar. Shamim is a Bihari Muslim, now in the IAS, posted in Delhi. Sasmita is an Oriya Brahmin, a sociologist, who is a product of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Between them, they produced a pictorial album on Lakshadweep and now one on the old monuments of Delhi.

    Sasmita has written the text; Shamim has taken the photographs. They have limited their work to the end of the Mughal dynasty in 1857. They have pictures of baolis (step wells), dargahs (Sufi shrines), forts, mosques, and mausoleums. What arrests the readers attention is the interplay of light and shade on trees and clouds to highlight every monument.

    It is a sheer joy to turn over the pages of the book again and again. It reminded me of an old film song, 'Geet gaaya paththaron ne ' 'The stones burst with songs'.
      Mr. Khuswant Singh
    The Telegraph, 6th March 2010
  • 'A stunning exhibition, highlighting the unique beauty of Ladakh...extremely impressed by the quality of his images.'

    (on the exhibition, Rode to Heaven in 2008)

    'I have great pleasure in commending this book to all those who love mountains. Packed with photographs, there are short descriptive notes which are useful.'

    (In the foreword of the book, Rode to heaven: Ladakh in 2009)

    ...I myself have not been able to go to Kailasa nor will I be able to go to in this life; but after reading this book I feel I have also done half parikarma.'

    (At the inauguration of the book, 'Kailasa: A journey within' , at the Shanti Stupa, on the 30th of Jan. 2011)
      Dr. Karan Singh
    At the inauguration of the book, 'Kailasa: A journey within', at the Shanti Stupa, on the 30th of Jan. 2011
July 3, 2014
Will most of us in India have to wear the bell in our neck again?

Ms. Uma Bharti, saying that she is a “Sai bhaktin” and the Shankaracharya, with all his followers, reacting to it in a manner that she must resign because Sai is a “Muslim” and it’s an insult to the “Sanatan Dharma” is not an insignificant issue. It’s alarming with respect to where we are headed.

Before trying to understand the connotation of this reaction, lets try to understand the dynamics of religion and politics that have shaped India for the last 2,500 years.

Even the biggest critiques of “Sanatan” or “Vedic” dharma cannot deny that not only is this the first religion of the world but also very peace loving and in its true spirit is nature worshipping. It’s a religion that worships the elements. Then it’s also true the “Purusha Shuktam” is a later interpolation in the Rig Veda in later Vedic period. The result of this “Purusha Shuktam” and its evils is well known to mankind. Brahmins became the Lords and the Shudras were denied even the basic civic rights in society. Their shadows were also said to defile the “higher” caste Hindus. Hence, Shudras were supposed to wear a bell in their neck to warn the higher caste Hindus that an “untouchable” was coming. Moreover in southern parts of India the Shudras were also supposed to have a broom at their back to clean the path they walked.

In the entire history of mankind, such inhuman behavior in the name of religion is unheard of.

When Lord Buddha, showed the path of enlightenment without any middle man, the Brahamanical order was threatened and thus Buddhism was pushed out of India.

When Muslims came to India, Islam provided an alternative path to the underprivileged lower caste Hindus. In almost 700 years of rule by Muslim kings in India, the Brahmanical order was dormant. Equality of all before Allah being the guiding force of Islam, it provided freedom from inequality of the caste system of “Sanatan” dharma. It’s another story that in due course the Brahmanical order penetrated Islam as well and caste was introduced amongst Muslims in India.

When British ruled India, they formally brought “Rule of Law” in Indian governance. The so called secular Pundit Jawahar Lal Nehru was the shrewd Brahman waiting for an opportunity to “restore” the Brahmanical order. And even at the cost of partitioning our nation, Nehru and his Congress ruled and continued the Brahamincal order in the disguise of “secularism”. Please have a look at the list of past and present Secretaries to Government of India, Chief Secretary and Principle Secretaries of State Governments and you may find “some” non- Brahmins as well.

Coming to Shri Sai baba, in a neutral manner, is it fair to call him a “Muslim”? Sai, Kabir, Rahim, Raskhan, Meera, etc are the pioneers of Sufism in India. These were the enlightened souls who believed in the oneness of Almighty and showed the path of pure love and devotion to the Lord without any coded form. Sufism is the second best gift to mankind after Buddhism. These Saints are beyond and above any religion.

Interestingly, the late Shri Satya Sai baba, who was supposed to be the re-incarnation of Sai was never “criticized” by any Shankaracharya. Was it because he was a born Hindu? I wonder what is the take of Shankaracharyaon the followers of Satya Sai (whose reality was known to the world after his demise)

Coming to our constitution, it does give some fundamental rights, including the right to “Freedom of Religion”.

The recent result of Lok Sabha is a turning point in Indian Politics. Be it BJP or RSS, the nation has to progress in the positive direction. “One step forward and two steps backward” policies of Congress must stop. There are a lot of expectations from the present government. After taking the oath, the government has to represent the entire country and its people including the smallest minority group.

The religious leaders, like Shankaracharya or any so called “Shahi Imam” should be “advised” by the government to restrict their business to their religion and not to interfere in the governance of this country, which is a secular nation at least on paper.

If Ms. Uma Bharti has to “resign” because she is a “Sai Bhaktin”, then Ms. Najma Hepatullah should also be asked to resign because she is not a worshipper of Shri Ram.

If our Ministers don’t have right to Freedom of Religion, may lord help this present government or else the 5000 years old Brahmanical order will take over again and almost 80% citizens of our nation will have to bear bell in their neck again.



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