PERSPECTIVE

Monthly Archives: DECEMBER 2018


Who should apologise for centuries of injustice in India?
28.12.18 - H. K. DUA
Who should apologise for centuries of injustice in India?



Ambassador Surendra Kumar has spent a life time in the Foreign Services but during his years of diplomacy, he did not forget the issues that afflicted the people at home. This is too clear from a short volume he has come out titled, Who Should Say Sorry for Two Millennia of Injustices?

He has been provoked to write this article by Shashi Tharoor’s demand during his Oxford Union speech that the British should apologise to India for the enormous wrongs they had done to India during the 200 years of the colonial rule.

Surendra Kumar has raised the vital question to his own country: what about the inhuman dignities, injustices and cruelty inflicted on the Dalits in India by the higher castes over 2000 years of its history?

"Should not they own up social, economic, political is provoked by Shas and psychological deprivation they deliberately and systematically caused to them?” he bluntly asks.

He is rightly angry about what wrongs the higher castes in India have done to the lower castes. "High castes of the Hindu society, on the other hand, treated their own countrymen so inhumanly for so long – for no fault of theirs!” Also, "over the years, they created numerous political, social and religious dictums to perpetuate the slavery and subjugation of the low castes forever. For centuries, the lower castes had no right to property, no right to education; their sole purpose in life was to serve the higher castes and without protest.”

The low castes were condemned to live at the outskirts of villages and cities. They were not allowed to draw water from the common wells, nor could they pray in the temples built by higher castes. He adds: "This exploitative system was made hereditary, generation after generation must live in these humiliating conditions on account of their birth in low caste families.  What kind of debilitating and degrading psychological inferiority complex might have been caused in the low castes by this?”

He points out that the constitutional guarantees and affirmative action and various developmental schemes have resulted in some improvement in economic and social conditions of the Dalits, but a lot remains to be done.

He quotes: "Former Home Minister Chidambaram, to point out, had once told Parliament that there were more than 13,500 registered cases of physical assault on the Dalits in India in a single year.  As hardly one out of four cases gets registered, the actual number of assaults might be as high as 50,000!”
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Kumar has raised a vital question: what about the inhuman dignities, injustices and cruelty inflicted on the Dalits in India by the higher castes over 2000 years.
----------
Who should say sorry for the injustice done to the low castes in India during the last 2,000 years? "The Upper Castes” is the writer’s answer.

Surendra Kumar’s instinct is right but he has written only on this vital question in a single article and in a couple of others on related issues. He should have spent more time to go into greater depth in a book rather than just touching on serious faultlines of the Indian society and the injustice done to a vast number of people over hundreds of years. Instead, the writer has written an odd combination of articles ranging from Baba Ramdev to Arvind, Kejriwal to Dr B.R. Ambedkar and Swami Vivekanand and music maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar.
 
Surendra Kumar has been a civil servant and has raised some other questions as: why should there be an irresistible lure of "babudom”, reservsation-cum-meritocracy and the stupidity of cut-off marks which worries the parents and students across the country.

The writer has strangely added two satirical articles at the end. They are: "Oh For A Kiss…” and "Mere Sunder Sapna Toot Gaya…

May be in a country where humour is drying up, he thought he should add a light touch to his book. Luckily, the right to laugh is optional!

 

 

 

H. K. Dua is a former editor, ambassador, Member of Parliament and Media Advisor to Prime Minister. He is now Advisor in Observer Research Foundation (ORF). Courtesy: Sunday Guardian

 
 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT




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TALKING MEN & WOMEN
It happened there, so everyone's shocked. It happens here. No one is.
19.12.18 - PT Bureau
It happened there, so everyone's shocked. It happens here. No one is.



WHAT HAPPENED in a bar in this distant Nordic island country with a population of 3.5 lakh has triggered a storm, but it happens in India on a daily basis -- at a restaurant, in our newsrooms, in the offices of political parties, at sundry daaru parties, around the table in our mushrooming industry of press clubs, and at your homes.

No one has to record these conversations secretly. You can hear them tonight, if you wish to. Live. Often even in your home.

Six people sat around a table at a bar-cum-restaurant and ordered some beers. They drank, chatted, cracked jokes and talked politics for nearly three hours. It happens in India all the time — at a bar, a restaurant, in press clubs all the time.
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It happens when a bunch of IAS officers sit around a table, and it happens when a clutch of journalists sit in their warm corner at a bookshop. Talk, loose talk, jokes, banter, references to colleagues, some leg pulling, some politically incorrect chat.
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It happens over drinks, and it happens over cups of steaming tea or coffee.

It happens when a bunch of IAS officers sit around a table, and it happens when a clutch of journalists sit in their warm corner at a bookshop. Talk, loose talk, jokes, banter, references to colleagues, some leg pulling, some politically incorrect chat.

This time it was a bar in Iceland, and around the table were the country's former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, former Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson and a female member of Parliament, Anna Kolbrun Arnadottir, besides three others. 

What happened at the Klaustur bar two weeks ago in Reykjavik will forever live in the country's history.

A woman sitting at the next table heard the ongoing conversation, and secretly recorded it. (Many reports had earlier referred to an unnamed ‘man’, but she has come out and revealed what happened.)

Iceland is one of the most gender equal countries in the world. It has a female prime minister and consistently tops the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index. Companies and government agencies in Iceland have to actually prove that they are paying men and women equally.

Here is what the people around that bar in Reykjavik were talking about:

Mr. Sveinsson, the former foreign minister, with a reputation for being a champion of women’s rights, mocked a female lawmaker who had come forward as part of the "Me Too” movement. He also laughed at domestic violence accusations made against a former member of Parliament.

These worthies expressed a desire to sleep with particular female colleagues. 

One of them warned others about a woman who, he said, "plays on men like women know best.” They also questioned the political career of another woman, on the grounds that she was "not as hot this year” and her beauty was "fading fast.”

As women in Iceland asked where they stand on the hot-or-not scale of such politicians, many were particularly disgusted by the remarks and the mocking words about a disabled member of Parliament.

Iceland's Minister of Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir appeared on television after days to say: "I experience this as violence. They are perpetrators of violence." The recorded conversation featured crude comments about her toying with men and wanting to have sexual relations with her.

Now, former PM Gunnlaugsson has apologized. Of the six around that table, four were Centre Party MPs and two were MPs affiliated to the People's Party of Iceland. Icelanders are calling for the resignations of all of them. The 42-year-old woman named Bara Halldorsdottir who recorded the conversation and was earlier referred to as "a man called Marvin” wrote about it in an online newspaper Stundin – "I am the Marvin who rocked the boat.”

A survey has revealed that 80 % of Icelanders thought the men on the recording should resign, and that 74 % believed Ms. Arnadottir should also do so. The mood in Parliament is now toxic and it is hard to imagine how colleagues would move past the scandal.

People in public life in India have a lesson to learn – always look over your shoulder to watch out for who is sitting on the next table. Or next to you.
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

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_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT





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REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE
The Comfort of Objects - Walking the streets of Trilokpuri
17.12.18 -
The Comfort of Objects - Walking the streets of Trilokpuri



Now that Sajjan Kumar is on his way to jail for life and the senior Congress leadership is in the dock once again, it is time to revisit aspects of the 1984 pogroms.

Ironically, Sajjan Kumar was given the life imprisonment on the day Kamal Nath was taking oath in Bhopal. The two should have enough to talk about, and enough time to recall their achievements in 1984.

The fact is that after 34 years, the victims of 1984 are not demanding justice. They are not even there. No one remains the same after 30 plus years. The young who needed justice are middle aged now. The middle aged who watched people being burnt alive are in their 80s or 90s. The wise old men and women passed away long ago. 

India should decide if it wants to do justice to itself. Does it want to live with the fact that hundreds, thousands were maimed, killed, raped, burnt alive on the roads of its capital during days when the entire establishment, police and military might was on hand, and then nothing was done for three and a half decades? 

Down the line after another 50 years, children of today’s voters will be women and men of immense education and a better set of ethics. They will judge you. Read this piece with those people in mind 50 years from now. 
— Editor, Punjab Today

 
IN HIS SCINTILLATING BOOK, "The Comfort of Things," Daniel Miller explains how objects are constitutive of identity. Objects create subjects more than the other way round. He even suggests that the closer our relationships with objects, the closer are our relationships with people.

Well, if you some day visit Nazar Singh Fauji in his tenement in Block 36 of Trilokpuri, and are nice enough to listen to how his mother died in 1992 after years of not just crying silently deep within, but also of complete silence, you wouldn't know how to deal with your own predicament. 
Should you seek more details? Are you making them re-live their pain? Are you reminding them of something they have spent decades to forget?

And what will you do after that? Go and write a piece in some newspaper?

Nazar Singh Fauji's daughter Kirandeep spent her growing up years listening to the gory tale, stone-faced. There is one member of the family you really, really want to speak to. But it does not speak. It does not extend a hand, does not blink. And you had just passed it by. You cannot recognise it if you had not been properly introduced to it.

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Meet the Electricity Pole outside Nazar Singh Fauji's house. If there are any questions that Nazar Singh Fauji feels reluctant to answer, please ask this pole.
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It is one family member who stood by the family through much of what you cannot even imagine. For years, it remained a rock solid witness to what happened in Delhi when the Indian establishment refused to stop the marauding hordes from burning Sikhs alive in their tens of hundreds.

Meet the Electricity Pole outside Nazar Singh Fauji's house. If Daniel Miller's arguments could not convince you, Nazar Singh Fauji's simple wisdom will. If there are any questions that Nazar Singh Fauji feels reluctant to answer, please ask this pole. Nazar Singh was often reluctant to even tell his growing up daughter what the pole knew. 

Gradually, the tale started to trickle in. A few neighbours told her bits and pieces of it over the years. It was with the pole that her grandfather was tied, killed and burnt. Death came upon the family as the pole watched. When, years later, Nazar Singh was to finally tell her daughter what had happened, he let it slip in little snippets, but first insisted that they all sit near the pole.

In her most poignant moments, the daughter would often stare at the pole, sometimes almost silently talking to it. She knew one fact for sure — that the pole knew much more than even her father Nazar Singh Fauji does. 

In the alley next to the gurdwara, a number of Sikhs were killed by the marauders. A reporter of an English national daily had visited the family and written a very poignant piece about it. I had visited the family after reading that piece. As I stood near that pole, I wondered if it will some day break out of its inanimate identity. 

Nazar Singh was away at his workshop in Mehrauli when an angry mob had pulled his father out, stabbed him and burned him. Since then, he said he had often stood near the pole and wondered why it happened.

At 22, Nazar Singh Fauji lost his mother. He refused to leave the house next to the pole and move to Tilak Vihar's resettlement colony. He told me he could not have left behind a family member. 

I could understand.

It wasn't a safe area to leave a witness, that, too, a family member, to the horrors of an apathetic state all alone at the mercy of blood thirsty hounds.

The pole was there. It held you. It had a story. It was the story. It was a story that arrested the family. Moving away would have meant shattering the memories. Truth be told -- it was a pole who knew other poles. And other poles knew other stories. 

They were never summoned by any court to stand witness. When investigators pulled out the scientific innovation of Touch DNA to examine if the golf club belonging to Dr Rajesh Talwar had any evidence to settle the Aarushi Talwar murder case, I wondered why no one ever took samples from these witnesses.

When I met Nazar Singh in 2009, he was 46 and was a sevadar at the Trilokpuri gurdwara, getting about Rs 3,000 per month. He seemed a tired man. He had chased the government's promises of jobs and compensation but felt frustrated with the hopelessness of it all. 

They lived on, not sure about their relationship with the pole. Initially, for a few years, they tried not to look at it. But in denial too, the memories did not leave the family alone. Gradually, he mustered up the courage to touch it. Soon he found himself pressing his head next to the pole and crying. I am not sure how the pole responded to his overtures but I know that a stage came when they became buddies. He spoke to the pole, silently. I believed the pole, too, reciprocated.  

In the streets of Trilokpuri, houses have grown taller over the years, and sun's slanting rays reach sporadically in the forenoon. The shadows of poles chase you wherever the rays find an opening and a concrete witness to 1984. 

Trilokpuri used to be on the edge of a jungle in those days. Residents used to walk about 50 metres and enter the forest to defecate. Water supply was scarce. The young ones of the families used to fetch water from the Yamuna, more than 3 kilometres away, even as toddlers went to a school in the colony where they learnt about Jack and Jill going up the hill to fetch a pail of water.

These residents had seen the apathetic face of the state earlier. In fact, that's why they were there. A young man called Sanjay Gandhi had a brainwave that the capital of India must present a better picture of the country, so he had the slums razed and people evicted. As a result, this resettlement colony came up in 1976. Muslims from Turkman Gate, Valmikis from the area near Birla Mandir, and later, some working class Lubana Sikhs came to reside there. These Sikhs had come from Rajasthan where they had originally moved from Sindh in the wake of Partition. It was a cluster of a thousand families of poor, hardworking people living in single storey houses with no schools, no toilets, no hospitals and no water.
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In her most poignant moments, the daughter would often stare at the pole, sometimes almost silently talking to it. She knew one fact for sure — that the pole knew much more than even her father Nazar Singh Fauji does.
----------
All they had was togetherness. The festivals were always celebrated together, till the riots came visiting. By then, the electricity poles had come up, but these were used for purposes other than intended. This was the time when another young man called Rajiv Gandhi was moving into a prime role.

I had met Gurcharan Kaur also. She was around 60 at that time and knew an electricity pole intimately. Outside the gurdwara stands this pole, next to which they killed her husband, Naik Teja Singh. For years, Gurcharan Kaur ran a tea stall next to this pole, earning a measly income, and had six or seven children. (I'm so, so sorry for not clearly remembering some of the details.) When I met her in 2009, it was the 25th anniversary of the anti-Sikh massacres.  I do remember that one of her sons was studying in Australia and another was working in a private firm. 

I had tried talking to her about her relationship with the electricity pole, and she had cried so much that I was afraid the pole will burst out. Made of concrete, electricity poles of Trilokpuri have a heart slightly less stony than of the Indian justice dispensing system.

I wanted to touch Naik Teja Singh's medals and his uniform in her quarters, and remember how she reminded me if my hands were clean. I knew these weren't as clean as are required before you touch someone's memories.
----------
They were not sure about their relationship with the electricity pole. Initially, they tried not to look at it. Gradually, he mustered the courage to touch it. One is not sure how the pole responded to his overtures, but they became did become buddies. He and the electricity pole.
----------
I have spent many evenings in the streets of Trilokpuri, often a camera bag slung over my shoulder, a notebook in hand. But if you do that in the last week of October, or the first week of November, you will hear people walking behind you, murmuring: "Reporters!" 

There was a "Happy Tailors" in Trilokpuri. Somehow, I ventured into that shop and asked the Sardar ji inside why had he named his shop "Happy Tailors." Harminder Singh told me how his shop sign used to announce: "Sardar Tailors." Then, 1984 happened.
 
Memories are found in bits and pieces in the streets of Trilokpuri, as I am sure they do in Muzaffarnagar and any other place where the state acts in ways that its citizens start othering their neighbours. 

In a distant country from which flows much of the capital, weapons, knowledge and culture, there is a critical mass of people stepping forward to defend the actions of a man who sent bombs by mail to people he saw opposing his political point of view. In such times, it is a wonder whether you can even convince an electricity pole to continue standing rock solid as a witness.

If you ever find yourself in those streets of Trilokpuri, look for 'him'. Say hi. Be nice. It may not be the same pole, but it will have stories to tell you, may be tears to cry.
 

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