Category Archives: Society

Let’s do tit-for-tat!

As I went through the news of killing of Sarabjit, I felt bad and astounded. Today I woke up to another news of killing of another Prisoner of War, but this time it had happened in India. Was this a way of satiating the feeling of vengeance? Many questions need to be answered. 

At higher levels, the authorities may talk about ‘Aman Ki Asha’ but the never ending game of revenge has always taken over the peace efforts. Till how long we will make the prisoners a pawn and drive the people of respective countries for favorable voting? What kind of diplomacy is this, where one cannot exchange prisoners rather kill them brutally?

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What are you waiting for another day another dawn, somewhere we have to find a new way to peace. What are you waiting for another sign another call, somewhere we have to find a new way to peace!

The worrying fact is that many leaders on both the sides have accepted that such things do not have an end. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) had said in its report on 2nd May 2013, that “Sarabjit Singh was arrested on August 30, 1990 for bombing and his case is an example of a miscarriage of justice where mistaken identity was presented as the sole evidence of his crime. The victim’s real name was Sarabjit Singh but he was sentenced to death in the name of Manjeet Singh. The sole eye witness of the case told different television channels that he was forced through coercion and intimidation to give evidence against the victim by officials of the intelligence agency, the ISI. Mr. Awais Sheikh, the lawyer acting for Sarbajit proved in different courts that his client was not the accused person.”

As per Pakistan’s constitution’s Article 13-
Protection against double punishment and self incrimination

No person
(a) shall be prosecuted or punished for the same offence more than once; or
(b) shall, when accused of an offence, be compelled to be a witness against himself

So, if a person has served a term of 14 years he cannot be hanged or punished further since that would amount to dual punishment. However, in this case Sarabjit has already served 14 years. In fact he has been incarcerated for 22 years. Clearly there has been a huge travesty of justice, which the world must take note of and act upon strongly.

The way of treatment meted out to prisoners on both sides, has been dismal. Both the countries may count innumerable cases of their positive actions, but the truth is that the sate of such prisoners is dithering. Let us not forget that we are humans first, and enemies later. 

Without digressing from the topic, we must remember that it is us and only we people who can banish the hatred. On a number of sites like Youtube.com, Facebook.com, etc. the people of India and Pakistan keep commenting against each other on petty things mocking each other. When will all this end? Well, the perquisition for search its answer is on. Decision is yours!

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Let’s make news!

There’s a saying, “When a dog bites a man it is no news, but when a man bites a dog it is news.” Such is the importance of arbitrariness, unusualness or novelty in the values of news. Recently, Samajwadi Party minister, Azam Khan was in news for his detention at the Boston Airport, USA. But, was being a muslim was the reason behind it? Was the uproar and cancellation of trip justified? Well, it seemed no less than a political goal.

A less number of people would have remembered his trip to US, if it would not have been cancelled. This was a piece of hot cake and a fresh controversy for news channels, which will surely help SP to garner support in the upcoming elections.

Akhilesh Yadav, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister had to give a lecture on Kumbh Mela at the Harvard University. But detention/questioning of his colleague led him to cancel the program. Concerned that its appeal among Muslim voters was dimming, Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Samajwadi Party is on an overdrive to hardsell its boycott of a Harvard lecture.

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Pic: Azam Khan, Cabinet Minister of Uttar Pradesh, India

Azam Khan also went on to blame the External Affairs Minister of India, Salman Khurshid for persuading the US Customs and Border Protection wing of the Homeland Security to make such detention. This sounds really funny! I wonder the amount of influence India has on USA, and the time US authorities have to pay heed to such requests, if made. I can’t just figure out what sadistic pleasure will the Salman Khurshid derive through this!   

A SP functionary says, “Our minority vote bank had been dented owing to the killing of a Muslim cop and the 28 plus communal flare-ups but we hope all that would be a thing of past.” The party is making the most of the opportunity given to it.

SP national general secretary, Ram Asrey Kushwaha added that Akhilesh Yadav’s move “would send the right message among the Muslims”.

Ironically, when former Indian President A P J Abdul Kalam, was twice subjected to frisking at New York’s JFK Airport by US security officials, he didn’t create such a ruckus. India’s then ambassador to the US Meera Shanker was patted down by a security agent in Mississippi in December 2010. But they relented themselves from extracting gains from their experience of frisking.

I would say that the common man needs to identify such tactics and should not get maneuvered according to the whims and fancies of political parties. Because they are not worried much of the populace but are relieved of the fact that they made news. 

 

Should photocopying of textbooks be banned?

Many of us must be aware of the surge by the publishers and few policemen against photocopying of textbooks. They intended to bring a copyright action against Delhi University and a tiny photocopy shop licensed by it, seeking to restrain them from supplying educational course packs to students.

The sudden action flummoxed many, but fueled up the intellects to discuss about the issue. Basically, for those not familiar with the term, course packs are compilations of limited excerpts from copyrighted books, put together painstakingly by faculty members in accordance with a carefully designed syllabus and teaching plan.

The publishers are seeking an outright ban on all course packs, even those that extract and use no more than 10 per cent of the copyrighted book. Under the United States of America law, reproducing up to 10 per cent of the copyrighted books is “fair use” of a copyrighted work, and therefore legal.

In contrast, India is a developing country, with poorer students and more severe educational access constraints. Our system is a vulnerable one which requires the technique of cheap priced good education.   

The section 52(1) (a) of the Indian constitution embodies the fair use exception and permits any fair dealing of a copyrighted work for the purpose of research and private study. Such exemptions reflect a clear intention to exempt core aspects of education from the private sphere of copyright infringement. Devitalizing these exceptions at the behest of publishers will strike at the very heart of our constitutional guarantee of a fundamental right to education for all.

The fact that majority of educational textbooks are priced above the affordability range of an average Indian student is well known. The claim by publishers that course packs would destroy their market for books and put them out of business is therefore highly questionable.

If a person needs only an extract from the whole book, he cannot afford to buy the whole book worth thousands. That would be foolish. Yes, there are libraries where books can be read. But, you never know that the same book is available at the time of need or not.

Slashing of rates may be a positive step in this direction. Let’s hope that the publishers will give a thought to it, apart from thinking of minting more money.  

The curious case of Katju!

Accept it or not. Like it or dislike it. Justice Markandey Katju will end his term as the most controversial and outspoken Press Council of India Chairman. His single comment on an issue gives a lot of food for thought and airtime to television news channels who inadvertently say, “Today India is hearing. The people of India needs an answer!” Sigh! Even Ekta Kapoor’s serials were less dramatic!

Sometimes, I wonder that is every and any kind of publicity really the best publicity? Well, the likes of Rakhi Sawant, Sherlyn Chopra, Poonam Pandey might now see a lot of people joining their bandwagon driving the media persons around them. Latest yet unnoticed entry is Mr. Katju. First of all, I respect Mr. Katju a lot. He has shown the guts to come and speak in public sphere time and again against ill-practices in states against media and the wrongdoings by media itself.

ImagePic: Retired Supreme Court of India Justice Markandey Katju

But, some of his statements have been perplexing. The latest jaw-dropping statement made by the Retired Supreme Court Judge is that, “Pakistan is a fake country, and one day it will reunite with India along with Bangladesh.” At a time when both the neighbor countries are disturbed internally and India’s foreign policy has taken a beating, such statements won’t amuse many.

He may confuse you with his words many a times. When he sees that he is in danger then he says that he has made that particular statement as a citizen of India, and when he sees that he has to take decision, he asserts his authority as a retired judge. Swapping roles fast, eh?  

He further goes on to say, “A fake country was created in the name of Pakistan. It is an artificially created entity by the British to make Hindus and Muslims keep fighting with each other, to stop India from becoming a powerful industrialized nation,” he said, answering questions after a symposium on ‘Reporting Terror: How Sensitive is the media?’ on 07 April 2013.

I am not against his statement but I do not like the timing as well as the free publicity element behind it. Without digressing from the subject, I would say that unless the politicians stop mixing their profession with religion and avoid from calling for caste based voting, there shall not be any solution or occurrence of merger between countries.

Once he said, “Ninety per cent of Indians are idiots. You people don’t have brains in your heads.” Subsequently, a PIL was filed against him and he eventually said sorry.

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If that wasn’t enough, read his one more remarkable statement! On September 3, Justice Katju had written an article in The Hindu, in which he, inter alia, went on to say:

“The level of intellect of many teachers is low, because many of them have not been appointed on merit but on extraneous considerations. To give an example, when I was a judge of Allahabad High Court I had a case relating to a service matter of a mathematics lecturer in a university in Uttar Pradesh.

Since the teacher was present in court I asked him how much one divided by zero is equal to.

He replied, Infinity.

I told him that his answer was incorrect, and it was evident that he was not even fit to be a teacher in an intermediate college. I wondered how had he become a university lecturer.”

Justice Katju claims that anything divided by zero is indeterminate. He is wrong and the lecturer was right because any non-zero number divided by zero is infinity. It is zero divided by zero that is indeterminate.

While one can understand the plight of the poor lecturer who did not have the courage to correct the judge hearing his case, I am appalled at the timidity of “some of the top senior academicians” of Jawaharlal Nehru University, to whom Justice Katju narrated the incident.

Well there a many startling statement made by him, but they cannot be put in here.By the way another one was, when he said that, “Sanjay Dutt should be pardoned because he was part of Munnabhai film, spreading Mahatma Gandhi’s ideologies…” And the list goes on.

A tale untold

Disclaimer: The following piece is not aimed to create hatred or instigate someone. It is based on secondary research, as well as on the narrations of the people, which I had witnessed when I visited Kashmir in December 2012.

In the region of Kupwara, there lies two villages-Kunan and Poshpora. They are so close that people no longer call them by their individual names. Everyone knows this two-in-one village as Kunan Poshpora.

Many of the individuals may be aware of this village, for its infamous reason, but some do need to know about its tale.

On February 23th, 1991, for the people of this village, the night didn’t end.

It was a cold night, when men from the 68th Brigade of the Fourth Rajputana Rifles, a regiment of the Indian Army, surrounded Kunan Poshpora for a ‘cordon and search operation’. Such operations – also known as ‘crackdowns’ – were a common occurrence in the 1990’s in Kashmir.

The procedure followed was wrenching of men out of their homes, and most operations took place in the night, beginning around 10 or 11 pm and lasting till the morning.

In the text of the 2011 judgment on ‘Complaints regarding Kunan Poshpora atrocities lodged by victims and inhabitants of the Village V/s J&K State and Others,’ passed by the J&K State Human Rights Commission (JKSHRC) there came a number of findings.

“Analyzing the statements of all the witnesses/victims it transpires that at about 10 to 11 pm in the night, security personnel cordoned the village. The men folk of the village were ordered to come out and were confined in a Kothar [store houses]. Then small groups of security forces comprising of 2/4/5/6 personnel made their forced entry into the houses. They consumed/had consumed liquor and then gagged the mouths of the victims and committed forced gang rape against their will and consent. The personnel from the security forces had actually turned into beasts and had lost their sense of reasoning as even minor girls of 8 years of age of some of the victims were also ravished. Actually Security forces had come with the intent to ravish the chastity of all the women folk of village Kunan Poshpora and had not cordoned the village to flesh out any militant(s) (sic). The security forces did not even took notice of the presence of minor children who were only crying and witnessing their gory and shameful act (sic). The indecent incident continued approximately till 3/4 AM in the night. There was a police man namely Abdul Gani from the village who tried to raise SOS alarm for help from the loudspeaker of the local mosque, but later on he too was killed by the army personnel so that all the evidence against them is whipped off (sic). After regaining consciousness in early morning the victims found their all clothes were torned out (sic).The victims have been suffering from various mental and physical disorder and trauma since they were subjected to forced rape.”

The story of a woman named Bakhti, was widely quoted, who was assaulted by six soldiers. “One by one, they raped me, while my five year old son was forced to watch, weeping beside the bed.” 

ImagePic: The women of Kunan Poshpora telling their plight 

The then Divisional Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah led a team comprising of a Colonel from Army HQ, a commandant of the Border Security Force, the Deputy Commissioner of Kupwara district and the Superintendent of Police, Kupwara. After gathering statements from 41 women, he decided that there was sufficient cause for a more detailed enquiry and suggested as much in his report to the Governor. He said- “While the veracity of the complaint is highly doubtful, it still needs to be determined why such complaint was made at all. The people of the village are simple folk and by the Army’s own admission have been generally helpful and even careful of security of the Army’s officers. Unlike Brig. Sharma I found many of the village women genuinely angry. It is recommended that the level of investigation be upgraded to that of a gazetted police officer.” 

Woman is regarded as sacred only till her chastity is safe. Once she has met the air of unsacred and illegitimate atmosphere, none is ready to give her space in society, not even the people who share blood relations with her.

Later, the government asked the Press Council of India to look into the claims. BG Verghese, a former editor of the Hindustan Times and The Indian Express, and K. Vikram Rao, also a senior journalist, visited Kashmir twice: once towards the end of May, and once in June, for a total of 9 days. There was a third member, Hind Samachar editor Jamnadas Akhtar, who, because of his old age, couldn’t make the journey. They said-

 “The Kunan rape story on close examination turns out to be a massive hoax, orchestrated by militant groups and their sympathizers and mentors in Kashmir and abroad as part of a sustained and cleverly contrived strategy of psychological warfare and as an entry point for re-inscribing Kashmir on the international agenda as a human rights issue. The loose ends and contradictions in the story expose a tissue of lies by many persons at many levels.”

During my conversation with my driver in Kashmir, Ariz, he told how sudden curfews were imposed and the families would be uncertain whether their son would return home, after buying milk for their grandson. The point I want to make is that, it is true that counter offensive by the Indian forces have diluted the level of militancy, but at the same time they are losing the trust in the local population. Every local person I met during my stay had a word against the military and the police. First of all, such ill-practices of rape should be treated with stringent actions against the culprits and secondly, the police and forces should try and get involved with the locals, as it would help them in gaining their trust, and contribute more towards normalcy in the disputed area.

Yes. This incident is still afresh in the minds of the people of Kashmir. And probably, it will always be.

Yes! Rape it is!

I was searching for story ideas for this blog. Checking the trends, reading newspapers, surfing on net, descrying through old stories. Alas! I found my subject. Such is the beauty of my chosen subject, that it may well qualify to be the most popular world of this year!Hold on your breath. Tighten your seats belts! Here it comes! The one and only-RAPE.

The spurt in it’s importance being given by the media nowadays has just mirrored the rising number of such cases.

The emergence of patriarchy, the one sided view of masculinity, the quashed pathos of women have marred over a period of time. The prevalence of It’s Okay attitude has only served to destroy the sanctity of the nation. It took just a huge protest by non-political forces, to awaken the sleeping minds of the ever so concerned lawmakers (December 16 gangrape in Delhi, India).

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Pic: Protest against the December 16 Gangrape in Delhi, India

The dictionary meaning of word rape is the ravishing or violation of a woman. But is it really a stigma on the unblemished life of a woman? Well, the society feels so, as they get a new parameter to identify girls. It is the culprits who have lost their dignity. The woman needs to be applauded for being so strong, for being so rebellious.

By the way, Congratulations! The Indian Parliament’s lower house passed a landmark law on March 19 that sets tougher penalties for rapists and for police officers who refuse to file a woman’s complaint of rape, as well as criminalizing offenses such as stalking, voyeurism and acid attacks.

Ironically, as the lawmakers were busy discussing the new law in Parliament, a British tourist fractured her leg when she jumped from the balcony of her hotel room in Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, to escape being molested by the hotel owner.

The new law, which the upper house is expected to pass till March 22, sets a maximum penalty of death in cases in which a rape victim dies or is left in a persistent vegetative state. Those convicted in incidents of gang rape, the rape of a minor or rape by a police officer or public official will be sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison, up from seven to 10 years.

A provision requiring government approval for the trial of police officers, officials, politicians and judges on rape charges also has been lifted.

For the first time, the law criminalizes stalking and voyeurism, acts of sexual harassment that have long been grouped under the benign euphemism- Love-teasing. Hereafter, acts of barbarism, occurring during religious and caste riots also will be treated as cases of aggravated sexual assault.

There was a lot of word in the past few days, about the need for capital punishment or castration as a deterrent. For once, I was also of the same view, given the public outrage and the intensity of such crimes. But think for a moment. If we’ll come up with it, won’t the rapist kill the girl and destroy all the evidence? The process of trial should lead towards this direction but not this fast. This may add to the existing woes only. Instead of making more stringent laws, India needs to implement existing laws. It should not introduce tougher punishment such as the death penalty, to prevent rape. Apart from other factors, the low conviction rate in the cases of rape is the biggest worry we have today and there is hardly any deterrence.

Some of the most interesting reactions to the Gangrape case of Delhi are worthy to be mentioned. Some said that the women should avoid wearing skirts or provocative clothes to avoid rape. I only have a humble question for them. Do you think that the 6-year old girl or the 84-year old grandmother was dressed inappropriately when they were raped!?

One more quote was from a spiritual leader, blaming the girl for her fate and advising her to consider the rapist as her brother and remember god. Probably, he hasn’t seen much of Bollywood movies, wherein the favourite dialogue to show such scenes is- Bhagwaan Ke Liye Mujhe Chod Do! (Please leave me for the sake of God) to which the rapist vexatiously replies, Agar tujhe bhagwan ke liye chod dunga, toh mera kya hoga!? (If I’ll leave you for god, what fun will I have)

Admit it or not, the portrayal of women in various forms of media has been dismal many a times.

As the bullet theory of mass communication suggests that an intended message is directly received and wholly accepted by the receiver in its pristine form, such messages tend to influence people at large. I even don’t understand the intention behind making crime shows for television! Apart from minting money, they are only providing ideas on how to commit crimes smartly.

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In the case of women, our right of interference should be limited entirely to giving good education. Women must be put in a position to solve their own problems in their own way. According to me, cases related to terrorism and rape should be dealt with strongly and there should be no allowance of moving the higher ranked courts. But the problem is even the Judiciary doesn’t seem so clean. On 23rd January this year, in the Ghonda District of Uttar Pradesh, India, the Additional Chief Magistrate of a court molested a 21 year old woman and a minor, when they were testifying a case of kidnapping inside the closed chambers. 

The possible solution to the aforementioned problems can be-

  1. There should be gender sensitization.
  2. The notion of masculinity needs to be revisited. The new male should be sensitive towards women, have values of empathy and be a family man.
  3. The parents need to teach their kids well and the communication gap between them needs to be reduced. Proper moral education should be infused at appropriate times in the minds of children.
  4. We need to look through the prism of crimes against woman in every public sector. 

Lastly, I would say that it is the men who need to change more and be in that limit as compared to women, as it is the former who is forcing itself and bringing shame to humanity.

Conquering the odds

What Americans couldn’t solve for over 30 years, a poor man from North Lakhimpur, Assam did in a matter of 2 years! He came up with a pomegranate de-seeding machine which separated the outer cover and thin inner membrane without damaging the seeds. The marvelous innovation has a capacity of de-seeding 50-55 kg of pomegranate fruits per hour!

What’s remarkable to note is that this 47 year-old man was only four years old when he realized that his family had inched towards acute poverty. I got to know about him, while researching for story ideas during my internship days at The Hindu newspaper. 

He was labelled as ‘insane’ by his family for his desire to invent things, and today he has been shortlisted by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for their prestigious Technology Award.

ImagePic: Uddhab Bharali with his pomegranate de-seeder

Another breakthrough by him was the Mini CTC tea plant, which aimed to help small time tea-pluckers and farmers. Tea-pluckers, who earlier received Rs. 9/kg for the tea crop, are now getting upto Rs. 20/kg through this plant.

Its heart rendering to see that there exist people in our society, who are ready to do something for the other members of the populace. 

As of now, he is planning to make toilets for the handicapped. Handicapped people are dependent on others for their daily activities. But, this toilet-chair will run without power and will take care of the dressing, usage and flushing automatically.

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Pic: The toilet chair for the handicapped prototype

During our discourse, he mentioned how teachers would make him stand-out of the class for asking difficult questions. How interesting is that? True to its meaning, this out-stander did an outstanding job.

German Philosopher, Immanuel Kant had once said, “We are not rich by what we possess, but, by what we can do without.” Probably, Bharali lives up to his words.

As we neared an end to our conversation, he said something, which struck my heart. He said “I want parents to raise their kids as human beings first, and as engineers and doctors later. A child must know the working of the fan or construction of the desk, he is sitting on. By theory he’ll get no practical knowledge, and would only sit in air-conditioned rooms, serving nothing to the nation.”

So is he another Benjamin Franklin in making? Or maybe he is finding his own niche. Let’s hope for the best.