Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Anna Hazare: Ayes! Ayes! We now have a Superhero!!

“He is only in the Crucible, I tell you – he will be the fusion of all races, perhaps the coming Superman” – Israel Zangwill

Hearty congozz to those who after having their strings attached for a while with a media orchestrated tamasha, were reprieved after 13-days of sloganeering, swaying of tricolors and anti-neta tirade; after all direct democracy did push the envelope over it’s participative form coercing the Indian Government to bow their heads, usher in a debate over the Lokpal Bill in the Parliament as the pandemonium did subside for a while, paving way for introspection to take on the gushing flow of one’s thoughts. A good pal of mine hailing from the uber sleepy town of Hathras, U.P.shared this instance with me, when he confronted a youngster participating in the Anti-corruption protest, if he was aware of the Jan Lokpal Bill, a response that was nothing less than a straight thwack right up there, the lad replied it was at the behest of his father that he confirmed his presence in the current procession, obviously shrugging shoulders over the real purpose and motive behind being included in the crowd, caught up in a mad frenzy of the moment and shouting “Anna hum tumhare saath hain”. 

This ululating act of mine might not go down well with a large chunk of the gentry who have already placed Anna Hazare on the pedestal of a messiah, a superhero who would help them get rid of all the evils by his anti-govt. rant and vocally banishing ideas a true Gandhian should have stood for, after all he embraces the ideology of Shivaji and his act of chopping down the hands of a perpetrator (Article in Open magazine dated April 16, 2011). Quite a nifty example to illustrate my bang-on carping could be easily plucked from our school days, when post-school our eyes used to scour for the man with the ‘barf ka gola’, those colorful lumps of ice giving us heavenly feeling after another drudgery-laden day; not that I’m hell bound on relegating the stature of Mr. Hazare, an eighth class pass, erstwhile driver in the Indian Army, an activist and now seemingly being transformed into the face of the Nation, yet isn’t it a fact that our pent up anger and frustration has erected a stage on the stretches of the Ramlila Maidan, and have easily catapulted Anna on that temporary embankment, spadework of few crafty minds blindfolding a country of 1.21 billion men and women; Anna exemplifying the dido of the ‘barf ka gola wala’ and ‘we the people’ been reduced to kidos!
There is absolutely no need to get into thorough groveling antic, as fervid notions give rise to stark and vehement questions – How many of you have actually taken the pains to ruffle through the Lokpal Bill instead of dedicating hours to the idiot box showcasing Anna Lila, news channels minting TRPs and raking revenues that the rambunctious media can only dream of? There are certain provisions as stated in the PDF format of the bill (just a click of a mouse away for our lousy Anna maniacs!!) that perturbs me on the very outset of it. For instance the salaries and pensions of those employed under the purview of the Lokpal institution would be drawing their salaries and pensions from the Consolidated Fund of India, the very body that actually keeps the monetary cycle of remuneration running with regards to the government consortiums, that means we are burdening it with yet another institution inundating it without even realizing the consequences this would yield.Moving on, the Selection Committee under the aegis of the Lokpal would comprise of representatives belonging to the establishment that symbolizes the reigns of democracy, Senior Judges of Supreme Court, Chief Justices of High Court, Chairpersons of both Houses of Parliament, Magsasay Award winners and so on, giving the impression of a fortress that would mark the validation of an oligarchic rule or even worse than that!
We already have had the Prevention of Corrupt Practices Act, 1988, why wasn’t an attempt made to plug the loopholes prevalent in the existing rule book instead of pushing forth another mammoth body? 

One of the recent tweets by veteran journalist, Rajdeep Sardesai goes like this, it’s a sms joke: ‘manmohan singh and anna both follow a Gandhi, only the gandhis they follow belong to different eras, gnight!’ The jeering and the unintended pun being unleashed in the Anna jokes doing the round these days, gives you a jolt as one comes to terms with the expanse of the viral marketing and it’s ambush that has been laid to capture you unawares! So there you have ‘Inkfruit’ tees to cater to the farcical patriotic upsurge, we have our beloved Vidya Balan walking down the ramp donning the Gandhi cap (little did we have an inkling then that mood is being set to welcome her raunchy act in the upcoming ‘Dirty Picture’ movie). If this much of gawping wasn’t enough we have the King of Pulp Fiction, Chetan Bhagat extending kudos to Anna and his men,  this laudatory act giving the stench of farsighted machination, isn’t Mr. Bhagat’s book ‘Revolution 2020’ about to hit the stands, the plot revolving around two friends and their antithetical views on means to dabble with corruption?

Amidst this brouhaha that had its epicenter in Delhi, comes news apprising of the genocide committed in the Kashmir valley, (the Guardian dated Aug. 21, 2011), the State Human Rights Commission divulging the fact that as many as 2,156 unmarked graves belonging to those having been caught up in the tussle between the State and the militants have been uncovered so far! How many of us are smitten by the thought or even have the guts to take out a candle light vigil in the memory of around 70,000 people who have succumbed to a 22-year long dominance of insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir?
Irom Sharmila, another Gandhian is fighting a battle against the state, fasting for the past 10 years as she yearns that the draconian AFSPA be repealed from the region of Manipur. Food pipe has been inducted through the nostrils of this brave heart, who is being force fed by the government, at the age of 39-years, her weight is only 37 Kgs, she has stopped menstruating and her organs are being enfeebled with every passing day! Did anyone think of inflicting on their profiles scattered over a plethora of social networking sites with an ‘Irom Sharmila Badge’, come on now you got to be kidding me! After all flaunting accoutrements hovering around Anna is cool these days, Irom Sharmila and the ’Malom Massacre’ that propelled her to keep her own life at stake, doesn’t affect our sensibilities even one bit!

An innuendo I would like to chuck at those who inhabit the tinsel town is, ever thought of draping yourself in a ‘Kafan’ (shroud for those who’ve left for their heavenly abode) or being trundled on the ramp with a dangling food pipe alongside the zygomatic area; ah! That was too uncouth one could ask for! And you always thought that a bill would take on the role of the Pied-piper and would help the town in getting rid of the pesky rats! What would you take to confess that everyone had made up its mind to baptize themselves in the ‘behti Ganga’ of the anti-corruption rant!
There are in fact two ‘isms’ that are being distilled out of this revolution – Symbolism and Populism and mind you, each of these had a well-etched out message to be dispersed among the en masse! The tenor that was imbued with crude symbolism became evident when the portrait of Bharat Mata was replaced with that of Mahatma Gandhi, ‘Anna is Bharat & vice-versa’ shibboleths raging into your eardrums and a saintly figure being taken to a private hospital after ending his 13-day fast only to cock-the-snook at the Public Health Services. Presence of the potent force of Populism was felt when (as per without the obvious demographic analysis of the gathering), the realization dawned on all and sundry that the frothing masses across the country comprised of right-winged middle class crying hoarse against the UPA per se. There was a vast majority of those as well belonging to the Working Class participating in the so-called ‘second emergency’ since all of them have had borne experiences of paying bribe to a babu to get things done. Sir/Mam, could you please render me an explanation how to deal with cases such as these – a poor farmer paying bribe to get his emoluments due under the MNREGA scheme, a tribal bribing the concerned official to retrieve compensation due on his land accrued by the government in the name of development and a family that is paying extra to get 3kg of rice that’s their right under the PDS? What? These questions didn’t even whizz past you, gosh! That’s the wreckage unilateral thought-process always calls upon!

Vociferous Dalit and Muslim participation was the lacuna that this marquee couldn’t possibly conceal despite untiring efforts to mitigate the situation. The last-minute refuge was sought when Bollywood’s top-seeded actor Aamir Khan was roped in to lend his sympathetic side to Anna and requesting the 74-year old to end his fast. The big day would go down in your memories not as the moment of Public Will winning over the Will of the State this thought being subdued under the flashing images of the Dalit girl, Simran and a Muslim girl, Iqra offering coconut water and honey to the ‘Civil Activist’ of the year 2011! And right from the urban hordes to those residing in the boondocks, being bracketed in the ‘Civil Society’, all are expected to relish this no-brainer kind of a story being offered!
Question of pertinence that should have sent tremors across the cerebral hemispheres was why Team Anna displayed reluctance when it came to the inclusion of the NGOs in the Lokpal Bill. Is this the jigsaw puzzle that is being solved by none other than the lady whom we love to hate, activist-cum-writer, Ms. Arundhati Roy? In a column in The Hindu, she has alleged Arvind Kejriwal, one of the fore-runners of the entire movement as being backed by the Ford and Rockfeller Foundation, pouring in millions into the man’s ‘social initiatives’! This strikes me that Kiran Bedi is at the helm of affairs of the ‘India Vision Foundation’ and IAC (India Against Corruption) proclaims to have a transparent system of funding; not to forget that the Delhi Police has declared the Shanti Bhushan CD to be genuine in nature; so many myriad contrasts coming your way on the turf created by the players themselves!

Oops! Just forgot to mention another entertainer, former Star News anchor Shazia Ilmi who did utilize her journalistic experience to the utmost, by suggesting as to when should announcements pop-up so that they become the fodder of the prime time slot (article by Sunetra Choudhary, DNA , dated Aug. 27, 2011). Tears swell into my eyes as my body feels a fit of unabated rage, as I unravel these muffled entities, my heart goes out to Anna and his followers, not because they gave that feeling of ‘Civil Disobedience’ despite all the oddities but due to the harsh reality that all of them were in fact used as puppets for the realization of a bigger ulterior motive whose consequences we shall all bear till eternity!
I hear a rap-song on Anna has just made a foray on the small screen, what’s next, Anna Dolls?? Yeah, after all we have reduced ourselves to subjects who like canoodling more than getting their facts straight! I was wondering though, ‘Superman, when would my turn of flight come?’

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Anna Hazare vs. The State:This ain’t 2nd Emergency!!

On April 8, 2011 a day prior to the date when Anna Hazare, called off his 98-hour fast at the Jantar Mantar I had made my way to the venue, that was being touted as the Indian Tahrir Square, for if it was really about ushering a renaissance into the country where bizarre contrasts disturb your very peace of mind, be it idols drinking milk, women still being burnt to death because of dowry, this social malpractice being prohibited under Sections 304B and 498a of the Indian Penal Code way back in 1961, I thought let me also be a part of the movement that seems to have set the very tectonic plates of the Indian terrain in a state of turbulent dynamic motion. There was an inexplicable poignancy mixed with verve of nationalism and patriotism that dominated the macrocosm of the moment. I could see not only youngsters shouting, sloganeering, the tricolor becoming a seemingly weapon in their hands as they imbibed a sort of courage by the increased frequency of its swaying movement, the frothing masses being also made up bythe old, middle-aged men & women, children from a blind school, beads of sweat adorning their visage, showing eagerness to be a part of the on-the-spur-revolution that aimed to finish the monster of corruption for once and all, as if the effigy of Ravana would be burnt(an annual practice that marks the celebration of Dussehra), the citizens plunging into festivity, reinvigorating themselves with the smoke of that incineration filling their respiratory tracts!
Anna Hazare and his constabulary comprising of Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan have formed a bulwark against corruption, picking up the cudgels against the very repressive state that has been procrastinating the Jan Lokpal Bill ever since it was tabled for the first time in Parliament in 1968. For the past few months what one can see through this kaleidoscope is a ‘Mahabharata’ between The Government of India on one side and Anna Hazare and  his army of Civil Society members across the battlefield, the inclusion of the PM’s office and HigherJudiciary being the bone of contention between the two.
I definitely don’t harbor an iota of doubt on the integrity of Anna Hazare, his contention, those mercenaries giving him a vantage point over several other voices that often get subdued for they are not coming from the aegis of well-managed group like that of ‘India against Corruption’. The IAC definitely deserves kudos for striking a hard blow on the chintzy state with a well-devised marketing blitzkrieg, so we saw Anna greeting us on Zee TV’s ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’ and appearing chuffed at India TV’s ‘Aap Ki Adalat’! What vexes me though is the unabated frenzy that seems to take thousands in its grip, with hysteria ruling the roost, and an entire nation witnessing the helter-skelter with befuddlement, perversity being given vent to in the form of shibboleth “Anna hum tumhare saath hain”! Let’s not forget that the differences arose when the bill was stuck in the mud while still within the realm of the Drafting Committee and is awaiting its final verdict in the Parliament, with the option of introducing amendments into it still ‘on’ under the purview of the Standing Committee.
Apart from thousands that are being propelled towards the ‘Hearth of fiery action’ and being motivated to collect in hordes in other cities and towns across the country, the virtual world of internet is registering its riposte in a never-before-seen manner. After all everyone has a right to relish the ‘celebrity nanosecond’ as they harp from crooning to chorus singing, all bearing unilateral views that’s imbued with a sense of a megalomaniac than an aware citizen who knows the nitty gritty of the Ombudsman Bill and what it’s all about! Moreover, how can 100-million internet users spew incantations on behalf of 1.21 billion people who by default happen to be Indians as well just like you & me?
Apologies are duly extended but Mr. Hazare’s attitude reflects nothing but a despotic thought process that is inflicting the en masse as well. This incessant haggling and 24*7 drama from the shackles of earlier Rajghat, followed by Tihar Jail, India Gate and now the Ramlila Maidan is an outburst of the inhabitants of this country for several other issues that has trammeled their angst for long. The middle class for that matter that’s often accused of feathering its own nest, should first of all decide whether it is opposed to ‘retail corruption’ like that of shelling out currency notes for ‘chai-paani’ to a babu or is it crying hoarse against the large-scale corruption like that of 2G and CWG that fleeced the citizens of thousands of crores! For in this ‘selective rage’ lies the hypocrisy that mires this entire agitation and puts the gusto of those supporting it under a scanner.
Chief Economic Adviser, Kaushik Basu has already recommended the government to legalize bribing so that the source of it could be unraveled. Are you then ready to be penalized for bribing the lineman to put your haywire telephone connection in place?Scatterbrains who won’t pay heed to a red light are busy flaunting their Anna Hazare badges these days, ugh! Is that what Spartans do? ‘Hum logon ko samajh sako toh samjho dilbar jaani, jitna bhi tum samjhoge utni hogi hairani’ spare us for our abstemious outlook! Wow! That’s what I call pseudo-activism at its best!
Nandan Nilekani has already declared that lokpal is no magical bullet, (Indian Express dated Aug. 20, 2011) the proclamation coming from a man who is at the helm of affairs of the UID (Unique Identification) Project, that aims to plug the loopholes of the MGNREGA and the PDS. We are still working on the ills that plague the institutions already in place.A middle path is being sought to overcome acrimony roaring loudly from the ramparts of Red Corridor and other tumultuous zones of our country. If it’s about dealing with the goliath of judiciary that is suffering from a pestilence of its own, we are finding a plausible cure on that front. In the first ever televised proceedings, Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court would be bearing the brunt of his misdeeds soon, with the Rajya Sabha voting in favor of his impeachment. Provisions of the‘Judicial Accountability Bill 2010’are yet to be implemented in full force and we have waged a war against the State, with blinkers on our eyes, oblivious of the fact that a lot is construing in the backdrop of this tenor that characterize the Lokpal Movement. How can the installation of another institution, much coveted in terms of power vested in it and reach be manna in a maze of complicities?
Thriving on cynicism and romanticism is also among one of the many foibles of the Aam Aadmi and we therefore consider it as an ardent duty to participate in the Anna Lila. The Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law & Justice headed by Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi has invited suggestions for the Lokpal Bill 2011, in an ad published in all the news dailies on Aug. 20, 2011, the point is how many of you would really care to send a draft to assert your viewpoint logically rather than taking part in the procession aimlessly, just for the heck of it, not to forget that pandering about sharing of videos followed by slurry of ‘Likes’!
Anna is being compared to Mahatma, and Arvind Kejriwal is being considered as an avatar of Nehru, such stark contrasts being drawn for there is absolute paucity of role models in the political arena right now. Plucking weeds from a plantation where the weed has adapted itself to camouflage with the milieu, requires scrutiny and treatment of another kind, the fact to ruminate over here is why target only the politicians. There is bureaucracy, corporations that bloom in harmony mushrooming in the wake of the lacunae that allow them to surge ahead without raising an eyebrow. But if you ask me to call this phenomena of hurly burly subjects of a nation gallivanting on the roads, and threatening the government to pass a law that they believe would kick start the reign of an ‘Ideal State’ after bidding farewell to the heady days of ‘Andher Nagri’ as revival of another ‘Emergency’, I would say, ‘give me a break’ for owing to the very ipso facto, this confluence of sods is in no way comparable to the outburst of 1975!
Mahatma Gandhi’s great grandson, Tushar Gandhi for that matter is also able to draw sharp difference between Mahatma’s Satyagraha and Anna’s Aandolan, ruing over the fact that it’s in fact Populism that is acting as the fodder of this cannon (HT dated Aug. 18, 2011). In fact if you allow me to have the liberty of stepping into the shoes of the host of ‘We the People’, there are some stern questions I would like to direct at the Warrior from Ralegan Siddhi –Sir, I deeply respect your notion and initiative against flagrant corruption, but why is it that your entry on the turf is so perfectly timed when the country was drawing flak from various quarters nationally as well as globally with some of the ghoulish scams being unearthed, Sensex dropping like mercury in thermometer and the Big Capitalist Bosses of our country opting to invest outside Bharat than setting up industries within the confines of their motherland? Were you too busy to circumscribe the recrudescence of Khairlanji massacare of the Bhotmanges in 2006, the Godhra pogrom in 2002 killing 2000 people, men declaring blatantly how godly it was to obliterate the womb of a woman belonging to minority community, where were you when women of the North-East had decided to go au naturel, cohorts against the Indian Army protesting against the brutal murder and rape of 32-year old Manorama Devi in 2004? Corruption was the only tantalizing bait; the Sikhs ravaged by the riots of 1984, Muslims who are wooed as just another vote-bank, civilians of the North-East, tribals of Chattisgarh and youth of Kashmir that has lately come to acquaint itself with a stone than a ‘Tab’, are they not our brethren???
A warped state of expression would perhaps follow those foolhardy questions of mine. It’s high time to rise above the mass hysteria and act maturely, something that can be expected from a 65-year old nation!
In the backdrop of activist Aruna Roy coming up with her own version of the Lokpal Bill, news channels digging at ‘Anna Vandana’ without even angling for a story and ‘We the people of India’ savoring another tamashain our households, let’s hope that the Lokpal fray doesn’t boomerang the way post-emergency outrage did or ‘India Shining’ élan faded into god-knows-what wormhole! As far as the citadel of Anna is concerned, definitely ‘hum tumhare saath hain’ only if you assure us that an Armaan Ali’s (courtesy: ‘Well done Abba’) baavdi (well) won’t go missing in a post-lokpal state, after all complete annihilation of entropy would ensure a nation spearheading into its days of resplendence!

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Before Anna Hazare movement there were other outstanding examples of courage by Indians who stood against the repressive state

1. Kashmir protests against Indian Army occupation
2. Khairlanji protests in Nagpur where 4 Dalits were brutally murdered
3. Manipur women protesting against Manorama Devi rape and murder by Assam Rifles personnel
4. Anti Vedanta stir
5. Bhopal Gas tragedy ( Dow Chemicals is the main sponsor of London Olympics 2012.This is what a corporation got after killing 15000 people and maiming over a million)
6. Singur protests
7. Swami Nigmanada's 'Save Ganga' campaign
8. Irom Sharmila is fasting for the past 10 years ( She is still unheard because she is not backed by a battery of telegenic commentators, experts , yoga gurus,best selling authors and Anupam Kher)
9. Bant Singh, a Dalit farmer , whose limbs were hacked because he dared protest against upper caste farmers and landlords in Punjab
10. UP farmers against land acquisition
11. Anti POSCO stir
12. Niyamgiri tribals against lang grab by corporations

Sunday, August 14, 2011

India Sir, Ye ‘Cheez’ Dhurandhar!!

He was only 38-years old, had taken up the life of an ascetic but was oblivious that ‘Nirvana’ would follow soon in one of its most harrowing forms. On June 13, 2011 Swami Nigamanand left for his heavenly abode, not owing to a natural death but due to fasting for duration of 68-days!  Unlike Baba Ramdev who had taken up the cudgels against corruption by fasting in a marquee and feasting on the rabid media glare, Swami Nigamanand had gone for a path that was mellowed down in approach though it had its strings attached with a vital cause as well. If it wouldn’t have been a brazen attempt yet again on part of the Tehelka magazine, a story dated July 2, 2011, I would have never known that Swami Nigamanand didn’t care two hoots about his life as he was fighting a lone battle against the ‘Himalaya Stone Crusher’, that is hell bound on devouring the Ganga by fleecing the river of its valuable stones and pebbles.
Sisyphean role of those who are nothing less than self-proclaimed sentries of our nation and are unfortunately the lynchpin of the very democratic set-up came forth a few days back, while I was on my way to office and was somewhere between the byzantine lanes of Karol Bagh. A man who must be in his sixties or so was lying on the pavement, not a nouveau site in a place like Delhi where men often harp to ways of seeking abrogation from their woes and end up landing in a state of hallucinated stupor! What held on to everyone’s gaze was the fact that he was lying there with his pants down, the graybeard positioning himself in a manner to hide his crot**, his buttocks bearing more than evident signs of blisters, his hands joined as if seeking clemency and eyes filled with inexplicable haplessness, with his solitary presence being accompanied by the presence of two men who had their own buttocks well-concealed inside Khaki, that very garb has probably endowed them with the ability to relish such sordid instances occurring on a sporadic frequency.
From the hearth of the same res publica that is on its way to celebrate the 65th Independence Day, comes another shocking incident that is exemplary of the apathy being extended rather unflinchingly to the frothing masses, which do come under the aegis of the Charter of Rights alias the Fundamental Rights, particularly the Right to Live coming under the purview of the Article 21 of the Constitution; yet 8-year old Sonal from Ara, Bihar slipped into coma after doctors of AIIMS whisked off the boy and his parents. This grotesque insensitivity rang bells in the ears of the same curmudgeon medical practitioners when pictures of Sonal’s mother was flashed across our small screens on news channels, with the grief-stricken mother striving to put the oxygen mask in an appropriate position, her bereft state rather proclaiming the willy-nilly state of affairs on an invisible trumpet! We should rather hang our heads in shame on beholding this sordid saga, for AIIMS is regarded as one of the finest medical institutes of the country with its graduates and post-graduates being welcomed with open hands at the likes of John Hopkins, so what then give rise to such chasm? Perhaps apart from digging into copious curriculum, these buffoons in white coat should be apprised of the entities of Sensitivity and Empathy, alas! Both of them are bid farewell with an added gusto and ecstasy long way back even before Hippocrates’s Oath is mumbled out for compliance sake.

The epiphanies entwined in these instances hit straight on your face with an even higher intensity when stark contrasts to each one of them also seem to be evident, blooming in the myriad milieu of the same society pockmarked with rigid and irreversible sectionalization. Before Sonal was conscious for the last time, when he did bat an eyelid, two days prior to his condition of interminable suffering, the citizens were apprised of the health condition of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who was recuperating post-surgery abroad from an undisclosed health problem, the woman at the helm of affairs of the ruling party availing her discretion to opt for the healthcare facilities outside the very realm of the nation she claims to be a ‘Bahu’ of!

Oscar Wilde while evincing his views on the Popular form of government reverberated with these notions, “Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.” We were considered a land replete with schmucks breeding in every nook and corner and if Churchill’s mingy premonition were to be trusted way back in 1947, this country would not have survived for long. Amidst uncountable snafus marring the very way people wade through this  mumbo jumbo,  baffling quite a many there are other seemingly ills that could smear the visage of world’s largest democracy, posing an obvious big question mark on the way issues are being dealt with, the periphery of that decadent precinct increasing in girth with every passing day.
By the way how many of you have heard the name Kobad Ghandy before?? The name might seem clannish as if belonging to an influential, prosperous business family, if you are thinking on similar lines, you are only partially correct for Kobad Ghandy did have an impressive lineage though he put his own present and future at stake for something he firmly believed in and bore in mind, for that inner upsurge was supposed to give vent to pique looking for an aperture to express and manifest itself. September 2009, witnessed the tables turning in favor of the Indian Intelligence officials after undergoing a stodgy phase, past which they were able to nab Kobad Ghandy, one of the influential Maoist leaders whose arrest was nothing less than a triumph marked by temerity, a moment to rejoice hitherto.

What coaxed a man like Kobad Ghandy to be entrenched in the deep circles of the constabulary comprising the naxals, whose father was a top-notch executive in Glaxo, who had never known what deprivation means having been spent his childhood within the environs of a munificent house in Worli facing seaside, a product of the prestigious Doon School followed by Xavier College and bearing the credentials of having accomplished Chartered Accountancy from London; what was it that caused this man behind bars these days to take up a stand against the very State to which he owed a lot in ways more than one. What flummoxes me is the thought, why didn’t Mr. Ghandy choose to be a part of India that is eyeing to emerge as Superpower by 2020 with its GDP growth rate of 9.1%, instead of deciding to go undercover in the canopy of dense forests and delving into finding means to cause furor in the shackles of political dungeon.
According to historian Ramachandra Guha’s contention expressed in one of his essays published in the Outlook magazine dated January 31, 2011, there are three challenges of ideological nature that have emerged in due course of time into nothing less than a pestilence japing at the very set-up of the governments both at the central and the state level, these being: Hindu Fundamentalism, Communist Dictatorship and Ethnic Separatism. As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gears up to deliver his countrymen another bland-cum-rhetorical speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, the bulwark bearing the brunt of the tricolor-emblazonment year after year, that has less to do with riparian effect and more with the panegyric act of the speaker right in front of the podium having a patina of bullet-proof case, literally slogging out there to make the most of it; and as these proceedings take place yet again, we mustn’t forget that out of 28-states of India, as many as 10-states including 180-distructs are grappling with the menace of Naxalism. And our Oxford-returned Home Minister, P. Chidambaram tries to pacify us by offering his words of wisdom, that this is in fact just a law & order problem, with the Dantewada incident in 2010 killing as many as 76 CRPF jawans, the ruthless ambush attack on the entire battalion nothing less than a shtick on the flimsy blue-print we’ve seem to have been prepared to combat these scraggy men with strength enough to handle AK-47 rifles, well, we had a Salwa Judum to alleviate those fears, and gloat with the feeling of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth kind of hollow feeling.

I didn’t choose intentionally, the eve of Independence Day to write paeans on naxals or those mortals, who despite being an intricate part of the very eco-system you and I inhabit, are leading lives synonymous with gross penury; but then no clarion call would ever peal loudly enough to apprise you of the growing state of Dystopia, the country is propelling itself into. While there is a large chunk of our brethren who are swooning around life as if it’s nothing but a palooza to be enjoyed to the hilt, yes, that is the mirage we really identify ourselves with, the Forbes 2011 coming up with around 65 billionaires belonging to Indian origin, more than the last year and the turf being cultivated to appear as a hotbed for more to pop up belonging to the same clan.
As per the data of the Institute of Economic Growth, the Indian population would be growing by 400 million between 2000 and 2025, 86% of this burgeoning populace would be in the age group 15-64, that’s being touted as another reason why we should stay rest assured that the time of our trundler, the Elephant has in fact come in an unfathomable way! Really?? Contrary to this belief that’s sort of caressing our senses for we do want to keep a safe enough distance when it’s about gerontology, there came another report in 2010 released by the World Economic Forum, that mentions about the acute shortage of skilled labor that developing nations like India would be confronted with twenty years down the line. Yikes! Double Yikes!! We would be young enough to give a challenge to aging China, but wouldn’t know how to fiddle with the gushing gusto and enthusiasm, for apart from imparting Degrees that are nothing less than paper-backs making for the entire duration spent at so-called haven that have done nothing than profligate time and money, suppressed every bud of creativity and innovation and when looked at the macro-picture have contributed into the country in escalating in its stature and emerging as the Service Economy when the emphasis should have been to channelize the helter-skelter into becoming a Manufacturing Economy. For that matter, ever wondered how many Fortune-100 companies pride themselves as those belonging to Bharat!!!

Desh mera rangrez ye babu, ghat-ghat yahan ghatta jaadu”, that’s how the wonky state of affairs was smirked at in the recent flick, ‘Peepli Live’. Food-Food channel is being launched with much gung-ho in a country that has nearly 40% of its population malnourished, the number of hungry people growing by 65-million since 1990, the very year that marked the onset of the economic reforms ushering in an era of liberalization; not to forget the stoic Irom Sharmila who has hadn’t even a morsel for the past ten years, sticking to her demand for the draconian AFSPA to be repealed from the North-Eastern states; in a muddle of the cases that relegates our Courts to being nothing less than establishment dealing with one of the most highest pendency in the world we still have our eyes fixed on the kooky ongoing of ‘Rakhi ka Insaf’, is there any provision whereby we can just send the lady for an indefinite period of exile to Papua New Guniea??
And you always thought that 15th August was just another holiday to give you respite from the drilling rooster, a day to catch up with some more of sleep, hop down to catch up with the latest monsoon sale in another sprawling mall in your neighborhood, or just say YES to Independence Day event on a social networking site, hmm, you can shrug your shoulders and say, Dude, I’m done with it!

Ram Prasad Bismil penned down these lines when he refused to capitulate to the throes of the tyrannical forces of the British,
हम भी आराम उठा सकते थे घर पर रह कर,
हमको भी पाला था माँ-बाप ने दुःख सह-सह कर ,
वक्ते-रुख्सत उन्हें इतना भी आये कह कर,
गोद में अश्क जो टपकें कभी रुख से बह कर ,
तिफ्ल  उनको  ही  समझ  लेना  जी  बहलाने  
Before you think that an obeisance to the nation has been paid in bounty by merely allowing the pinna to assimilate some of those patriotic numbers, do introspect, for oblivion is the root cause of a greater catastrophe not only for the state but also for those who inhabit it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nazar Teri Buri, Burqa Main Pehnu????

It was towards the end of the nineteenth century when Women’s Suffrage was recognized for the first time. It were the colonies of New Zealand and South Australia that allowed their women to cast the votes for the first time in 1893 and 1895 respectively, that was nothing less than snagging a bargain, a good one, resulting due to the First wave of Feminism. April 3, 2011 in Toronto, Canada marked the day of another rebellious notion being aired, something that women all around the globe are fraught with but perhaps it gets subdued under the cacophony of various other rumblings.
Constable Michael Sanguinetti didn’t have the slightest of premonitions about the extent, to which his words spelled out at a Safety Forum in York University would create ripples. While his remark in which he advised women to refrain from dressing up like sluts, in order to avoid instances of rape set many a feminist fuming with rage, his blooper tale would go down in history as another instance when women across the continents were united seeking answers to heinous crimes being committed against the fairer sex in the name of ‘glad eye’ and the blame being hurled entirely at the victim later on. The question is how a woman’s sense of clothing can be related to her sexual overtures, for mere sight of bare back, cleavage, midriff or even ti*s is not an invitation for a man to turn into a carnal. Sexual intercourse for that matter is a natural act of copulation that should strictly follow after mutual consent and not imposed owing to bestial sensibilities suddenly arrogating to itself right to physical emancipation. I hope I’m not sounding like the typical ‘Bra-Burners’ of the 1960s whose idea of embracing their sexuality was quite a revolutionary one and those form the import of another debatable topic altogether! The idea is to put forth a message to all and sundry without pulling the wool over one’s eye!
July 23, 2011 was the day when those incinerating flames touched the shores of India with groups galore urging for a Walk in the capital city of Delhi. In what was being touted as the congregation of frothing masses, huge disappointment dawned upon all who were present at the Jantar Mantar as only around a thousand or so men and women participated in the March organized by Umang Sabharwal and number of other students from the Delhi University. Unlike other countries, the shutterbugs from the various channels and other portals donned sullen looks since the Indian marchers hadn’t gone for short dresses, brassieres, etc. to express their contention, with the crowd donning the tees that was painted with their names, holding placards that said, ‘Change your thinking, not your clothes’, ‘Nazar teri buri, burqa main pehnu?’, with the name of the movement being changed to ‘Besharmi Morcha’ instead of ‘SlutWalk’ , this apotheosis been dominated with the intention of rambling the true purpose of the entire vortex.

India for that matter has had its share of SlutWalk moments earlier as well when the ‘Pink Chaddi Campaign’ launched in February, 2009 took the entire nation by profound surprise, the idea being to put an end to the kooky antics of Muthalik and his troupe of hoodlums that went around by the name of ‘Ram Sene’; this outrage being initiated by Nisha Susan in the wake of the Mangalore pub incident in which five women were brutally assaulted in full view of cameras that became witness to pique sparked of those right-wing extremists gone berserk. But when we are talking about a pluralistic nation-state like India, the issue is furcated with several other areas of concern that are often piped-down in the backdrop of some more major political and social issues marring the very harmony of this terrain.
Discontent is often given vent to the, very extent and plausible remedy as laid down in the Indian Penal Code regarding rape and molestation cases. Barring a few landmark judgments in cases like those of Rupan Deol Bajaj vs. KPS Gill, that was in the context of a 1988 dinner wherein IAS Officer KPS Gill had slapped Rupan at her posterior, thus inviting her wrath that culminated with the Supreme Court fining KPS Gill in 1998, with an amount of Rs. 2.5 lakh  to be paid to the victim; there have been many instances when the deficient Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983 has failed to provide reprieve as was expected from those in the reigns of Justice.
The ‘Besharmi Morcha’ failed to substantiate its raison d’etre with the entire gung-ho affair being truncated into yet another boutique protest, those taking part in it not even bothering to file a petition asking for some stringent rules to be framed and implemented, thus belittling their efforts by denying to don the litigant’s role. This certainly doesn’t stop there for apart from being labeled as yet another middle class rant, we in India need to acknowledge some other construal like those of Gay Pride, an attempt to pay obeisance to the Stonewall Riots; the Dyke March that is meant to raise awareness about the lesbians with the sole motive of breaking those stereotyped thought processes and last but definitely not the least, a majority of Indians are yet to be apprised of the existence of Transvestites!
 What needs to be axed down is the puritanical mindset that relates the kind of dressing to the violence against women. Wearing jeans and sleeveless is still a strict no-no in many small towns of urban India, riders of two-wheelers vrooming past in high speed, passing lewd comments, insinuating whistles and giving back those uncouth glares, taking it as an act of temerity, and ‘kya maal hai’ mentality rules the very scuttlebutts of boys and men alike. One of my colleagues shared this incident with me a few days back when she was whizzed past by two guys who said, ‘chalti h kya, 100 rupaiye ki toh baat h’, the girl choosing to opt the path of keeping a mum instead of retaliating in any manner. That very sordid state of mind needs to be revamped in due course of time and definitely not the couture of woman perse. There’s this famous feminist quote by Sarah Moore Grimke, “I ask no favors for my sex…All I ask of my brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks”. Hope this SlutWalk movement does ring bells in the ears, paving way to end decades of harassment with its clarion call.