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Monthly Archives: FEBRUARY 2016


Bollywood film misleads Indians, distorts history
25.02.16 - Bhaswati Mukherjee
Bollywood film misleads Indians, distorts history



Airlift" is a well produced film with great acting by Akshay Kumar and others. It also arouses our patriotic feelings with our beautiful flag and national anthem preceding the screening. The problem arises because, despite the notification that the film is purely fictitious, the reality is that it distorts recent history and reduces facts to fantasy.
 
As a young Director in United Nations Division of India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in 1990, when the world was not networked as it is today, I have vivid recollections of following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait along with my colleagues in our office in Akbar Bhavan, New Delhi on a short-wave radio which carried the BBC hourly bulletins. At lunch time, colleagues from the then Gulf Division would update us on the meticulous arrangements and organisation that MEA had mounted under the leadership of the then External Affairs Minister I.K. Gujral, who later became Prime Minister, to evacuate over 100,000 Indians stranded in Kuwait. 

After the UN Security Council announced sanctions against the Saddam regime their situation became desperate since their only possible escape route was across the desert to Jordan. It was one of the most complex rescue operations in the annals of recent history.

When I went to see the recently released Bolllywood film "Airlift”, I anticipated that the film would provide belated and welcome recognition to the efforts of our colleagues in MEA, who along with our ambassadors in Kuwait and Jordan and their diplomatic and other staff worked tirelessly for the final happy conclusion of bringing our Indian diaspora in Kuwait safely home. It would, I hoped, also chronicle the efforts of our heroic Air India pilots who willingly flew countless flights through a war zone to bring their compatriots back to Mumbai. The encouragement and leadership provided by the then External Affairs Minister, Gujral, also required to be highlighted.

"Airlift" is a well produced film with great acting by Akshay Kumar and others. It also arouses our patriotic feelings with our beautiful flag and national anthem preceding the screening. The problem arises because, despite the notification that the film is purely fictitious, the reality is that it distorts recent history and reduces facts to fantasy. This will mislead millions of Indians who were born after 1990. The film portrays Gujral in a most unflattering manner, completely divorced from reality. It ridicules an entire Ministry of External Affairs, the Indian envoys at the time serving in Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan and their colleagues except for one fictitious Joint Secretary, portrayed sitting in a large hall drinking tea and taking a call from desperate Indians in Kuwait because others refused to do so during their lunch break. 

Fantasy is to portray Akshay Kumar like Moses leading the Jews in the famous exodus across the desert to the Promised Land. Reality is that a convoy of 100,000 people could not cross 1000 kms of a harsh desert without stopping, eating and refuelling. Reality is that there were actually 110,000 Indians at that time in Kuwait to be evacuated and this evacuation continued for several weeks. Reality is that the evacuation was organised by MEA, through frantic efforts made behind the scenes to obtain Saddam’s agreement for the safety of our Indians and their safe return to India. This reality became complicated no doubt due to the infamous embrace of Gujral by Saddam but it is often forgotten that it is our then EAM and MEA whose forceful interventions also ensured the safety of our air hostesses who had been stranded after the invasion.

"Airlift" also hits out at Air India, depicting its pilots as uncaring and unpatriotic, with some pilots stating in the film that they would not fly in a war zone since they were not Indian Air Force pilots. The film shows the fictitious Joint Secretary pleading helplessly with Air India pilots while taking calls from Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar). This is a travesty of the truth and should be strongly contested by Air India.

MEA’s official Spokesperson, Vikas Swarup, on Twitter recently noted inter alia that : "This is a film and films often take liberties with actual events, facts. This particular film has also taken artistic liberties in the depiction of the events as it actually happened in Kuwait in 1990.” He added that those who remember the 1990 evacuation would also know the "very proactive" role that the MEA played. Official delegations were sent to Baghdad and Kuwait City. The entire operation was coordinated along with the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Air India and a host of other government departments.

When responsible film makers and famous actors take gross liberties with facts and mix fantasy with fiction, playing on local prejudice against politicians and bureaucrats, it results in historical distortions, leading to younger Indians believing that the political leadership of India and MEA were and continue to be completely callous and indifferent to the fate of so many of their compatriots stranded in a dangerous war zone. It is important to underline that the Indian political leadership, cutting across party lines, along with MEA and concerned ministries, have always responded quickly and effectively to the Kuwait crisis and other evacuations such as the Indian Navy’s Operation Sukoon in Lebanon in 2006, Operation Safe Homecoming in Libya in 2011, and more recently the Indian Navy’s heroic efforts, along with support from the Indian Air Force and Air India, to rescue more than 5,000 Indians and others stranded in Yemen.

Perhaps it is time for Bollywood to do a reality check and produce another rousing film like "Airlift”, but this time focussing on the real, unsung and forgotten heroes of these evacuations. They owe it to India and to those Indians who cared enough for their compatriots to work day and night to bring them home safely. They owe it to the history and posterity of this great nation.

Bhaswati Mukherjee is a former Indian ambassador. She can be contacted at russtytota@gmail.com (Courtesy : The Indian Diaspora)




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Australia’s Got Talent And It Discovers It In Sukhjit Kaur’s Slam Poem
25.02.16 - AASHMITA NAYAR
Australia’s Got Talent  And It Discovers It In Sukhjit Kaur’s Slam Poem



Australia is perhaps not the easiest country in the world to be an immigrant in, and people perceived as outsiders have been targeted by bigots in the past. 
So when a first generation Sikh-Aussie woman captured the daily injustices people of her community faced in the country in an incredible spoken-word poem, she left some of the audience in tears.
 
On 8 February, 2016, Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa appeared at ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ and decided to recite a spoken-word poem ("SWP”) that painted a hard-hitting picture of what the Sikh-Australian community faced in the country.
 
Sukhjit, a 21-year-old feminist activist, used dark humour in her poetry to leave the judges spellbound. She started off by asking the audience what makes them Australian, and then painted a heart-breaking picture of the bigotry faced by Australia’s minorities, including its Sikh citizenry.
 
"When you’ve been given such a loud voice, and when you have the confidence, you need to speak up for the voiceless,” she explained in a recent interview, adding that she wasn’t always an outgoing personality. "Humour and satire; that’s the thing Australia uses to get the messages across.”
 
The video was quick to go viral with 388,087 views on Facebook. However this is not the first time that she has spoken up on social issues in the country. She delivered a longer version of the poem last year in June at the Slamalamadingdong, a poetry slam.
 
Sukhjit also took to Twitter to thank the country for listening to her.
 
Before delivering her speech Sukhjit, who has been hooked onto spoken-word poetry for a few years now, asked people to click along if any of her words appealed to them. What started off as a trickle of clicks quickly gave way to a standing ovation. The judges were overcome with her unique style of combing "anger with heart and humour” and all of them were touched by her words.
 
Later, judge Kelly Osbourne even reached out to her on Twitter: "I bow down to you and your braveness.” 
 
Needless to say, she got a unanimous vote to the next round.
 
Here’s her presentation:
 
"If you’re not in Australia, ‘where the bloody hell are ya?’ Remember the Bingle jingle, inviting the world to mix and mingle?
 
Where a fair go was your welcome mat, unless you’re of caramel descent and then ain’t nobody got time for that.
 
You see, rocking up for my first job at Coles, was like a scene from Border Patrol.
 
What makes you Australian?
 
Is it a Southern Cross Tattoo or wombat stew crumbled with a Dunkaroo?
 
Do you think of a time when Australia’s learnt to share and care and dare to wear its heart on its face, fully aware that most of us in this place are far from fair, but brown and black and slow to attack?
 
But quick to embrace a warm Australia.
 
I’m confused as to why, on Australia Day, when the night sky spews bigot bile, I’m left traumatised.
 
When a teen rips off my uncle’s turban, I’m an enraged flame of pain and shame and sorrow, for tomorrow when a hooning ute throws a rotten peach at my dad and screams ‘go home, ya bloody terrorist.’
 
I plead to you Lara, where the bloody hell are we?
 
My people, the Sikhs, came here in 1860 with camels and carts and courageous hearts and look at the maxi Taxi, we’re still driving and steering this country in offices and hospitals and even on stage.
 
So when people tell me and my family to go home to where we came from, I reply with a smile, tongue-in-cheek, ‘mate, we’ve been right at home for the past 150 years!’
 
I’m not the one that’s a freak, I’m fully Sikh.”
 
[Courtesy: The Huffington Post. ]




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Mughal Garden in Rashtrapati Bhavan opens for general public
25.02.16 - PT Team
Mughal Garden in Rashtrapati Bhavan opens for general public



The world famous Mughal Gardens in Rashtrapati Bhavan will remain open for general public from February 12 to March 19, (except on Mondays which are maintenance days) between 9.30 AM to 4 PM. Members of the public will also be able to visit the Spiritual Garden, Herbal Garden, Bonsai Garden and Musical Garden, a press release issued by Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
 
Entry and exit for the general public will be from Gate no 35 of the President's Estate, close to where North Avenue meets Rashtrapati Bhavan.




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