Mush’s mush for Pak

Such is the love for the corridors of power, the sentiments for native place or call it a well thought of plan for hegemony, former Pakistan president, Pervez Musharraf has returned to Pakistan after spending 4 years in exile in Dubai. Seeking a possible political comeback in defiance of judicial probes and death threats from Taliban militants, Musharraf has made a big decision.

As intrepid and gutty he may sound, he says- “I don’t get scared by anyone except Allah, the Almighty. I have come back by putting my life in danger.”

Image
Pic: Pervez Musharraf at the Karachi Airport  

The journey from Dubai to the southern port city of Karachi was intended as the first step in his goal of rebuilding his image after years on the political margins. But the former military strongman was met by no more than a two thousand people at the airport, who threw rose petals and waved flags emblazoned with his image.

Since, the former general stepped down in the face of mounting discontent, Pakistan’s civilian leadership has struggled with a sinking economy, resilient Islamic extremist factions and tensions with Washington over drone strikes and the May 2011 raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.

His arrival could further complicate Pakistan’s attempt to hold parliamentary elections in May and stage its first transition from one civilian government to another.

He is viewed as an enemy by many Islamic militants and others for his decision to side with America in the response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. On 23rd March, the Pakistani Taliban vowed to mobilize death squads to send Musharraf “to hell” if he returns.

ImagePic: Pakistani Taliban members who have threatened him openly

Musharraf has a number of charges, including some originating from the probe of the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who also spent time in self-imposed exile in Dubai before returning.

So will he too face the doomsday, following the route of Bhutto?

The flight from Dubai came after several failed promises to return in recent years. Musharraf announced in early March that he would lead his party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, in May elections.

Let’s hope for the best for the country’s future. May the almighty bless them with a promising and peaceful future, which is in the thick of tensions at present.

Advertisements

The ballyhoo around Sanjay Dutt

The mills of justice in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case may have taken 20 years to grind and deliver a verdict, but the mills of “grind doctors” for superstar Sanjay Dutt have gone into overtime within minutes of the verdict to secure a pardon which he arguably doesn’t deserve.

Is law not same for all, irrespective of their status and position? Then, why everyone is questioning the recent Supreme Court judgment in regard to actor Sanjay Dutt? Why nobody is saying anything about death penalty to mastermind Yakub Memon in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case? Is it because Dutt is a Bollywood actor and son of two film legends- Sunil Dutt and Nargis? If this is the case, then India should have two sets of laws- one for layman and another for the rich and powerful.

Many voices of influential persons have erupted in support of pardon to Sanjay Dutt on a myriad of grounds. Be it former Supreme Court Judge and Press Council of India Chief, Justice Markandey Katju or Bollywood actor and Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan, everyone seems to be getting carried away by the screen persona of Sanjay Dutt.

“Sanjay Dutt’s parents have done social service. He himself has done some good things like promoting Gandhian philosophy in movies. He has two small children and suffered for 20 years,” Katju said.  

But is relief from the aftermath of conviction all about being a nice guy or how kind, wonderful and successful your parents and siblings are? I have great regards for the actor, but the society should see that he needs to be tried equally as is the case with other convicts.

The Dutts have long been Congress loyalists. Sunil Dutt was a Congress MP and the party nominated his wife Nargis to the Rajya Sabha. The actor’s sister, Priya Dutt is now a Congress MP. There are also allegations against Justice Katju of favoring congress led states during his reports on misuse of media in states of India. 

Image
Pic: Sanjay Dutt (Left) with his father Sunil Dutt (Right)

What does the common man understand from this situation? He is always swayed by one or the other statement. Why should we bend law for the rich & famous? The questions linger on.

Due to terrorist interactions, and illegal possession of a 9mm pistol and an AK-56 assault rifle on 19 April 1993, Sanjay was arrested under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA). He spent 18 months in jail until he was granted bail in October 1995 by the Supreme Court of India. He was later re-arrested in December 1995 and re-released in April 1997 once again on police bail terms. In 2006, the case opened for sentencing for all accused. The period between 2006-2007 saw Dutt spend 7 months in Arthur Road Prison and Pune prison on three occasions for arms offences. Although in 2006, Dutt was finally acquitted of any TADA-related offenses but was charged under the Illegal Possession of Arms Act.

Image
Pic: Sanjay Dutt leaving from the Yerwada Prison, Pune 

In his first confessional statement, that he made to his father who wanted to know why he had been stashing deadly arms, Sanjay Dutt said, “Because I have Muslim blood in my veins. I could not bear what was happening in the city.” A crestfallen Sunil Dutt had then left the police headquarters.

Summing it up, I would say that the move to secure mercy for Sanjay Dutt is an act of lubrication of the law, laden with dangerous consequences. And yet, it appears that it has enough political and social momentum to sail through.

May the rule of law prevail, with equanimity.

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).

 Image
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.

Image

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.

Tune over songs

I was walking past the lane nearby, with my headphones on. As I tuned onto a radio channel, I was welcomed with a soft music. Suddenly, a thought flashed in my mind. Is radio all about soft music? Is it all about entertainment? The perquisition for its answer began.

I scratched my head and thought hard. What more could radio contribute to? Finally, I remembered how radio would be my savior from boredom, whenever there would be a problem with the electricity at home. The best thing is that it requires no direct electrification unlike other electronic media. Well, the cost of a single transistor is less than even 3 dollars or 2 euros! With its enormous reach which overpowers other media, it has the power to mould people’s life for the better by connecting with them.

It can save lives, provide a platform and voice, bring accountability, and educate to help people develop materialistically and holistically.

Take for example, the case of Democratic Republic of Congo. The radio stations which had mushroomed in this poor country had smoothed the political tensions. ‘Radio Okapi’ advocated free and fair elections and encouraged more than 36% of voters, according to a study.

Does radio have any role to play in development of the society?  

Development is commonly looked upon in economic, political, social, judicial and environmental and now even in democratic terms. Interestingly, radio contributes to all.

‘SW Radio Africa’ in South Africa maintained the system of checks and balances and continuously made people aware of discrepancies in politics and judiciary. ‘Planet Ark’ in Australia helped to communicate environmental messages to make people sensitive to their surroundings.

Radio even helped save lives in Haiti during the earthquake in 2012. The radio sets shipped at the St. Antoine’s School enabled teachers to access to shortwave broadcasts.

Image
Pic: Haiti Earthquake warnings being given to the teachers of St. Antoine’s school

Radio doesn’t limit its role to just warning as it also contributes to post-tragedy needs. More than 30 counselors catered to 13,000 displaced people on ‘Dalka FM’, reducing the trauma caused in Aceh, Indonesia due to Tsunami. In the countries like Ghana, Mali and Uganda farmers got to know about new farming methods. The new variety of rice called New Rice of Africa (NERICA) proved to very beneficial for subsistence farmers.

At this point, I wondered how come radio manages to do all these things? The answer was that the radio channels work on various levels like- National, International, Regional, Sub-Regional, Local or Community radio. The radio on one hand, at National and International levels act as big media, influencing many with its ability congruent to Magic Multiplier approach of Marshall Mcluhan and on the other hand, it works at the grassroots level with local people. The National channels, be it FM or AM, mainly disseminate information about policies or advancements. But, it is the community radio channels which deal with problems more specifically and help in their solutions.

Community Radio gives a voice to the community they serve to, with programmes in local languages, respecting local culture, traditions and interests. It facilitates dialogue within the community. Community Radio stations fill the gap left by national and commercial media, reaching local audiences with subjects which the national media ignores. In India, the first community-based radio station licensed to an NGO was launched in 2008, when Sangham Radio in Pastapur village, Medak district, Andhra Pradesh was started by two Dalit women.

Image
Pic: Having launched their radio station in 2008, these two Dalit women try their hands at film-making 

Today, it is seen as a success story that narrates how a community radio can educate villagers on biodiversity, crop patterns, nutrition, health, culture, sovereignty etc. “Every woman member of the various Sanghams contributed Rs. 5 each to make the dream of running their own radio station come true. They can now articulate their joys, fears, history, culture and also the fundamental agricultural issues.”

In India, IGNOU’s own Gyan-Vani (Educational FM radio channel) extends mass media support for education, suited to local needs. Gyan Vani stations operate as media cooperatives, with programmes contributed by different educational institutions, NGOs and institutions like IGNOU, NCERT, UGC, IIT etc. 

The message developers have slowly started to recognize the potential of this medium. Classic examples of development have made them optimistic about their efforts.

That was an eye-opener for me! Until now radio was not more than a time-pass. Indeed, radio has the quality to penetrate the illiterate. It requires minimal setup and is speedy in dissemination. Now, because the messages are largely informal, people tend to believe the messages. But still, many of its capabilities are untapped and should be exploited well for the better of the populace.

After this information rich session, I fell in love with this medium. Forever. So, did it mesmerize you too?  

                          “In the societies of bottom billion, the key media are    
                                                                 probably the radio channels”         
                                                                                                 -Paul Collier, 2007

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.

Image
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.