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September 29, 2010

मेकोंग नदी के तट पर मनवर क्यूँ बहती है आँखों में?


मेकोंग .... मनवर.. मनोरमा...

वतन से हजारों मील दूर इस नदी किनारे जेहन में यादों का समंदर उमड़ पड़ा है. नदी के किनारे यादों का समन्दर. यादें भी अजब होती हैं, बेहद दिलचस्प. नहीं आतीं तो नहीं आतीं और आतीं हैं तो बस.

मेकोंग! दुनिया की १२वीं सबसे बड़ी नदी. चीन, बर्मा, लाओस, थाईलैंड, विएतनाम और कम्बोडिया से होके बहने वाली. एक नदी जिसका नाम गंगा से निकला है (ख़ास तौर पे थाईलैंड में). बहुत बरस से जानता था इस नदी के बारे में और मेकोंग रिवर कमीशन के बारे में भी. आज सोचता हूँ कि फिर इस नदी का कोई ख्याल दिल में कभी क्यूँ नहीं आया?

पर मनवर की भी याद कहाँ आई थी बरसों से. १९९२ में बाबा गए तो गाँव छूटा, और गाँव छूटा तो मनवर भी कहीं पीछे छूट गयी. मनवर से अपना कोई ख़ास रिश्ता भी नहीं था और होता भी तो कौन याद करता है एक ऐसी छोटी सी नदी को?

पर आज यहाँ कम्बोडिया की राजधानी में मेकोंग नदी के किनारे मनवर की याद आई तो बेतरह आई. और ये भी की मनवर से एक रिश्ता तो था. उस दादी की यादों का रिश्ता जिसे कभी नहीं देखा. जो पापा के डेढ़ साल पूरा करते करते चली गयी. और उस दादा का रिश्ता जिसने फिर कभी शादी नहीं की. बावजूद इसके कि दादा बहुत जवान थे और रिश्तों की कमी ना थी. और बावजूद इसके भी कि दादा के मना करने पे दबे मुह आवाजें भी उठीं थीं. और ये भी कि उन आवाज़ों का ज़वाब दादा ने यह कह के दिया था कि ठीक अब कभी घर की देहरी(दहलीज के लिए अवधी शब्द)के अन्दर कदम नहीं रखूँगा. और नहीं रखा.

और ये रिश्ता की दादा के चेहरे पे जब कभी मुस्कराहट दिखी तो मनवर के किनारे दिखी. और दादा के मुह से जब भी दादी का नाम सुना तो मनवर के साथ सुना. ( ये और बात है कि बहुत कम सुना).

दादी मेकोंग के बारे में कुछ नहीं जानती थी. ये भी नहीं कि ये सात देशों में बहने वाली नदी है. और ये भी नहीं कि कुछ लोग इसे माँ खोंग कहते हैं. मेकोंग पे कितने सारे बांध हैं और दादी ने जिंदगी में कोई बांध नहीं देखा. (या शायद देखा हो. गाँव के पीछे बहने वाले भगाने ताल पर हर साल एक बंधा बांधते थे गाँव के लोग कि असाढ़ की बारिश गाँव में ना घुसे. बशर्त ये कि आप उसे बाँध कह सकें)

मेकोंग तो खैर बहुत दूर है पता नहीं दादी ने कभी गंगा भी देखी या नहीं गीत भले ही गाती रही हो. सारी उम्र. सुनते हैं कि दादी कि आवाज़ बहुत अच्छी थी. कि शादी ब्याह से ले के सोहर तक गानों में रंग नहीं पड़ता था अगर टेक दादी ना उठाये. दादी के गानों में गंगा होगी, सरयू होगी पर दिल में हमेशा मनवर रही.

या सच में? दादी पली बढ़ी तो घाघरा किनारे थीं. गाँव भटपुरवा तहसील एवं पोस्ट विशेषरगंज. मनवर तो उनको शादी के बाद ही मिली. (बेहतर है वरना स्त्रियों का तो सबकुछ छिनता ही है शादियों में, परिवार, सहेलियां, गाँव घर और ऊपर से दहेज़). तो फिर दादी ये घाघरा से मनवर खेमे में कब चली आई? और आयीं तो अपनी इच्छा से या फिर ससुराल कि मजबूरियों से? मेरी दादी ने पता नहीं मनवर को अपनी मर्जी से चुना था या नहीं,या मनवर थोप दी थी उनके बाप दादाओं ने उनपे.पर ये पता है कि भटपुरवा से बड़हर खुर्द के अपने सफ़र में उन्हें मनवर से मुहब्बत तो हो गयी थी. ये पता नहीं कि सहेली जैसी या माँ जैसी बावजूद इसके कि दादी मनवर को कहती तो माँ ही रही.

और इसीलिए सोचता हूँ कि क्या मेकोंग किनारे की औरतों को भी अपनी नदी बदलनी पड़ती होगी? कैसा लगता होगा उन्हें? और अगर नदी बदलनी पड़ती होगी तो क्या सात देशों के सफ़र तक? और ये कि नदी हमेशा औरतों को ही क्यूँ बदलनी पड़ती है?

कि फिर मनवर दादी के लिए नदी से माँ में कब तब्दील हो गयी? मनवर माई. और ये भी कि क्या मेकोंग भी लोगों के लिए माँ होगी? सात देशों के लोगों के लिए? और फिर ये की नदी को माँ कहने पे गंगा का ही ख़याल क्यूँ आता है? कि पंडित नेहरु जैसे (स्वघोषित) समाजवादी और धर्मनिरपेक्ष व्यक्ति ने अपनी राख डालने के लिए गंगा ही क्यूँ चुनी? मनवर क्यूँ नहीं? या ठीक है मनवर बहुत छोटी बहुत नामालूम सी नदी है पर फिर नर्मदा, कावेरी, गोदावरी, यमुना कोई और नदी क्यों नहीं? कि क्या नदियों के अन्दर भी हम इंसानों सी गैरबराबरी होती है?

बखैर. आज याद आता है कि मनवर को देख के दादा कि आँखों में एक चमक उठती थी. शायद दादी क़ी यादों की चमक. और तब ये लगता है कि नदियाँ सिर्फ माएं नहीं प्रेमिकाएं भी हो सकती हैं. और तब लगता है कि ये ये नदियों को मूरत बनाने वाले लोग अच्छे लोग नहीं है. क्यूंकि मूरतें माओं की बनती हैं प्रेमिकाओं की नहीं. और ये लोग सिर्फ मूरत गढ़ते हैं, रिश्ता मार देते हैं.

और मेरी दादी की मनवर अचानक मनोरमा में तब्दील होने लगती है. शंख और घडियालों के साथ. आरती के थालों के साथ. और फिर वो मनोरमा महोत्सव मनाने लगते हैं.

पर आज, वतन से इतनी दूर मुझे मनवर से अपना रिश्ता साफ़ समझ आ रहा है. और ये भी कि मेरी दादी का रिश्ता मनवर से था मनोरमा से नहीं. और ये कि माँ से प्यार करते हैं, पूजा नहीं. और ये भी कि जो लोग ये पूजा का नाटक शुरू करते हैं वो मेरी दादी कि मनवर माई के दुश्मन हैं. केसरिया कपड़ों में.

पर इस बार लौटूंगा तो मैं दादी की, अपनी, मनवर के पास वापस लौटूंगा. इस वादे के साथ कि उसे इन गेरुआ कपड़ों और इस नए नाम के शिकंजे से आजाद करना है. कि वो मेरी दादी कि माँ हो या दादा कि प्रेमिका, है तो मनवर ही, मनोरमा नहीं.

शुक्रिया मेकोंग.

September 26, 2010

Of Massacres And Democracies: Think Manila, Rethink Ayodhya

Deaths are always tragic, far more so when they fall upon unsuspecting victims in the most violent ways for no fault of theirs. Even worse, are the deaths which come in the form of pogroms - organised, packaged and delivered on communities by the powers that be.

Things get even worse when we can see such tragedies coming. As in the tension that is looming large over India, in the form of the tensions over upcoming verdict on the Ayodhya dispute. Talk of Ayodhya and it raises gory, bloody memories, literally. Any time, every time. It exposes all our incapacities as a people including the false civilisational claims we have attributed to ourselves. It further, exposes our inability to learn any lessons from the tragedies that have befallen us because of these failures of our own. It also exposes our ignorance of the fact that how other communities, some of them at least, deal with such calamities. Ignorance cannot make us learn anything is a point that need not be even mentioned.

The recent Hostage crisis in Manila culminating in the death of 8 people from Hong Kong is one such moment of poignant grief and a grim reminder of the extent to which the world is a dangerous place to live in. But it is also a valiant example of the triumph of humanity, of civilisation and of the very essence of democratic societies. If only we could learn a few lessons from it!

The enormity of the tragedy lies in exposing the utmost scorn for life by those who are primarily responsible for protecting it and all their pretensions that come with it. While exposing the complete failure of state institutions in Philippines, the massacre evoked strong reactions ranging from utter disgust to unrestrained resentment. A few of them were full of hatred towards not only the perpetrator of the horrible crime and the Philippines government, but also towards the ordinary Filipinos living in Hong Kong.
What followed these hate calls, though, was a mesmerising lesson in how to act responsibly and, more importantly, humanely in the face of a tragedy. It is a lesson which can put us, with all our claims of a five thousand year old civilisation that has successfully evolved into the biggest democracy of the world, to shame.

After all, we have had countless massacres of our own. And quite many, though not all, of them emanating out of Ayodhya, the mother of all disputes. We have failed ourselves as a nation terribly, provided of course, if we are a nation and not a collection of some disjoint castes, creeds, communities and of religions.

Be it the state supported pogrom of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984, the 1993 riots in Bombay when the police looked the other way, the state orchestrated pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, or state engineered violence against Christians in Orissa in 2008; there are too many of them to count. Further, all of them have an uncanny similarity; all of them tell the horrible tales of brutalising the victims not only as individuals but as a community. All of them are replete with tales narrating the new inventions in unleashing violence with a purpose, of not only killing but also humiliating the victims, leaving a permanent scar on their psyches.

That the political leadership of the country has been complicit in these pogroms is a fact we have known all along, haven’t we? Right from the earth- shakes- when- a- big- tree- falls statements to action- reaction theories put forward by the political leaders. All of them have betrayed their real communal self, disguised in a secular facade, leaving a legacy of lies and deceit - A legacy so well known that it ceases even to shock, leave aside any questions of hurting.

The real blame for letting all these pogroms, however, lies with the citizenry. Where was the citizenry when all these massacres were happening? Had all the law-abiding, good Samaritans gone into hiding when murderous mobs were butchering innocent Sikhs on the streets of Delhi in 1984? How could a small fringe of Gujarat population, belonging to a right-wing Hindu fanatic group get away with all the murders and rapes? Was it possible for a small fringe, again, to kill so many Christians in Odisha (formerly Orissa) with impunity? Undoubtedly, the perpetrators could do all this because the citizenry decided to be indifferent. All this supported and legitimised the violence and let it take an ugly turn.

And all this started with the silence of the most unbearable kinds. We, as the citizens decided to keep mum at the very first instance when the fundamentalists started to bring their nasty ideas into the public domain. We shrugged these ideas away as the insanities of a lunatic fringe instead of taking them head on and dealing with them. In the process, we happily forgot the fact that everything, good or bad, begins with an idea.

Contrast this with the response of the Hong Kong people, the government and the citizenry alike. They did not take a moment in coming down heavily on those preachers of hate. They challenged them right away while also emphasising the dangers of misconstruing the victims as perpetrators and failing to differentiate between the state and citizenry.

In one of the very first interventions on the issue, Jackie Chan, the most popular film star of the city, called for peace while assuring the Filipinos that the Hong Kong people do not hate. When was the last time we saw our own superstars calling for peace in the midst of a tragedy. However, we can, definitely, remember them joining hands with the perpetrators of such crimes and becoming brand ambassadors for their states!

The second thing the Hong Kong people did was bringing out the real situation within the Philippines out in open, building a bridge made out of empathy in the process.
They pointed out, rightly, that Filipinos, in fact, are the worst victims of the total collapse of governance and rule of law in their country. Maguindanao massacre in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province, described as "supreme act of inhumanity that is a blight on our nation” by the then President Arroyo, demonstrates the exceptional collapse of state institutions in the Philippines. In the massacre which took place on November 23, 2009, a convoy of six vehicles going to file a certificate of candidacy in the forthcoming Maguindanao gubernatorial election, for Esmael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan town was stopped by 100 armed men belonging to the mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., son of the incumbent Maguindanao governor. All members of the convoy were later executed and buried, along with their vehicles, in mass graves dug days before the massacre.

The massacre left at least 57 people dead including at least 27 local journalists, making it the single largest killing of journalists. The victims included 2 lawyers and many others not related to the candidate. Several women among the dead were allegedly raped before the murder and almost all of them shot in the genitals. Despite this unprecedented scale of barbarity and tall promises of bringing the culprits to justice, nothing much has happened in the case.

Can one really resent the wretched citizens of such a lawless land, was the question they, then put to their fellow citizens. They answered the question as well by pointing out that it was a land where, leave aside the common citizenry, even the politicians and journalists were not safe. They reminded every Hong Konger that Filipinos were, in fact, the sufferers of countless massacres, kidnappings, tortures and all other possible denials of basic human rights and dignities, every human being ought to have as inalienable rights.

Understandably, the perception of the situation changed in no time. These acts of citizenry ensured that far from deserving any wrath, Filipinos, being survivors of such injustices, actually got the sympathy and compassion of the local community.

The government too, meanwhile, was not sitting idle. Immediately following the first news of the hostage crisis reached Hong Kong, almost all department of local government swung into action, the police being the most prominent. The chief of the city’s police ensured increased presence of police in public places while reassuring the 130 thousand-strong Filipino community of all support. Contrast this with the inglorious legacy of the police force in India, where it has been established that no riot can run for more than twenty four hours, without the connivance of the police.

Just to add a point, the citizenry in Hong Kong did it all for ‘others’, a people who did not belong to them. Compare this with what we have done to our own people, massacre after massacre. It would force us to hang our heads in shame. It could, on the contrary, also spur us on to make a fresh start - A start to ensure that we evolve as a community and not as a disjointed sum of components divided long the faultlines of caste, community, religion or whatever other categories which could be exploited to turn us into barbarians on the prowl. It is time for us to realize that grief is a word which does not know divisions. Grief cannot be ‘ours’ or ‘theirs’. It is just grief, plain and simple and we are one in these times of excruciating agony.

Till then, we have no right to call ourselves citizens, and this country a democracy. We can start afresh this time. We can ensure that we start becoming a nation.

First published in Counter Currents. Can be accessed at
http://www.countercurrents.org/samar220910.htm

September 21, 2010

जहाँ बाबरी मस्जिद थी वहां अस्पताल बना दो? पर क्यूँ भाई?

सच बोलने से डर लगने लगे ऐसे वक़्त, पाश के शब्द उधार लूँ तो, खतरनाक तो हैं पर सबसे खतरनाक नहीं होते. सबसे खतरनाक वो वक़्त होते हैं जब मजलूम भी जालिम की जुबान बोलने लगें. सबसे खतरनाक इसलिए कि ऐसे वक्तों उनके चेहरे पे पसरी हुई दहशत बिलकुल साफ़ नज़र आती है. आईने की तरह. आयर जब हम उनकी आँखों में झांकते हैं तो जो डरा हुआ चेहरा नज़र आता है वो उनका नहीं हमारा होता है. सफ़ेद, शफ्फाक. नजर चुराती हुई ऑंखें, कहीं दूर अदृश्य में कुछ देखती हुई.

ये वक़्त सबसे खतरनाक होते हैं क्यूंकि इन वक्तों में हवाओं में सच शगूफों से उछलते रहते हैं और जमीन में एक अजब अहमकाना और कातर चुप्पी पसरी होती है. फिर ये होता है कि हम सच और शगूफों का फरक भूल जाते हैं.

जैसे ये कि जहाँ बाबरी मस्जिद थी, जो इन फिरकापरस्तों ने ढहा दी थी वहां अस्पताल बना दो. वहां बच्चों का खेल बना दो. वहां ये बना दो. वहां ये बना दो. बस जो एक बात कोई नहीं करता वो ये कि जहाँ बाबरी मस्जिद थी वहां बाबरी मस्जिद बनाओ. वहां कुछ और बनाना इन्साफ के खिलाफ तो है ही पर उससे ज्यादा हम डरे हुए लोगों का अरण्य रोदन है. जंगल विलाप है.

अगर यही करना है तो क्यूँ ना ऐसा करें की इन को बोलें कि भाई तुम तोड़ते चलो हम बनाते चलेंगे. तुम मस्जिद तोड़ो, हम अस्पताल बनायेंगे. तुम चर्च, तोड़ो हम स्कूल बनायेंगे. तुम गुरुद्वारा तोड़ो, हम बच्चों के खेलने का मैदान बनायेंगे. बस एक बात, जो तुम तोड़ोगे, वो हम कभी नहीं बनायेंगे. और फिर, इस मुल्क में किसी और का कहने को कुछ नहीं होगा.

सवाल ये है कि जो तोडा था वही क्यूँ न बनायें. क्यूंकि इससे दंगों का खतरा है. क्यूँ भाई? पुलिस है, प्रशाशन है वो बस चुप बैठा रहेगा? सेना है जो कश्मीर के, उत्तर पूर्व के पूरे अवाम को चुप रख सकती है( लोकतान्त्रिक सरकार के आदेश से) वो चंद दंगाइयों से नहीं निपट सकती? अगर नहीं, तो रखा क्यूँ है भाई?

और अगर कुछ और ही बनाना है, मस्जिद नहीं तो एक अहसान करो. अस्पताल मत बनाओ. जिस जगह के नाम पे इतने लोगों का क़त्ल हुआ वहां जान बचाने की बातें अच्छी नहीं लगेंगी. पार्क मत बनाओ भाई. क्या खेलेंगे लोग वहां? दंगों के खेल? और क्या रंग आएगा ऐसे पार्क में खिलने वाले फूलों पे? लाल खून का रंग?

बच्चों का स्कूल मत बनाओ- क्या पढेंगे बच्चे उस स्कूल में? कि दूसरों की इबादतगाह तोड़ने के कोई सजा नहीं होती? उनके गाने बदल जायेंगे ऐसे स्कूल में पढ़ के. और यकीन करिए कि मजहब ही सिखाता है आपस में बैर करना गाते हुए बच्चे और कुछ भी लगें बच्चे नहीं लगें.

तो भाई, कुछ और ही बनाना है तो एक काम करो.

जहाँ मस्जिद थी वहां कोमनवेल्थ खेलों का एक मैदान बना दो. कम से कम कुछ भ्रष्ट और बेईमान नेताओं का फायदा तो होगा.

या उससे भी बेहतर, एक नकली गाँव बना दो. राहुल गांधियों के लिए गरीबों की झोपड़ी में रात गुजारना आसान हो जायेगा, और ये जगह देश की संस्कृति (अगर कोई है तो) विदेशियों को बेचने के काम भी आएगी.

या फिर मनमोहन सिंह साहब के लिए एक स्थाई मंच बनवा दो. फिर वो कह ही नहीं दिखा भी सकेंगे की अंग्रेजों से क्या सुशासन और क्या सूरज सिखा है.

और इस सबसे बेहतर, एक जंगल लगवा दो. उत्तर प्रदेश पुलिस को फर्जी मुठभेड़ों के लिए एक अच्छी जगह भी मिल जाएगी और जम्हूरियत और इन्साफ के क़त्ल की जगह का इससे अच्छा इस्तेमाल हो भी क्या सकता है?

September 18, 2010

Enlightenment that took thousands of Kashmiri lives to dawn upon the Indian government!

Enlightenment, it seems, has finally dawned upon the Indian government. The words of wisdom that came out of yesterday's all-party meeting on Kashmir convened by the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, point to that. The wisdom was best summarised in the consensus the meeting arrived at that the “Constitution of India provides ample scope to accommodate any legitimate political demand through dialogue, civil discourse and peaceful negotiations".

The importance of these words lies more in the facts they betray than the ones they apparently want to convey. The statement asserts that the protest in Kashmir is a 'legitimate political demand', a fact the Prime Minister and his cabinet was trying to brush away all this while. The statement, in all earnest, is a strong rebuttal to all the lies told by the Home Minister of India and his colleagues regarding the protests. They have, lest we forget, often blamed the protests on everything, right from that they are influenced by the players across the border (the favourite punching bag) to the mischievous secessionist forces (often adding Islamist for good measures) and have tried to delegitimise the protests in that sense.

In fact, The Prime Minister went a step further while noting his pain for the people. He found it “indeed tragic" and expressed shock and anguish on seeing "young men and women, even children, joining the protests on the streets." Here was a Prime Minister admitting the popular support and the participation the protests have, while rubbishing the claims made by his colleagues or the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir that the protestors belong to a fringe of Kashmiri population.

Going by these candid and honest, even if unintentional, admissions the meeting could have led to a serious step forward for restoring peace in Kashmir. But then, moving towards peace requires the intent as the most primary requisite and that was plainly missing from the meeting. The enlightened statements, in that, proved to be bereft of any intention to convert them into a reality so much desired by the Kashmiris.

The realisation, even if it took six decades and more than 70000 lives to dawn upon, that it was possible to accommodate 'any legitimate political demand through dialogue, civil discourse and peaceful negotiations' should have led the Prime Minister to introspect that why his government did not try to achieve this over at least last seven years when he was at the helm of affairs? What stopped our 'affable' and 'uncorrupted' Prime Minister from exploring those possibilities all this while? The only thing that could match his honesty in accepting the protests as legitimate would have been his acceptance of his failure in achieving peace through peaceful negotiations.

The enlightenment brought out by this meeting is a ruptured one, one that has high sounding words but no intention to carry them out. The Prime Minister, while exhorting people to return to peace and expressing the willingness of his government to have a dialogue with "anybody or any group that does not espouse or practise violence"; forgot to tell how to achieve that. Just to make a few things clear, unlike earlier protests this protest is not being carried out by some 'group' or even 'groups'. It is a popular protest with the participation of even 'children' as per his own admission. How, and why, would people stop throwing 'stones' violently at security personnel in the face of brutally violent repression carried out on them?

One does not need to consult treatises to understand that ensuring peace is the responsibility of the state and not of the citizenry! Or the Prime Minister, and his government, has treaded this basic understanding off with some perverse logic of governance! How else would one explain his brazen attempt of shifting the onus of establishing peace on the people while delivering a veiled threat that "discussions can take place only if we have calm and public order?" Who does Indian state want to talk to if not these people? Talking to those in the chairs of power in Kashmir is definitely not going to serve any purpose as they are viewed as nothing but of having dubious record of being typical collaborator with an occupying force for personal gains.

The issue that the Prime Minister, and the remaining members of the meeting, left untouched was that what the government was doing from its side to bring that elusive peace. The real issue behind protests in Kashmir is not of some neurosis. The protestors do not have some sort of obsessive-compulsive disorder that leads to protest including stone pelting. These are real people; citizens the government had forgotten; with real grievances. And they have a real anger against the Indian state, represented in the state not by its civilian arms but by the ubiquitous presence of the uniformed security forces.

The problem of Indian state, on the other hand, is not violence per say. After all, it deals with lots of violent incidents every year. Most of the protests even in mainstream, peaceful parts of Indian territories are violent. The protests for the creation of a separate Telngana state out of Andhra Pradesh were violent leading to many deaths. The protest of Bhartiya Janta Party which was the party leading the central government against the killing of 56 people in a train burning incident was very violent, leading to a pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat. The most conservative estimates of death toll put the number of casualities at around 2000. The protests of Gurjars, a community in Rajsthan for getting included in the Scheduled Tribes list was very violent. The protests against the killing of a Hindu saint belonging to right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Odisha was very violent, resulting in killings of hundreds of Christians.

The security forces maintained the restraint of highest order in all these incident. They restrained even when the mobs went on killing fellow Indian citizens. They showed maximum restraint even when their own colleagues were killed by these furious mobs. They did not open fire upon crowds in these areas even when they destroyed public as well as individual properties.

They exercised this restraint even in Jammu, the other half of the state, during the violent protests over transfer of lands to the Amarnath Temple Shrine Board. The police and paramilitary personnel did not fire on the crowds even when two members of police were killed. Contrast this with the situation in Kashmir valley. The claimed deadliness of these mass assaults is exposed by the fact that the stone pelting protests have not resulted in the single death of security personnel. And yet, security forces have not shown any of the exemplary restraint they show elsewhere.

The real problem of the people in Kashmir is that. They know that these forces treat them differently than Indians. They see these forces brutalising Kashmiris in every conceivable ways and contrast this with their behaviour in other Indian provinces.

They see the government of India inscribing its writ on the area through security forces, which in turn, turn to the body of the ordinary Kashmiri as a site to demonstrate their patriotism in carrying out their orders. And then they realise that they do not get to deal with the civilian administration for anything. Leave aside any talks of engaged participation and informed consent in how their lives would be governed, all they get is security checks, cordons, and even occasional beatings by the personnel belonging to these forces.

The anger that is mobilising these protests, therefore, is rooted not in some failure of the Kashmiri people but in the violence perpetrated by the security personnel with impunity under the protection of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) that gives every officer the right to kill anyone, merely on suspicion.

This Act is what distinguishes Kashmir from rest of India. This act is what labels them as 'enemy' in their own country. This act is the hideous spider that has cast a web of fear that runs through the whole of Kashmir. And it's the strangest kind of fear, which has occupied both extremes of human existence. One it makes the very basic existence uncertain, even a non-commissioned officer can shoot one for no reason and there would not be an enquiry, leave aside getting justice. This same fear seeps into everyday life and becomes a lived reality. So being a Kashmiri you fear going out of your home for the presence of security forces, you fear standing on a street for the fear of cross firings, and you fear being in home for the raids conducted by the security personnel.

The problem plaguing the Kashmiri psyche is this fear. Everyone has feared everything so much that there is nothing more to fear about. And when people stop fearing because of the violent deaths haunting their existence, they go to the other extreme of not fearing it at all. This is what has caused these people, mostly youth who have lost all faith in life, make it a mad game of risking it every day and no amount of force can control a population who have exchanged their fear for insanity.
The worst part of this enlightening meeting, expectedly, was reserved for the fag end when it was supposed to make a recommendation. The recommendation it made was nothing more than a charade. It resolved “to send an all-party delegation to Jammu and Kashmir. The leaders agreed that the delegation should meet all sections of the people and gather all shades of opinion.” What other information one needs on the issue? Had the Prime Minister himself not admitted of the pain and anguish he feels seeing women and children in the protests? Does one need a visit to realise what is going on in Kashmir as if 100 deaths caused by state’ s bullets are not evidence enough? Will the delegation go and ask the relatives of the dead asking how bad and hurt they had been feeling, as maybe people feel differently about deaths in Kashmir.
A meeting with this undertone was not a meeting but a sham. There is no doubt about what should be done in the state. The Chief Minister, democratically elected on that, of the state himself has asked for repealing the draconian AFSPA from his state, and that was only thing the meeting did not take any decision on! Just think of that, the protestors are demanding the repeal of AFSPA, the Chief Minister trying to deal with them is demanding the repeal of AFSPA as well! Does not that prove consensus on the issue?
Meanwhile, the meeting did not observe the customary silence for the departed. Not even for the 15 who perished on the date of Eid ul-Fitr.

September 15, 2010

Nations don’t die, they are murdered! (A response to Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka)

Nations do die, in fact they get murdered despite all the claims on the contrary. Only problem is that one needs to have a little understanding of both the social sciences and the society in its everyday life to see that happening. This is no mean task though, especially, for the academicians living in their ivory towers. It helps, also, if the ivory towers have been provided to them by the powers that may. No wonder then that such academicians keep coming up with justification for unjustifiable atrocities committed on people and institutions alike.

If not for this selective amnesia, all of the twentieth century has been an evidence for the birth and death of nations. After all, what is a nation if not an ‘imagined community’ in the words of Benedict Anderson. He calls it imagined because “the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their community.” And yet, he asserts that this imagined community is no less real, and no less legitimate.

So what is that which makes such imagined communities real? It is the feeling of a shared history, a sense of solidarity and a sense of belonging to the same nation, with equal rights I would assert, that turns a people into a nation. Yet, the idea of the nation still remains in the domain of the abstract. The closest this idea gets in material physical senses is the constitution of the nation. Constitution becomes the embodiment of all that is shared, the past, the feelings of bondage, the beliefs and even the hopes.

The constitution, in that, does not remain just another book. It turns into the soul of the nation, achieving something miraculous in the process. Having a constitution marks a fascinating journey of the nation, from the abstraction to real, from being just a belief to a material reality inhabiting the physical world. It is thus a journey back into the realm of abstraction while making it real as well.

It goes without saying that the constitution can exist only in democracies. Autocracies and dictatorships, of any types, do not need to derive their legitimacy from a book, however sacrosanct. They operate out of force, sheer brutal force and impose themselves upon the people inhabiting the area of their operation. These autocracies, for the same reason, do never become nations. They remain stuck in times gone by, remaining the monarchic aberrations in today’s world.

An attack on the constitution, precisely for this reason is an attack on the nation itself. Killing a constitution, as an extension of that, is killing a nation. It is killing that democratic contract which people had made in order to emerge as a nation. It is a usurpation of the sovereignty of the people by an individual or a collective of undemocratic bunch. It does not require being a political scientist to understand this simple fact that a nation comes out of all individuals democratically surrendering their sovereignty to a universal sovereign through a social contract. Needless to say is that this happens through a social contract achieved through democratic means.

Democracy, thus, emerges as the soul of the constitution and anything that compromises democracy compromised the nation. The 18th amendment to the constitution of Sri Lanka does not merely compromises this but in fact kills that democracy. It is an attempt to usurp all powers and consolidate that into the person of one man. This is why it kills democracy and the nation in the process.

A changed constitution does not merely mean a changed book. It means much more than that. It means a new system which does not remain the same as old.

And yet, it does not mean that we can let the nation die just like that. The whole nation needs to resist this. And the resistance is, as Edward Said had put it, a struggle of memory against forgetting. After all, no autocrats can erase a people. They need them for cheap labour. They need them to toil. And for that, they need to keep them alive. And a living people cannot accept anything just like that. They recreate all those they have lost in their memories. They commit the killed nation to their dreams. Then, as they say it, dreams keep the hopes of a resurrection alive, forever.

Published in The Island,Leading English newspaper of SriLanka. Can be accessed at
http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=6916


First published by the Asian Human Rights Commission.

September 13, 2010

लक्स कोज़ी का प्रचार करते हुए आप बिलकुल अच्छे नहीं लगते शाहरुख़ भाई !

प्रिय शाहरुख़..

सबसे पहले तो एक माफीनामा.. कि आपको बिना जाती जानपहचान के शाहरुख़ कह रहा हूँ पर उम्मीद है कि आप बुरा नहीं मानेंगे. आखिर को मैं हिन्दुस्तान की उस पीढ़ी का हूँ जो आपकी फ़िल्में देखते हुए जवान हुई है और जिसने आपमें अपने आपे को देखा है. और उससे भी ऊपर मैं उस पीढ़ी के उन लोगों में से हूँ जिन्होंने किसी के ये कहने पे कि इंडस्ट्री में आपसे अच्छा कोई और स्टार है और लोगों से झगड़े किये हैं. शाहरुख साहब मैं उनलोगों में से हूँ जिनके लिए इंडस्ट्री का सुपर स्टार कौन है ये कोई बहस ही नहीं थी. जिनके लिए अमिताभ बच्चन के बाद बस आप ही आप थे.

मैं उस पीढ़ी का हूँ शाहरुख़ साहब जो बड़े बड़े शहरों में ऐसी छोटी छोटी बातें होती रहतीं हैं सैनेरीटा बोलते हुए ये भूल ही जाती थी कि ये अपना खुद का नहीं आपका डायलोग है. और इसीलिये, इस पीढ़ी का होने के नाते मैं आपपे इतना हक समझता हूँ कि आपको शाहरुख़ कह सकूँ. सच बोलूं तो ये लिखते हुए भी कैशोर्य के उन दिनों की याद आती है तो ऑंखें चमक उठती हैं..

एक और जो बात थी, या की है, जो आपसे जोड़ के रखती थी है और शायद रहेगी, की आपने अपनी जड़ें ना कभी भूलीं ना खोयीं. कि सर्कस या फौजी का शाहरुख़ दिल तो पागल है के शाहरुख से कभी अलग ना हुआ ना दिखा. इसीलिये आपकी कामयाबी सिर्फ आपकी कामयाबी नहीं थी शाहरुख़ साहब. वो हर उस शख्श की कामयाबी थी जो छोटे से एक कसबे में पैदा होके भी आसमान छूने के ख्वाब देखने की हिम्मत करता था.. आपकी कामयाबी इसलिए भी दिल के करीब लगती थी शाहरुख़ भाई कि और सुपर स्टारों की तरह कभी आपको कभी मंदिरों, मजारों, मस्जिदों, दरगाहों के चक्कर लगाते नहीं देखा. कि ये तो छोडिये ही कि आप और आपकी पत्नी में कोई मांगलिक है या नहीं हमें तो ये भी पता नहीं कि आप दोनों ने शादी किस धर्म की रीतियों के मुताबिक की!

आप इसी लिए औरों से अलग थे अलहदा थे.. आप वो थे जो कह सकते थे कि आज बस जाओ और खुल के खेलो.. ये ९० मिनट सिर्फ तुम्हारे हैं.. ये वक़्त तुमसे तुम्हारा खुदा भी नहीं छीन सकता.आप वो थे जो बिना चिल्लाये इतनी मासूमाना सी बात की दुनिया में सिर्फ दो तरह के आदमी होते हैं अच्छे और बुरे, कह सकते थे शाहरुख़ भाई. आप वो भी थे कि लगातार हारती हुई अपनी आईपीएल की टीम के साथ जूझ के खड़े हो सकते थे. और हाँ भूल ही गया था कि जिन ठाकरों के सामने झुकने को कहने पे लोग लेटने लगते हैं उनसे आपने माफ़ी मानने से इनकार कर के हमारा सर फक्र से ऊँचा कर दिया था.

और बस इसी वजह से, आज यहाँ, अपने मुल्क से हज़ारों मील दूर आपको एनडीटीवी पे देख के आँखे चमकनी चाहियें थी, दिल को अच्छा लगना चाहिए था, यादों को आपकी फिल्मों की गलियों में लौट जाना चाहिए था. पर ऐसा कुछ हुआ नहीं शाहरुख़ भाई. क्यूंकि इस बार जब आप दिखे तो बुरे आदमियों से लड़ते नहीं दिखे. इस बार जब आप दिखे दिखे तो वो आदमी नहीं याद आया जिसने बहुत बरस पहले एक लड़की को भगा के ले जाने से इनकार करते हुए उसकी माँ से कहा था कि जिंदगी में हमेशा दो रास्ते होते हैं, एक छोटा और एक बड़ा. और जिसने वो छोटा शोर्ट कट रास्ता चुनने से इनकार कर दिया था.

इस बार आप मुझे, हमें, हम सबको लक्स कोज़ी की तरफ से ईद की मुबारकबाद देते दिखे शाहरुख़ भाई. और पहली बार आपको देख के आँखें चमकी नहीं पर गीली हो गयीं. लगता नहीं कि आपको पता नहीं होगा पर आपको फिर से बता दें शाहरुख़ भाई ये अच्छे लोग नहीं हैं. कि इनके दामन पे रिज़वानुर का खून है. कि आपने सारी ज़िंदगी जिन मुहब्बतों की वकालत की है ये उन्ही मुहबत्तों के दुश्मन हैं.

ईद बहुत पाक मौका होता है शाहरुख़ भाई. और इन वक्तों में, अपने मुल्क, अपने लोगों से इतने दूर ईद पे मुल्क की याद बहुत आनी थी, आयी भी. पर इन यादों में, यकीन करिए, आपका मुस्कुराता हुआ सा चेहरा शामिल न था. इमानदारी से कहूँ तो इस ईद की सबसे खराब याद लक्स वालों की तरफ से आपको देखना ही है साहब..

देख लीजिये शाहरुख भाई.. आपका नाम खान है.. और आपकी दुनिया में सिर्फ दो तरह के लोग हैं अच्छे और बुरे. और अगर आप इन अशोक तोडियों के साथ खड़े नज़र आये तो हमें, जो आपके नाम पे लड़ने को तैयार होते थे, बहुत कुछ सोचना पड़ जाएगा शाहरुख़ भाई.

इस उम्मीद में कि अगली बार आपकी मुहब्बत शर्मिंदा नहीं करेगी
आपका
समर

September 10, 2010

Casteism is racism and India should stop interfering in ‘internal affairs’ of Britain!

Britain, in a major victory for the movement against caste based discrimination and atrocities, can soon declare caste prejudice unlawful under laws against racial discrimination becoming the first country of the world to do so. The development was imminent in the wake of the fact that the House of Lords had already passed the Equality Bill empowering the government to treat caste as ‘an aspect of race’ in March this year leaving just one more step of getting it passed by the House of Commons to be enacted as law.

The victory has come as a result of the valiant struggle of the Dalit groups along with members of the broader civil society against the exploitative and oppressive system of caste, amidst tremendous opposition of the Indian government and the right wing Hindu groups based in Britain.

The significance of the development lies in the fact that it has taken almost a decade to come since 2001 when the Government of India had succeeded in botching up the attempt of the Dalit Rights Group together with the broader civil society to make caste based discrimination an aspect of racial discrimination at the Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The Government of India claimed the caste issues as ‘internal matter of India’ and asserted that they were making all attempts to put an end to caste based discrimination.

What it forgot in doing that was its own, and glorious, role in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. If caste issues are an internal matter of India, would not apartheid be an internal issue of the governments of apartheid-era South Africa? So why did India play a crucial role in mobilising the world opinion against apartheid?

The government of India tried to further substantiate its claim by asserting the caste issues as intra-racial and intra-cultural even while conceding the existence of discrimination. Soli Sorabjee, the then Attorney General of India, maintained that the only reason behind India’s attempt to keep caste discrimination off the agenda of Durban Conference was that “it will distract participants from the main topic: racism”. Even while conceding that caste discrimination in India is ‘undeniable’ he stressed that ‘caste and race are entirely different’.

They could very well be. After all, no two systems of social stratification in this world are absolutely similar to each other. A lot of factors, from culture to economy, intercede with the systems of stratification to produce the division of power and hierarchy in the society and make the systems, in the process, absolutely distinct from one another in internal structure. The crucial question, however, is not about their distinctiveness but their efficacy in maintaining and safeguarding social hierarchies.

Sadly, Indian caste system has proved itself to be one of the worst, if not the worst, system of social stratification for maintaining and perpetuating social hierarchies. Most probably, humankind has never devised a more comprehensive system of keeping a section of society under perpetual subjugation amidst inhuman conditions. It has never devised a worse way of dehumanising fellow human beings and reducing them to being mere labour force devoid of any dignity leave aside rights. Everything said and done, when it comes to committing atrocities on people, the caste system has proved itself to be far more clinical in brutalising its victims than race and not less.

The argument of the Indian government that caste based discrimination should not be included under the category of racial discrimination because it is making serious progress in the issue by having protective laws and positive discrimination fails miserable in the wake of data produced by its own agencies.

For example, the number of crimes against people belonging to the Scheduled Castes as per records of the National Crime Records Bureau of India, a body of ministry of Home Affairs, went up to 33615, an increase of more than 2 percent from the preceding year. Or the fact that the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act does not get applied even in such ghoulish cases of caste based atrocities as in the killing of a Dalit family in Khairlanji while committing brutal rapes on the women speaks volumes about the seriousness of the efforts of the government

The second argument of Indian government, unfortunately backed by a few leading sociologists, was that since ‘race’ is a not a meaningful biological category in India and all attempts of profiling different castes along racial lines have fallen flat. Their claim is that even if caste is based on descent it is entirely different from race.

Even if the discrimination against the Dalits is intra-racial, the consequences for them are no less brutal than that in racism. On a more fundamental level, the lack of ‘scientific’ evidence may prove the absence of ‘race’ in India but not the absence of ‘racism’, an ideological structure based on the belief of superiority of some people because of birth and inferiority of others because of the same! And there is no doubt that this ideology is becoming stronger day by day despite all the attempts of Indian government to put an end to this ‘evil’ practice.

The seriousness of the government on the issue speaks for itself in its acts. After all, the government’s dogged opposition to the inclusion of caste based discrimination does not come out of some failure to understand the ground realities out of sheer ignorance. It reflects the mindset and the psyche of the government and the people manning it. The stand of the government emanates from that pre-modern, barbaric and regressive social structure of caste that rules the country under its democratic façade. A facade that gets exposed more often than not by the deeds of all organs of the state, including its judiciary.

It is hard to believe that even judiciary can do that but even a cursory glance on its track records bear out the fact. Be it the highly misogynist and casteist verdict in Mathura rape case ((Tukaram V. State of Maharshtra, AIR 1979 SC 185) when the Supreme Court overruled the decision of the Bombay High Court convicting two policemen for raping Mathura, a 16-year-old girl because of the fact that the girl was an ‘illiterate and orphaned tribal girl’ and was of loose character by implication to the recent verdict of Maharashtra High Court in Khairlanji massacre, the judiciary has proved itself complicit in letting the government off its responsibility of abolishing caste based discrimination.

At times, unfortunately  it has gone all the way to be part of the perpetrators and not only accomplices of caste discrimination. Like in the infamous and stinking observation of the trial judge in the Bhanwari Devi rape case in 1995 that because Hindu scriptures do not allow upper caste men to touch a low caste woman, the accused could not have raped the Dalit victim. This case and many others have put our constitution to shame.

And that is why, compartmentalising the issue of caste into the ‘scientific’ and ‘cultural’ aspects and then prioritising the scientific ones to assert that caste is not race is not only incorrect but in fact a deceitful attempt to violate the spirit of the constitution of India if not the letters itself, and should be fought against from within and outside.

As a matter of fact, the meaning of the term ‘descent’ has been expanded to include ‘discrimination based on caste’ ,by the general recommendation number 29, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) 1969. Indian government will do well to remember that it is a signatory to that convention along with more than 170 other countries.

It will also do well to take note of the fact that the lives of more than 165 million citizens is not a question of intellectual theorising over whether race is caste or not before putting its act together and cracking down on all forms of caste atrocities decisively. By then, it can begin with accepting that caste is a form of racial discrimination, at least of racism if not of the ‘pure’ (in the Brahiminical sense) biological category of race!

Meanwhile, lets us all support the British Dalits in safeguarding their hard won victory against the demon of caste, threatened by the right wing Hindu organisation in Britain as well as Indian government which is, reportedly, trying to arm-twist the British government into not intervening in its ‘internal’ matter. Making that absurd claim amounts to appropriating anything relating to Hindu religion as ‘internal’ and caste serious aspersions on the secular credentials of Indian state. Does Indian government want to claim that all issues concerning Hindus are its ‘internal’ issues, throwing all its secular pretensions away?

After all, caste based atrocities have long ceased to confine themselves in Indian subcontinent. If the gory facts about honour killings taking place in Britain and Canada among other places were not proof enough, the recent killing of a Sikh religious leader belong to the Ravidasi sect (a Dalit sect) in Vienna leaves no scope for doubts about the same.

We can begin by standing by the policy and reminding the Indian government not to meddle in the internal issues of Britain, as it is dealing with an issue concerning its citizens and has nothing to do with a ‘secular’ India. Further, no government can sit idle when caste issues lead to illegal confinements, abductions, forced marriages, and even killings. It is the Indian state which has failed to contain the demon of caste, leave aside killing it, and it has no right to demand the same indifference and disdain for human life from a sovereign state over such a pressing issue.


First Published by AHRC. Can be accessed at 



And in SriLanka guardian at 

September 04, 2010

जुगलबंदी-- ये उन दिनों की बात है

एक दिन थे जब हम जवाबी हम जवाबी कव्वालियाँ सुनने घर से भागा करते थे.. और ये वो दिन थे कि कव्वालियाँ आज सी न हुआ करती थीं.. कि जब कव्वाल बोल उठाते थे तो साँस थम सी जाया करती थी कि अब के आनेवाले लफ्ज़ कितने मायने सीने में छुपाये होंगे..

ये वो दिन थे की खबर ही नहीं होती थी की कब सुनने वाले जाने अनजाने, चाहे अनचाहे खेमों में बँट जाया करते थे.. कि हम इस कव्वाल के साथ और तुम उस के. और अब तो ये सोचना भी मुश्किल होता है कि कभी बँटना भी इतना खूबसूरत अहसास हो सकता है.

और ये वो दिन थे कि सांसों का थमना हिन्दुस्तान पाकिस्तान के क्रिकेट मैचों की बपौती ना थी. कि तमाम खूबसूरती के बाद भी अपना गुट हल्का पड़ता सा लगे तो साँसे थमने सी लगती थीं.

और बीच बीच में अशआर होते थे.. और जवाबी कव्वाल की तरफ से आने वाले उनके जवाब.. कि कितनी फलसफाना बातें किताबें पढ़ के नहीं बल्कि उन मजलिसों से यूँ ही सीख लीं..

ये वो भी दिन थे के कव्वालियाँ सुनने को बंद सभागारों में नहीं जाना होता था. टिकेट नहीं खरीदने होते थे. और तो और तब कव्वालियाँ सुनने के लिए बुद्धिजीवी होना, या कमअसकम दिखना कोई जरूरी शर्त नहीं होती थी. जब कोई लफ्ज़ समझ ना आये तो बगल वाले से पूछ लेना बहुत आम था ना के कोई शर्मिंदगी का बायस.

और फिर ये हुआ के वो दिन कहीं खो गए. और वो कव्वालियाँ भी. और वो कसबे भी शायद.
शुक्रिया उन दोस्तों का जिनकी फेसबुक पे जवाबी क़व्वाली सी जुगलबंदी ने कुछ यादें लौटा दीं. कि जैसे बहुत पुरानी किताब से बहुत पुराना फूल मिल जाए कोई..
शुक्रिया अरुण भाई, शुक्रिया अजंता जी