अनिष्ट(disagreeable, undesirable)

India is changing in a thousand ways. Not all of them are good, not all of them are bad. What we have seen in the past two or three years is a wave of saffron spreading over our country. The Bhartiya Janata Party, founded as the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, an organisation committed to turning India to a Hindu nation concluded a resounding victory in Uttar Pradesh, the evidence of the ascendance of its single-track politics aimed at benefiting orthodox Hindus and marginalising everyone else. For the first time in its electoral history, UP did not send a single Muslim MP to the Lok Sabha in 2014. Paradoxically, this was when the legislative assembly had the highest Muslim representation — 63 were elected in 2012.

 

“Those claiming to be secular and progressive do not have an identity of their parents and their blood. One will get self-respect through such identity, I will be happy if someone identifies as Muslim, Christian, Brahmin, Lingayat or Hindu. But trouble will arise if they say they are secular.”                                                                                                                   Anant Kumar Hegde, Union Minister of State for Employment and Skill Development

 

Not doing anything in the face of religious tension or intolerance is almost a trademark of our government. The whole government is probably not to be blamed, a leadership wherein the PM himself is responsible for the deaths of hundreds in communal riots in Gujarat is not a leadership at all. Our chief ministers are Hindu priests and brahmacharis, why do we expect the Muslims to not be marginalised anyway? Our habit of judging the character of all Muslims by keeping some random terrorist as an example of the otherwise peace-loving group of people does not help us much either.

 

“Crimes against women happening in urban India are shameful. It is a dangerous trend. But such crimes won’t happen in ‘Bharat’ or the rural areas of the country. You go to villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gang-rape or sex crimes.”                                                                                                                                          Mohan Bhagwat, Chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, mentor to the BJP

 

I’m really sorry to say this sir, but rapes, as big a bane they are on the beautiful populace of our country, do happen everywhere. Day in day out we read reports of young girls being raped mercilessly in some or the other dark corner of our country, and yet we do not see any concrete action being taken by the esteemed leadership of our glorious country. According to estimates by The Quint, India witnesses about a staggering 106 rapes a day, and that is when about six out of ten rapes go unreported. In the face of such a tragedy we face every day, the mentor to our PM decides to blame it on urban values and not on the ineffectiveness of the law and order situation in our country. How inane is that?

 

“Those opposing Narendra Modi are looking at Pakistan, and such people will have place in Pakistan and not in India.”                                                                                                          Giriraj Mishra, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises

 

My grandfather was born in Pakistan and he migrated to India during the partition. As one of the pioneers responsible for bringing electricity to the state of Madhya Pradesh, I can proudly say that my grandfather did his bit for the country. His political leanings are inconsequential to the fact that he did everything in his power to help the country in spite of the fact that he is Pakistani by birth. Our mentality has been modelled in such a way that we inadvertently vote for the party that appeals to us not from the perspective of the work they have done for the nation, but from the perspective of religion. If the leadership of the party respects your religious faiths and beliefs, that party automatically becomes your first choice. The whole task of deciding upon the government trickling down to the ambit of religious and geographical differences is wrong.

 

“As a memorial to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the statue will not only remind every individual of our great nation’s freedom struggle but will also inspire the people of our country to inculcate Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s visionary ideologies of unity, patriotism, inclusive growth and good governance… a fully functional, purpose-serving tribute that will spur all round socio-economic development.”                                                                           Official website of the Statue of Unity, Government of India

 

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel stood for the downtrodden and poor. He always ensured that the poorest sections of the society had access to all the freedoms that the British enjoyed in the country. Spending almost 3000 crores on his statue is simply defiling every ideology he stood for. These funds have reduced his legacy to nothing a cheap stunt for political gains. What these funds could have done for the poor people of our country would have immortalised the legacy of the Iron Man of India. Consider the fact that the bronze panels used in the statue were not manufactured in India as no Indian firm had the capability to do it, and hence the foundation of the statue was inherently Made in China.

 

“The countries in the world are unsure about how to tackle terrorism. The UN is also not in a position to guide them. It is heartening that Prime Minister of Bangladesh despite the fact that she is a woman is openly saying that she has zero tolerance for terrorism.”                 Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India

 

I feel appalled at the fact that we always are puzzled when it comes to empowering the women in our country. When you sit down and realise that our honourable Prime Minister feels that ‘despite’ being a woman, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina having zero tolerance for terrorism is a unique thing to be noted is an instance that explains his true stance towards women. When the leader of the country believes that a female prime minister fighting terrorism in her country is a happening out of the ordinary, I sincerely see no serious women empowerment happening in our country. No matter how much we try to sugar-coat things, all of us know that Modi was responsible for thousands of deaths during the Godhra riots, and is unfit to rule a country as diverse as ours.

 

In the end, it all comes down us. What we think and what we do determines where our country heads . Leaving the decisions to leaders like the ones we have as of now is the worst mistake we could make.

 

आलोचना और स्वतंत्र विचार ये क्रांतिकारी सोच के अहम बिंदु है I (Bhagat Singh, 1930)

 

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Paradise on Earth?

The question one asks is, why is there no peace in Kashmir?

Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of British India, thought that he was leaving a new world in August 1947. The British empire had decided to leave the Indian subcontinent once and for all, and Mountbatten was given the task of leaving it in the best conditions possible. It is true that as Indians, we have a lot to thank for to the British, especially Mountbatten. They introduced the telegram, the railways and the first ever manufacturing unit based on the assembly line model. Many historians even argue that Mountbatten was probably the best ever viceroy India had the chance to be under, from an economic point of view.

The state of British India, nothing less than the best of the colonies of the Commonwealth, had to be split into two sovereign states, India and Pakistan. While traveling from Delhi to Karachi to mediate the discussions among the future leaders of these states, it would have occurred to Mountbatten as to how little the things had really changed on the ground. British India had seen countless waves of nationalist struggle among the people, the two World Wars, a violent transfer of power from the Mughals to the British and millions of deaths. The recent wave of Hindu-Muslim struggles across the country had led to the killing of many more; and even then, there were a lot of unanswered questions between the leaders of these supposed ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ states. The whole nationalist struggle, where people stood united against the British Raj, seemed to slowly turn into a farce now, when people were ready to kill on the basis of religion first, and nationality later.

The British Raj had to adopt a very unorganised approach to governing the Indian subcontinent. In some areas, they had to give zamindars a huge chunk of power to get the most from a measly peasant. In the areas where the British had set up manufacturing units, they had to give due attention to the conditions of the workers and the well-being of the people. While they left some cities to die of plague, such as Surat, they had to leave no stone unturned in cities such as Lutyens’ Delhi (Edwin Lutyens was the principal architect hired by the British Raj to redesign some parts of Delhi) where the majority of the British people, and their Indian servants, lived. The ruling power had allowed for hundreds of princely states with varying degrees of autonomy to exist across the subcontinent and a fuzzy India-Afghanistan border. Such a loose policy could not be inherited by the two new states, who were intent upon a very rigid border with clear rulings on who was allowed to live on either side of it. To absorb more and more of land into their nation before the border was finalised in Karachi, the two states relied upon a spectrum of policies which included getting letters of accession from local chieftains, establishing their rule over unruled territories and the all-time favourite, sending troops to root out opposition of their land. This led to a supposed peaceful separation of India and Pakistan to turn to a violent one, and the conditions have remained unchanged to this day.

As citizens of India, we only see Kashmir in two ways. Either the military, as the right arm of the government is right, or the people, who supposedly suffer ill treatment at the hands of the military, are right. The truth is, Kashmir is in a state of grey as opposed to the black and white we see on the TV while sitting comfortably at home. There have been many issues which are stopping the complete integration of Kashmir into India. The government has focussed primarily on strengthening control over the area, while using the articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution to great effect. The myth that most of us believe is that article 370 aims to undermine the individual sovereignty of a resident of Kashmir. Article 370 only talks about the ‘special’ status given to Kashmir, and how the state of Kashmir does not have to concur with the Indian government on matters such as marriage and land ownership. Activists all over India are hell bent on getting article 370, and subsequently article 35A removed from the Constitution.

So, does article 370 promote the separatist movements that have ravaged the state for many years now? The article only aims to give more strength to the Kashmiri citizen who feels deeply about the vulnerability of his identity and assets in the state of Kashmir. The article also allows for the President to rule in times of tension, ensuring that this independence does not lead to a misuse of power by the legislators in Kashmir who follow a separate Constitution altogether. Separatist movements only flourish when the people feel disconnected from a source of legislative power. People argue that they are left at the mercy of the separatists based on the fact that the Indian government has declared a ‘ceasefire’ in the valley, which is completely wrong. The whole idea of a ‘ceasefire’ is born from the pens of a few deranged sources of news in the valley who only aim to sensationalise their news at the cost of genuineness. What the government has ordered is a ‘launch of operations’. This means only one thing. The military will not take action if they see a separatist minding his own work, but if he resorts to any violent action, be it shooting anything from stones to rockets, he will be beaten down. Through the policy, the government aims to give these separatists a chance at redemption, a chance to mend their ways. The whole idea of a ceasefire is aimed at showing the government weak against the separatists, and this is the same reason why the government would never call for a ‘ceasefire’, it would amount to a political suicide.

The real reason as to why Pakistan needs Kashmir is simple. It needs to validate and act upon its two-nation theory based on religion. That is a principle reason as to why India has always taken, and will always take a strong stand in the Kashmir issue. From the time when Maharaja Hari Singh requested the assistance of the Indian Armed Forces to fend off the threat against Pakistan, India has been committed to integrating Pakistan as one of its own. Till 1971, the Pakistanis believed that they could annex Kashmir through a land assault on Indian soil, however, the Kargil War made it absolutely certain that Pakistan could never defeat the Indian Army in combat. Since then, Pakistan has followed a diverse approach with three aspects to it. Firstly, the premier intelligence agency, ISI, funds and gathers intelligence from local separatist groups operating in the valley, secondly, to counter India’s military prowess, Pakistan has indulged in trade deals with its neighbours, the latest one being the China-Pakistan trade route, to gain money and weapons, and lastly, by spreading its propaganda through mass media and the numerous madrasas which are integral to the Muslim way of life. Pakistan had to nullify India’s nuclear weapons advantage, and it knew the only one willing to help was China. The Pakistan China Trade Corridor is just another means of exchange of illegal goods among the two countries, as many UN reports have noted.

The boundary between the countries is a matter of international debate (thanks to another British masterpiece by Sir Cyril Radcliffe). The globally recognised boundary has been the one demarcated by the 1949 UN Ceasefire Agreement. However, the de facto border has been the Line of Control (LoC) since 1972. The boundary passes through a spectrum of mountain passes, making it easy to cross over. Even after an increased amount of patrolling along the borders, there is no dearth of militants in the valley who have come from Pakistan. Added to the militants, religious fanatics roam the valley, plastering walls with Islamic texts ordering people to follow the Muslim dress code, and encouraging the youth to pelt stones at encounter sites to impugn the authority of the armed forces of India. All this is done in the name of ‘religious freedom’, wherein the fanatics portray the government as the one oppressing the Muslims. Religion has been used to incite fear in the valley, which has led to the closure of cinemas and bars among other places where the youth may meet. Slogans such as “Islam hamara maqsad hai, Quran hamara dastur hai, jehad hamara Rasta hai” (Islam is our objective, Q’uran is our constitution, Jehad is our way of our life) and “Dil mein rakho Allah ka khauf; Hath mein rakho Kalashnikov” (With fear of Allah ruling your hearts, wield a Kalashnikov) have ensured that the peace seeking population of the state has left their homes for a better place.

The question one asks is, will there ever be peace in Kashmir?

I do not know the answer. All I have tried to do is elucidate the reasons as to why we are wrong when we blame our government for encouraging instability in the Kashmir valley. I believe that we are moving forward towards peace, and if we can eliminate the religious cynicism that exists in the valley, we might even reach a peaceful juncture one day.

 

Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast,

Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast.

(If there is a paradise on earth,

It is this, it is this, it is this)

PLACEBO EFFECT

 

Annika is an independent woman. She often runs late from work these days because the project is about to reach closure and these extra hours she puts in could give her the appreciation, increment, and promotion she has long deserved. It is really late now and unfortunately, the last bus that dropped her off directly in front of her apartment complex has left. She starts searching for cabs online. A micro would do, but since it was so late, she was ready to pay more to take the prime cabs as well. However, adding to her bad luck, there were no cabs available. Anxiety levels increased. She was a little tense too. She has a healthy and active lifestyle, walking a click and a half should not be a problem, she thought to herself as she started heading down the centrally lit road, with some shops occasionally in between.

She paced as fast yet looking as normal as she could. The family getting worried was all she could think of at that moment. She heard horns behind her. Must be some uncultured brat, she thought. A biker brushed her at high speed. After hitting her elbow, he turned back and it seemed as if he nodded at her. She felt bad. She wanted to teach him a lesson but was completely helpless. Her helplessness made her feel even worse.

A few hundred meters down and an old man walking the opposite way, but on the same side of the road, stared at her. He was looking at her, under her neck, all the while. This got her very frustrated. Such old yet ill-mannered men. What was he even doing outside at such an odd hour? Thinking this, she headed forward. Hoping to get home safe.

She could see her apartment complex now. Just three more blocks of apartments to go. This fact got her incredibly happy. There was a small shack that sold tobacco on the road, in front of the apartment complex she was currently walking past. She saw a man smoking, about her age, probably older. He looked at her with a disgusted frown. She knew very well what he was thinking. A girl of marriageable age, walking on the road in such late hours. He was judging her character. Presuming her job, the worst assumption he could make. She started detesting him immediately.

She could see the last intersection after which was her apartment complex. She could already imagine the worried look of her parents. All the things they would say about the fact that she, working was a bad idea, to begin with. She heard a car screeching, parking lights turned on. It stopped right ahead of her, on the side of the road. Its cabin lights turned on. Her worst possible fear had just turned to reality. Abduction. She froze where she stood, started getting numb. With all the courage she could muster up, she ran. She cried and she ran, as she entered her apartment complex. She ran right to the lift, went to her house and told her parents the entire saga. They were scared and content with the fact that she came home. As a remedy, she learned to drive and loaned a car.

Sometimes things are not how we see them to be.

Karthik loved to ride bikes. He worked hard to buy the bike he loved. He had gone to get the medicines for his mother, who had just recovered from a stroke. He had no option but to leave her alone and go get more medicines. On his way back, he brushed his left handle in a lady’s elbow, turned to apologize and rushed. He could not waste a moment.

Jaynath is a retired railway officer. He likes to go on walks after dinner. Tonight he saw a girl, nearly as old as her daughter whose birthday was next week. He really liked that girl’s attire and could imagine how pretty his daughter would look in that dress. He made sure to buy a similar dress for his daughter as a surprise gift. The thought made him smile as he walked past her.

Amit loves his wife and son. His wife is about to give birth in a couple of months. Everyone at home hates his habit of smoking. So every night after dinner, when his wife is washing dishes and son is studying, he slips down to smoke. Every night he smokes with regret. Tonight was worse; he was smoking after a week and hated himself for breaking his cigarette hiatus. The regret and rage were visible on his face as the mean and vicious look. At the same time, he noticed a young girl, on road, late at night. He looked at her with concern as she frowned and kept walking.

Harsh was driving home from work. He helped tow a heavy vehicle for some distance in the morning, which probably burnt his clutch plate. His gear was stuck and so he had to make a hurried stop. He saw a lady on the road and ineptly avoided hitting her. As he rubbed the sweat off his face, he got out to apologize and call a mechanic. However, the girl was probably so scared that she ran away. At least he saved two lives today.

Circumstances can make the same event appear different, perhaps worse. We must never let our prejudices control our minds. We must not give in to placebo and try to be braver and confident of ourselves.

 

Check Your Emotions Before They Checkmate.

It is that time of the year again when almost everyone under 20 is free. Free to walk under the sun, swim in the ocean, sleep under a roof, under a tree, work for some more pocket-money, explore hobbies and interests, to make the most of all the time they have. It is the time to meet your parents, your family, go to your grandparents’ home and enjoy with your cousins, for this is among the last few opportunities to do so. Everyone is going to grow and leave the nest someday.

For me, it is the time just as any other that I spend thinking of a better world. I keep wondering what the human mind can accomplish, given its creative capabilities and destructive tendencies.

Humans are social creatures. We have evolved to create communities. An urge to be in the good books of people around us is instinctive. Such behaviour is a result of the idea that weaklings can be victors as well, using the strength of unity. Unfortunately, this urge has taken away the angelic side from most of the people. We lie, cheat, and betray to be on the side preferred by the stronger person. This led me to think, what if we lost all our emotions altogether. This mental experiment can take many forms. There are plethora of films and other forms of art that have experimented with the concept.

PK, the Bollywood film, where we see a humanoid alien coming from a similar type of planet. He is naïve, always misunderstood, and pays a hefty price learning our twisted methods of living. We can also think of “The Purge” concept, where humans live peacefully except one night a year, when they murder and rape each other. The “Saw” series takes its audience through a journey that teaches how life can be lived with our moral values intact but with big stakes.

There are many ways to tell a story, and not all of them have to imply to the lesson directly. In “A town without me”, popularly known as “Erased”, we learn directly that fighting alone might not solve your problems. However, if you muster up enough courage, it resonates with others. Another lesson I saw in it, is speaking up can solve problems right in their roots. “Your Lie in April” and “Anohana” explore these concepts as well, where just speaking or accepting the truth, when and where it mattered, could have solved everything. Obviously, truth is the bitter pill to swallow most of the times but is always better than living diseased with a pretentious personality, separately for each individual you encounter in your life.

In a world where humans are always honest, we would still encounter the seven sins. In that world, even petty criminals would need severe punishments to keep the latent criminals in check. This somehow paints a picture of a communist dictatorship, where everyone is equal, and crime is crime. Honesty is honesty and not hate speech.

A robotic society, where there is no leader, no religion and people follow their will based on logic alone for instance, a society where you pull the lever and let one die to save five. Heaven in its true senses. There is no bond or relationship and we go by our lives in an orderly fashion, doing what we must do to survive. When trivial situations, mishaps and accidents happen, only logic solves them finding optimal solution for the future. This would deny human rights and would be highly apathetic. On the contrary, it compels me all the way more to make and live in a world like that.

Our world is plagued with problems; women do not get equal treatment. It will be different in my world; a human would be a human. Pay grades would exist; however, there would be no discrimination based on gender, race, cast or other reasons. There will be no poor because job requirements will control population, using brutal ways if need be. Road rage in that world would be consigned to oblivion; people will follow rules, understanding the gravity of the consequences of breaking them and not in their fear.

A world of that type would take away the humane part of us. It only seems fair to run it as an experiment and apply partial results to our real lives. This makes us realise that honesty and a life of high morale comes with a cost. You have to like others less to have a favourite. Equality is a tool mostly used by people for their own comfort just like concepts of feminism and right to live. Hope is just a boost of adrenaline that makes us jump into fire.  Nevertheless, these parts of us make us human. Life finds its meaning in between survival and ensuring longevity of its species, but is definitely not constricted merely by these concepts. We are the masters of our own life. Masquerading as the good guy would definitely be tough, consequently, you will get angry, feel hurt, and get envious. However, you must bear it alone and be the stronger person. Fight for all you deserve but not get greedy or proud of it. You define your life. Will you make it a good one?

CLUMSY

img_4124While all the girls walked with grace,

I spent my time falling on my face

And when I landed in the muck,

I would blame my stupid luck

Slipping and sliding, I was a mess

Always the damsel in distress

Because I didn’t know left from my right,

Sports would give me such a fright

Walking into poles seemed like an obsession,

Maybe there was something wrong with my vision?

I would always laugh it all away and

Secretly hoped I would grow up to be okay

Been a few years, I’m still the same

I have a few more mishaps to my name

Now I look into the mirror and smile

I know I’m clumsy and that’s just fine.

 

– Sonal Mahanta