Patient India

Other than trains, hospitals are the most secular spaces in contemporary India. This applies as much to upper-end luxury hospi-resorts such as — Apollo and Escorts — as it does to the lowliest nursing home in any corner of the country. However, even as I assert this, a caveat comes to mind — the aftermath of the Gujarat riots, which had hospitals and even doctors sharply divided along communal lines.

In itself, it may or may not be a picture post card communal harmony moment, but if you keep the Gujarat experience in mind, then this little incident certainly substantiates my assertion. Continue reading Patient India

Humane slaughter?

By a coincidence that is entirely explainable, the Arabic word Baqar, meaning cow or ox, gets fudged into the word Bakra, originating from the Sanskrit varkar.

Thus in India, Baqr Id, the festival commemorating Abraham’s sacrifice, quite often becomes Bakr Id. As I noticed this time round, even as Bakri Id, it makes absolute sense of course, since it is goats that are the primary object of sacrificial affection, and mutton is the prized meat anyway.

Through another onomatopoeic twist, in the purabiya region Baqr Id is also known as Barki Id — the big Id. People would sometimes enquire whether this is the big Id or the small Id or whether it is the sewain Id or the meat Id. For youngsters, though the fixating charm of watching animal slaughter is leavened by the disappointing fact that as far as Idee (or tyohari) — the money gift that is customarily doled out to them by seniors — is concerned, they come off much the worse on Baqr Id. Continue reading Humane slaughter?

Touchable Crimes: Gohana Nay Kizzhevanamani

Investigations by the police or the intelligence officials in highly contested cases have an uncanny ability of looking weird in an unabashed manner.

The recent chargesheet filed by the CBI, which had been asked to look into the attack, and arson, at a Dalit (Valmiki) basti in Gohana, once again vindicates this thesis. According to a newspaper report the chargesheet into the 2005 Gohana riots in Haryana has ‘..revealed that some people in Balmiki Basti had set their houses on fire themselves, allegedly for compensation.” The chargesheet talks of CBI’s observations that ” extensive burning was observed in 19 out of 28 houses. Of these, nine houses were inspected thoroughly and it appeared that in these houses the “simulated arsoning” was carried out, which are yet “to get compensation”. Continue reading Touchable Crimes: Gohana Nay Kizzhevanamani

Pal do pal ka shayar

What exactly is the status of Sahir Ludhiyanvi, as a poet and as a film lyricist? A debate currently raging at Kafila pits two radically different views about Sahir against each other.

Against the conventional view, which sees him as a towering icon in the poetic movement of India as also in our cinema, Panini Pothoharvi maintains that Sahir was an ordinary versifier, who cannot even be placed along side Shailendra and Majrooh Sultanpuri, as a film lyricist.

Lest I do some injustice to Mr Panini’s views, I will quote the relevant paragraph in its entirety.

“It must be remembered that Sahir’s reputation rests largely — go around asking the cognescenti (and who care about them, anyway) what they think of Sahir’s poetry and you would know a thing or two you wouldn’t wish to hear in your adolescent exuberance — on his film songs. And I must say that I am not greatly enamoured of his Chin-o-Arab Hamara — the refrain may be catchy but the stanzas simply do not work. Continue reading Pal do pal ka shayar

Textbook Fascism of the Hindu Kind?

Textbooks are back in news. This time it is the turn of the Social Sciences book for Class x students prepared by the Rajasthan Madhyamik Shiksha Board, Ajmer. One needs to remember that this book results from the decision of the Rajasthan government to reject the new National Curriculum Framework for School Education 2005 evolved by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). All BJP-ruled states had declared that they would prepare their own textbooks as the books prepared by the NCERT were biased according to them. It would be interesting to see, therefore as to how they fight out the bias of the NCERT books in the books prepared by their own objective teams.

This is how the Rajasthan social sciences experts do it. The first chapter of the book seeks to introduce the students to the basics of the Indian Culture: Our culture is known as Arya sanskriti, Bharatiya sanskriti and Hindu sanskriti. Lest there be any confusion in the minds of the readers, the book explains it further: in fact these three nomenclatures are synonyms.

Continue reading Textbook Fascism of the Hindu Kind?

‘Scientific’ Land Grab and the Lie-Machine

Even as the CPM general secretary Prakash Karat made his astonishing statement regarding the need for a ‘scientific’ land grab policy, his party’s totalitarian lie machine has moved into action to suppress the fact that it might be facing its Waterloo – or may we say, its Stalingrad? The lie manufacturing machine is working overtime to make it appear as though the struggle in Nandigram over the imminent acquisition of 14, 500 acres of land for a new SEZ is the outcome of mere ‘rumour mongering’ by ‘outsiders’ (The Hindu 9 January 2007). It is as though there were really no plans to that effect (though none of the leaders has yet denied this so far).

One of the sinister players here is the shadowy West Bengal CPM secretary and Left Front Chairman (sic), Biman Basu. Basu went on record saying that (a) a large number of ‘outsiders’ have been entering Nandigram [and this presumably is by itself a crime, in Basu’s language] and that the police should thus ‘investigate’ it. (b) these outsiders were “responsible for stoking fears among local villagers that they were on the verge of losing their land.” To give it a more sinister ring, Basu said: “ These people are still moving about in the Nandigram area [as though they are criminals who should have been put behind bars] and held periodic meetings at a four-storied building where social activist Medha Patkar addressed a meeting on December 3.”

Continue reading ‘Scientific’ Land Grab and the Lie-Machine

Thinking About Sahir Ludhianvi

Some time ago I had written a short piece for Kafila titled ‘One Question‘. I had thought that I was articulating my anger fairly strongly at the refusal of the political apparatus to do any thing to punish the Guilty of the 1992 Bombay Riots, despite the fact that many perpetrators of those riots had been identified by the Justice Srikrishna Commission. My worry was that almost no one seemed to be bothered while every one was ecstatic about the “guilty” of the 1993 Bombay Blasts being brought to book.

There were a few responses that agreed with my contention and sent me links to sites where similar concerns had been raised. There was, however, one response that raised serious questions about my style of writing and went so far as to suggest that “Such a discourse ends up making the most harrowing human tragedies sound like the nearly fossilized shayari of Sahir Ludhianvi”.

Continue reading Thinking About Sahir Ludhianvi