You and Me

You’ll kill me here.
I’ll kill you there.
Together we’ll kill some good number of people.
Will rape some more girls.
Destroy some more temples, mosques and churches.

And then we’ll argue who started it first.
In 10th century, 12th or 15th?
Or even before religion was born.
Mine was born first. No, it’s mine.

Till then, mothers will cry.
Widows will curse.
And kids will lose their childhood.
Who cares.

I am too busy finding out who started it.
I don’t have time to think who’d end it.

Can Direct Democracy work in India?

When we were in schools, may be from third or fourth standard onwards; my dad introduced a rule. We were couple of kids growing up in a joint family. And the source of income was limited. So, though we all needed books, pens, shoes and socks at the same time, it was not possible to fulfill all of them at the same time. So, the rule set by him was you people sit together and decide which one is more important. He used to keep a tab on us: we were not allowed to go out of control.

And strangely enough, when I look back now, I found it really worked. We learnt to prioritize needs, understand each other and learned to be empathetic. We learned how to make budget and make even a small budget work for managing the need of all of us.

Now, for those who are telling that direct democracy as proposed by Arvind Kejriwal will not work in India, I know this is a too simplistic and naïve example. But I truly believe it works if you can make people understand the value of democracy and make them empathetic towards others. It’s a tough job but not an impossible one.

In direct democracy, you are entitled to decide what you need and how you want to get it. For example, there would be a mohalla sabha where people of the locality will meet and decide what they need. Like, is it a new school, a cardiac surgeon in the local hospital or a renovation of the road. They’d know the total budget and will decide the priority accordingly. Now a general perception is people will decide driven by their own petty interest, or worse, they’d not be able to decide at all as they would not be able to reach to any consensus. But I dont quite believe that. People will learn to decide what is most required for them and also for others if you give them power and engage properly.

But it would not work if you can’t behave in utmost transparent way. People will never be empathetic to another bunch of people who don’t care the fact that the other bunch is giving their hard earned money for the development of them and they need to behave responsible with that money. Simply adding up numbers in family recklessly will not make things easy. You cannot convince a person to be empathetic towards a fellow countryman who doesn’t understand the value of his fellow countryman’s hard earned  money.

Next step is to engage people. In the current system, we are not engaged at all or rather negatively engaged in the democratic processes. Nobody bothers to ask us whether we want to buy some product from wallmart or not, forget about what should be the price of rice or dal. If we are actively engaged in whether I need to have a school for my kid in my locality or do we need more buses to ply, who will not take interest in democratic process?

 

But it’s not that easy. Years of apathy has not born out of the blue. It came from people being kept out from the process for hundreds of years. The first job is to show them that they can. They can not only make kings, they can themselves become kings. They can make schools, hospitals and their roads. They can decide the price of commodities and their pension amount. And all they need to do is to give their effort and energy to build it.

It is even tougher in a nation like us: a multi-ethnic nation with burden of reservation in its worst form. You can divide people easily and make them work against each other. We have to, we a handful few have to live our life and show the rest how to live. We have to have exemplary people, dedicating and sacrificing their lives for the ideal we believe in. And then only people will believe that it can happen. It sounds too idealistic. But it can happen. When Subhas Bose escaped from his Kolkata home, nobody could believe he would travel through half the world to make INA and enter through Imphal to free mother India. If you put me in that scenario even right now, I’d also not believe that it can happen. But he did it. And showed that impossible can be done. When Gandhiji told I’ll take all the beatings but will never revert back, nobody believed that taking beating from an alien govt can bring in freedom. When Bhagat Singh told dropping a bomb in assembly in such a way that it will not kill anybody will awaken the country, who could have believed it? But all these things happened.

 

So, why can’t we? I know it’s tough. But in all the ages, through all times, it has been proved in the world that if something can happen, it is THE IMPOSSIBLE. So, let’s just dream the impossible. And make it happen.

Let the punchline of Indian youth for the coming years be “Martyrs needed, apply within.”

NO QUESTION STATE

There is a big agitation going on in India. In the heart of the capital, hundreds of people are fasting for last seven days and every day, hundreds and thousands of people are coming out in street and protesting. But the news is nowhere in media: no news channel, no newspaper, nowhere. Majority of Indians are leading a normal life, going to office, having family dinner, going to movies and malls and enjoying good wine!

What is the protest for? A 75 year old social activist is asking for a strong anti-corruption law from the government. Corruption is something which affects each and every Indian every day, every second. Even if you buy a single matchbox, you pay tax and more than 50% of that tax money goes to the pocket of the politicians illegally, in a corrupt way. We have scams of crores of rupees in our country, which means crores of rupees have been siphoned out from our hard earned money, over the years. And it is being done every day, every second. So, what makes us people remaining so oblivious to this movement? It is a problem that hurts me daily, for years. So, why are Indians have such apathy for protesting against his own money being looted?

Indians have a cultural problem. Since childhood, we are never taught to question. We teach our children to obey! Obey your parents, obey your teachers, obey the social and religious norms. Don’t question. And we feel a great amount of satisfaction if we have obedient children! We call them “sanskaris”! We feel proud that our children have not learnt to question parents, teachers, system, religious and social norms! And here starts the problem.

Our children forget that questioning is the most essential part of being alive. If you don’t question, you are more dead than alive. We raise, by generations, children who are dead since birth. We tell them to fold the hands and pray, but never allow them to ask why the prayer needs to be done with folded hands. We teach them to respect elders, but never teach them to question their moral and ethical standard. We never teach them that respect doesn’t lie in age, it lies in quality.

Children grow up and forget that they need to be informed to live; they don’t need information because they are not going to question any ongoing process. So, they remain ignorant about society. They remain ignorant about people around, their suffering, worse, their own suffering! They don’t even know they are victims! They just know how much is needed to live: money, cars, square feet price and address of multiplexes! And days go on. They beget children; they teach their children the same thing.

 

This is what India is today: a bunch of uninformed, non-questioning zombies. There may be children dying out there hungry and cold beside his own home, and he enjoys his movie with family in LCD 42” TV. It doesn’t make any difference to them, because they’d never question “Why do they need to die?” He doesn’t know questions exist in this world!

We have converted India to a perfect No-Question State with our sanskars and haggard culture. And so, things will keep on happening, people will die, people who are worn out, people who dare to raise question in this no-question state. And majority will enjoy their life, unaware of the fact that they are the victims for whom these handful people raised the question!

And if you are part of that handful questioning, you’ll suffer beyond limit, get cornered by the corrupt system, get thrashed and die unnoticed! Zombies will enjoy their no-question life and poorest of the poor will keep dying out of hunger and suffering!

 

Hope the number of this handful increase with years. Hope they raise children who can learn to question. Let it take decades, but let it happen! And let the zombies be outnumbered by the people who dare to question!

Amen.

From Chief Minister to Chief Censor

Around 1967, Warren Unna of The Washington Post asked Shiv Sena boss Bal Thackeray whether he read any books. He received a stunning reply: “I don’t want to mix my thinking with that of others”. The same arrogance, bred by insecurity, explains the order of March 14 made by the West Bengal government headed by Mamata Banerjee: “In public interest the government will not buy newspapers published or purported to be published by any political party, either national or regional, as a measure to develop free thinking among the readers”. The affinities between the two leaders are striking — populism and intolerance of dissent.

However, Mr. Thackeray’s preference concerned him alone. Mamata’s affects 2,463 government-aided libraries, 12 government libraries, 7 government sponsored ones and the State Central Library. All English language dailies were barred. Initially, a mere eight survived — Sangbad Pratidin, Sakalbela, Dainik Statesman, Ekdin, and Khabar 365 Din in Bengali; Sanmarg (Hindi) and Akhbar-e-Mashriq and Azad Hind (Urdu).

Two of the Bengali dailies are headed by two Trinamool Congress MPs of the Rajya Sabha. The Hindi and an Urdu daily are headed by Rajya Sabha MPs of the same party. Sangbad Pratidin, for example, is owned by Srinjoy Bose, a party MP. Its associate editor Kunal Ghosh was elected recently to the Rajya Sabha on the Trinamool ticket to give the owner company. After an uproar, five more papers were added on March 28; namely, Himalaya Darpan (Nepali), Sarsagar (Santhali periodical), The Times of India, and two others.

There is another aspect, besides. The right to select papers belongs to the management of each library depending on the demand among the readers in that particular area. A central edict is an insult to them. Ms Banerjee’s order also flagrantly violates the citizens’ right to know. It is not for any Minister to prescribe a select bibliography to the Indian citizen. An official acknowledged on March 28: “This is the first instance of such a circular. The management boards of libraries have so far been the final authority on deciding which newspapers and periodicals to offer, on the basis of readers’ demands”. Now the readers are asked to read what Kolkata deems fit for their minds; “in public interest”, of course.

Arbitrary orders are invariably defended by absurd and contradictory explanations. On March 29, Mamata Banerjee and her Sancho Panza, Abdul Karim, Mass Education and Library Services Minister, explained: “We will promote local and small newspapers”. Some dailies on her approval list will not be flattered by this decision apart from the impropriety of State funding of the press.

In reality, ads have been stopped to “small” papers which depended on them for sheer survival. On Fools’ Day, it was disclosed that the list of Banga Bibhushan awardees, whose prize value is Rs. 2 lakh each, included artistes, poets and writers who had campaigned for the Trinamool. Didi looks after her own, albeit at public expense. An Urdu saying casts her in a different light — “Halvai ki dukan par nanaji ki fateha (Prayers for the soul of grandpa at the sweet maker’s shop, at his cost).

কাঁঠাল খাওয়ার দিন

আমাদের ছোটবেলায় বাড়িতে দুটো কাঁঠাল গাছ ছিলো; ঠাকুমা বলতেন দাদুর আমলে লাগানো, কলমের গাছ I কাঁঠাল হত যেন মিষ্টি গুড় I কাঁঠাল পাকার অনেক আগে থেকেই চলত প্রস্তুতি I কাঁঠালের গুটি আসতো ঝাঁকে ঝাঁকে I অর্ধেকের বেশি তো ঝরেই যেত I আমরা খেলাঘরের কাঁঠাল বানাতাম তাই দিয়ে I যখন একটু বড় হত কাঁঠাল, ঠাকুমা বলে দিতেন কোনটা কাঁচায় রান্না হবে; আর কোনটা পাকানো হবে I মনে আছে জেঠু উঠতেন কাটারি নিয়ে মই লাগিয়ে গাছে I ঠাকুমা নিচে দাঁড়িয়ে বলতেন “ঐটে ঐটে, ঐটে কাট I এটা নয়, এটায় ভালো কাঁঠাল হবে I”

তারপর যখন কাঁঠাল পাকতো; জেঠু ফের উঠতেন গাছে I এবারে মোটা দড়ি বেঁধে নামানো হত কাঁঠাল I বাবা ধরতেন নিচে থেকে, কখনো কখনো দাদারাও ধরত সে দড়ি I তারপর কোনো এক বিশেষ দিনে, যেদিন সকালের দিকে ঠাকুমা কাঁঠাল টিপে টুপে বলবেন “বৌমা, আজ সন্ধ্যেবেলায় এটা ছাড়িও”; সেদিন আমাদের বড় আনন্দের দিন I

সন্ধ্যেবেলায় আমরা সব ভাই বোনেরা খেলে ধুলে এলে ভিতরের টানা বারান্দায় জেঠিমা বসতেন বড় কাঁসার থালায় কাঁঠাল নিয়ে; হাতে সর্ষের তেল মেখে, পুরনো সাড়ি পরে I আমরা সব ভাইবোনেরা বসতাম জেঠিমাকে ঘিরে, হাতে কলাইয়ের বাটি নিয়ে I মা বসত জেঠিমার পাশটিতে I মায়ের হাতেও থাকত একটা বাটি; বাড়ির ছোট বউ বলে মাও সেদিন ছোটদের দলে সামিল হবার অধিকার পেত I ঠাকুমা দাঁড়িয়ে থাকতেন আমাদের পিছনে; পুরো কাজটার তদারক করবেন বলে I জেঠিমা কাঁঠাল ভাঙতেন আধাআধি পিছন দিক থেকে; আর একটু একটু করে খুলে একটা একটা কোয়া বের করে আমাদের বাটিতে তুলে দিতেন I কোন ছেলের খাজা কাঁঠাল পছন্দ, কার বা পছন্দ রসা, সেই বুঝে I খানিকটা ভাঙ্গা হলে ঠাকুমা শুরু করতেন তদারকি “বৌমা, ঐটে তুলে রাখো, ওই বড় খাজাটা I ওটা পালুর জন্য I ” অর্থাৎ বাবা আর জেঠুর জন্য তুলে রাখা হবে বেছে বেছে সেরাগুলো I এরই মাঝে জেঠিমা টুক করে মায়ের থালায় একটা বড়সড় মায়ের পছন্দের খাজা কোয়া দেবেন তুলে, আর মা বলবেন “না দিদিভাই, ওদের জন্য রাখুন” I উত্তরে জেঠিমা বলবেন “খাও তো, তুমি একটা খেলে কম হবে না” I তবে সবটাই হবে ঠাকুমার কান বাঁচিয়ে, চুপিচুপি I ঠাকুমা দেখতে পেতেন কিনা জানিনা; তবে বলতে কখনো শুনিনি কিছু I

আমাদের খাওয়া শেষ হলে আমরা ভাইবোনেরা একটার ওপর একটা বাটি চাপিয়ে রেখে উঠে যাব I আর ঠাকুমা বসবেন দুকোয়া রসা কাঁঠাল নিয়ে Iতাই খাবেন সারা সন্ধ্যে ধরে I জেঠিমা আর মায়ের কাজ তখনো শেষ হয় নি I ওঁরা তখন কাঁঠালের দানা ছাড়াবেন বসে বসে I সেগুলো শুকিয়ে নিয়ে ভাজা হবে, আর আমরা পরে তাই খাব দুচার দিন রেখে রেখে I জেঠিমা কি খেতেন কখনো দেখিনি. সত্যি-ই ওনার জন্য কিছু থাকত কিনা তাও খেয়াল করার বয়েস হয়নি তখন I তবে মা নিশ্চয়ই কিছু না খাইয়ে ছাড়তেন না বলেই মনে হয়!

প্রায় ছ-সাত বছর হলো কাঁঠাল খাইনি I এখানে পুরো কাঁঠাল খাওয়ার লোক নেই I ফলে তা কেনারও প্রশ্ন নেই I পুনেতে রাস্তায় কোয়া ছাড়িয়ে বিক্রি করতে দেখেছি কাঁঠাল I কিনতে মন হয় না I মা-জেঠিমা কাঁঠাল ছাড়িয়ে পাতে কোয়া তুলে দেবেন, তবে তো কাঁঠাল খাওয়া! নাহলে আর কাঁঠাল খাওয়া কি? তাই রাস্তায় হঠাৎ যেতে যেতে কাঁঠালের গন্ধ পেলে মনে মনে ছোটবেলার কাঁঠাল খাওয়ার দিনগুলোর কথা মনে করি আর বুঝতে পারি আরেকটা কাঁঠালের মরশুম চলে গেল. এবারেও আমার কাঁঠাল খাওয়া হলো না!

.

Train to Pakistan

I have not read much of Khushwant Singh. Frankly speaking, I like the crispy flavor of his writing but most of the times it is only this crispiness that I get from his book, no protein or vitamins of life. So, I mostly avoided it till I bumped into his “Train to Pakistan”. I don’t know how much value it carries as a novel, but what strikes me is the underlying prophecy of all times told in the backdrop of the most inhumane times of our subcontinent: the partition.

A small village, on the border of India and Pakistan, with a history of peaceful co-existence of Sikh and Muslims, is thrown into a series of most unusual happenings during partition. A case of dacoity, a murder, arrival of a new educated socialist in the village is accompanied by the surge of Sikh refugees who lost all their belonging and most of their ladies on the way and a train carrying thousands of dead bodies from Pakistan. People who lived happily together for generations couldn’t make out what they were going through. Police is keen to send the Muslim villagers to Pakistan because they suspect something brewing among the refugee Sikhs; some plan to wash the Muslims out. The original Sikh community of the village assures the Muslim cleric “Chacha, it’s on our dead body that they’d be able to touch you people.” And the old blind cleric says “Why should you sacrifice everything for us?” They sit together in the dark rainy night, with the dead bodies carried by the train being burnt by the police, and can’t make out what to do!

At last, comes the police and declares the expected: all the Muslims should vacate the village NOW. And all they can only carry is their bare minimums. The pang of leaving everything behind, all your life, memories and friends; all your belongings: both material and emotional! In a flash of second, your land becomes somebody else’s and you become to some alien lands! And you start a journey which you never know will ever end up or not, even if it ends, how many of you will be able to make it there. And how much destruction, death and hunger are waiting on the way!

But wait, the journey has not yet started. And before they can start their journey, the refugee Sikhs hatches a murder plan for them. They will be killed while in the train. The Granthi (Sikh Priest) of the village knows it and says “It’s my duty to warn people about the bad, I can’t restrict them from doing it.” The educated socialist who is still in the village also called it quit because he was not sure about whether his sacrifice would be noticed by anybody, police didn’t want to interfere; they didn’t have much time to give attention to all these incidents.

And when nobody bothered to do anything, a badmash (somebody whose name has been registered as culprit in police station), a notorious dacoit from the village stood up to save his fellow-villagers lives by sacrificing his own.

It’s a story of the time of no religion, no humanity and no morale, but it is also about how even a small sparkle of humanity in such mad times can transform the pitch-black night into an aura of thousand suns. Even one human standing tall in the middle of injustice all around can make the vast difference. A prophecy that holds good for all ages.

Election: Real Selection or Deception?

They say the statistics reveal it all. So, let’s just have a look at the statistics of our last Lok Sabha election results. Election, as per our respected representatives, is the scale to measure and declare them to be “our representatives”, let’s just have a look at what kind of representation they have and what kind of democracy we are boasting of for last 64 years. All the data used here are from the website of Election Commission of India and are authentic. Here is the state-wise division of number of candidates and how many of them secured how much % of votes over the total electors in the constituency in the attached data.

This clearly shows a big chunk of people don’t even bother to vote. Have we ever thought about why don’t these people cast their votes? Why such a big percentage of voters don’t take part in election to use the only democratic right they have in our country? The answer is very simple: people are fed up with the very system of it. The amount of money and muscle power used in the election, criminal records of the candidates (as of now, more than 150 elected candidates have criminal charges against them) and the segmentation in the name of caste/religion/region during election propaganda don’t attract them. But do they have any option to show their displeasure? NO. Because we don’t have a “Reject” button in the voting machine. We don’t even have the right to reject the candidate political parties choose for us. We don’t even buy a dress without our choice, but when it comes to the most important thing, governance system of our country, there is no process to convey that I don’t like the candidate you have chosen for me!

Secondly, with such lower percentage of votes cast for them, do they really represent us? I am pretty sure most of us have never seen their MPs other than the time they come to beg for votes from us. And they know very little or nothing about those representatives. They are just selected by parties, elected by few and do whatever they want to do for the next 5 years. Why shouldn’t there be a proper rule to find the real representation? Why not introduce the preferential voting system and a cut-off limit for wining? In the current system, even less than 10% votes of the total voters also make a person “the representative” of the constituency, but is it a proper way to choose the representative? With a 50%+1 cut-off percentage, wouldn’t it be a better representation? Let’s take an example:

A constituency has two heavyweight candidates, A and B. Now there is another candidate C who is neither such a big shot, nor represents some big party. But people know C as an honest person and they have faith in him. Now if preferential voting is introduced, let’s take the result comes this way:
30%: 1st preference A, 2nd preference C
40%: 1st preference B, 2nd preference C
10%: 1st preference C, 2nd preference A
10%: 1st preference C, 2nd preference B
10%: Others
Now the total vote will come out like:
A: (30+10) = 40%
B: (40+10) =50%
C: (30+40+10+10) =90%
Even if we take 50% weightage for 2nd preference, it comes out to be:
A: (30+5) = 35%
B: (40+5) = 45%
C: (15+20+10+10) =55%
In any case, contestant C will be the winner. This way, system will be able to find out the real representative of people, also the chance of real leaders to come up without the backing of the big parties will improve. There will be a better chance of getting more able and honest leaders without the baggage of big parties where the entry level costs a lot of money thereby making the system automatically corrupt.

We need lot more improvements in electoral system. “Right to recall” is another option that needs to be thought about seriously. In current system, even if my representative is found to be involved in any kind of criminal activity (like our very own Kalmadi from Pune is already in Tihar jail, but he is still our representative), we should have the right to recall this representative. Why should we have to bear such representative for next five years, don’t we even have the right to choose a clean representative even if the current one is found out to be a criminal? What kind of democracy is this?

Yes, we need much more awareness and education if we implement such processes. The voters should be more conscious and aware of the consequences and value of his choice; it should not be like “My husband told to cast my vote for this symbol.” Or “I have been promised to get a lunch free if I vote for him.” I completely agree that we need to educate ourselves, but can’t we even start discussing about the betterment of the system? 64 years is not a small time, didn’t we become mature enough to even discuss about more matured way of choosing representatives after such a long time? Then the pride of being the biggest democracy in the world is a mockery of democracy itself. Evolving towards betterment is the only aim of humanity, if we don’t apply this even in the first step of forming good governance for us and choose to stay 64 years back, it’s certainly not anybody else we are fooling around, but it’s us and only us!

Previous Older Entries