Saturday, November 14, 2015

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A HOUSEWIFE

*A year or two ago, I was approached by an editorial broad of some students' union magazine to contribute an article. Well, I wrote and submitted this essay, only to hear from them that they have dropped the idea of publishing the magazine. It was a pain to keep see this piece of neglected work in my secret word folder, so here is it*
 
 
 
 
I
SHE DREAMED OF BEING A SUPERHERO
There is the sky above us and the ground beneath; there is the wind that orchestras the vacuum and there is the living that comforts us with the touch of love. Yet, there is always a fear in us, a fear of the unknown, the fear that can never be consoled for it comes from the thing heard and not seen, things that becomes a part of the rumour’s bag, words yet to be testified. The sci-fi fantasy has it, they are there; continuously watching us like the star on a bright summer’s night sky. Their existence is doubted, disbelieved, and questioned but above all debated, and it has continued right from the day a clue of their existence has been traced. And so was the journey of the woman who was one of the spies in the sky. She had known this planet more than the inhabitants themselves, she knew the people, the places, the time of their birth, she knew what their past were, she knew what their future has in stored for them, she knew everything and she knew much more, yet she was to disguise herself as one of them. She was on a mission, a mission that had been carried out for past thousand years. In the layman’s language she was immortal for the land where she belonged was the land of immortals. She was spying  on earth from her planet. Disease, destruction and other numerous ways to bring death was a conspiracy of her people to make the inhabitants of the earth different from them.
Though the inhabitants of the earth thought greatly of themselves, they were nothing but mere cage animals fit for experiments, the thing called souls were like igniters to regenerate their strength. Numerous abductions were held, there were instances where a person was experimented for forty years and all he knew was that he had a dream on Tuesday night. Why the experiments were carried out was simple, it was to understand the complexities of their mind and that has been carried out for centuries. The people of the earth, throughout their lives they were under surveillance, but were unaware and ignorant.  She saw them rebel and revolt against the system which they thought was unjust, they united, they fought, they won, they lost. Nevertheless, they never tried to revolt against the regime which was the greatest threat to them, a regime which had always done a massive surveillance on them.

Questions like, what makes mortal beings so special, what is in their hearts and minds, why are they different in their thoughts and actions? These unanswered queries made the aliens unsuccessful in their experiments…
II
BUT FOUND HERSELF IN APRON
Then she woke up, babies and elderly person sleeps a lot. She loved thinking, she loved dreaming. She was not young anymore, when she was young, she could daydream under a mango tree of saving this planet making a heroine out of her. But, when the night knocked the doors of her house, she found herself listening to the stories of the heroes venturing out to save the damsel in distress. For years she had served as a woman bounded by duties, she was appreciated for the dedication she bestowed, her children loved her and her husband respected her, nevertheless, it was not what she expected from her life, society might have applauded for the role she carried out, normalcy was a model where she had to framed herself but she was not ready to give in or give out.
What she needed was not sympathy but support, door for her dreams to open up and not only a window of hope, she had to make it come true, she had to fly from where she was and not merely jog. What she wanted was not to hear song of praises of her; she wanted to let people know that she was an individual, a life which was complete in itself. She had learned to appreciate enough to know that the world was such a lovely planet and all the notions of valuing one’s life for living was but a clichĂ©, and that survival was the ultimate goal.
She was a protective mother, when her daughter went out to street, like a worried parent she constantly looked at the window till she returned safe. News of sexual harassment, abuses, abduction and rapes had been flashed in all the newspapers, as she flipped the pages of the newspaper she often wondered whether the world would ever come to its sense. Her husband could say, ‘We were taught to be individuals with moral conscience, but in the process not to forget that we need to earn and to earn we need to work till the sweat drips down from our brow,’ it hardly made sense to her. But to this she wanted to add, there were exceptions within the crowd who could manipulate and was ready to slaughter anyone to reach the top.
She is often mocked for getting stuck to the television set, making sense of the soaps and serials which never has an end, if she engages in a light gossip (which in a way might stimulate social awareness) then we take it as her favourite pass time.

If she meets her former classmate in the subway, and cares to stop for a warm ‘hello’, and if ever a conversation strikes and if she comes to know that her friend is earning in four squares then her expression would be of delight or could be of a sigh counting on all the opportunities that came in her way but sadly let it fly. She is not baffled at the present; she knew that one day she would be sitting on the favourite chair in her porch dreaming of the day when she would be able to rescue herself, and find herself basking in the eternal sunshine which her heroic deeds had brought. Then, she could be woken up by the honks of her husband’s old car, he would walk towards her, if she is lucky then he might throw a smile at her, if not then he would simply tell her to set the table for the dinner.
Often the work that we chose becomes burden for the soul when there is a constant realization that the sweat of our brow becomes the shining sliver in someone’s pocket.  When we begin to redefine what finer things means, when we begin to understand that living does not depend on someone’s approval, this is when we try to understand that our rights are to be asserted and things can shape better if only we restructure the present faulty lines of the institutions we serve. Coming to the basics, we take for granted the woman who makes breakfast, lunch or dinner for us, we show the appreciation once or twice a year; we neglect it by considering that she is just doing her duty of caring, nurturing, and maintenance. What is more surprising is the fact that she hardly or does not seem to carp about the ever monotonous work, which she performs year after year. But, each year she seems to do better, finding innovative ways to limit the energy wasted and the time spend. Why the housewife does not ever pledge for a salary for her work, might be a matter related with ethics, economics and some anthropological bearing. However, in here if ever the worker’s union goes for a massive strike to meet their demands than the power of running organisation finds itself shaken.
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, September 12, 2014

WHEN AN INSTITUTION FAILS


























I am trying hard to start a school in Santiniketan. I want it to be like the ancient hermitages we know about. There will be no luxuries, the rich and poor alike will live like ascetics. But I cannot find the right teachers. It is proving impossible to combine today’s practices with yesterday’s ideals. Simplicity and hard work are not tempting enough…
Rabindranath Tagore, 1901

The recent case of sexual harassment of a student of Vishwa-Bharati University has provoked me to write this piece. It is such a shameful thing that the University authorities are protecting the culprits and denying the allegations. The statement given by the victim’s father throws light on how best possible ways were laid to hush-up the matter. I read regarding an inquiry team being appointed, as usual. As a mark of condemned, the Vishwa-Bharati Vice-Chancellor’s effigy was burned down in JNU campus. Good that incident of this kind is not taken insouciantly.

Any university in India or abroad has commitment to foster campus environment that both promotes and expedites prompt reporting of sexual misconduct and appropriate and just adjudication of sexual misconduct cases. I am wondering whether Visva-Bharati as a university has Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) which clearly states, ‘any act that falls within the definition of sexual misconduct constitutes a violation of University policy.’ The universities that has GSCASH brings about rules and provisions which are designed to protect the rights, needs, and privacy of the student making a University complaint, as well as the rights of students accused of sexual misconduct. In some of the universities, sexual misbehavior might also constitute criminal activity. In such instances, students are strongly encouraged to bring the matter to the notice of law enforcement authorities. Students may inform law enforcement authorities about sexual misconduct and discuss the matter with a law enforcement officer without making a formal criminal complaint or a formal University complaint. 

In record it shows, the chances of a fruitful criminal investigation are considerably enhanced if proof is collected and maintained immediately by law enforcement officers. Sexual misconduct can be committed by men or women, and it can happen between people of the same or different sex. Readily, the Universities have to make this policy and educational opportunities available to all students and other members of the University community for creating a respectful, safe, and non-threatening environment, which, indeed is the responsibility of all members of the University community.

What surprised me most was the institution where it happened, and sadly, this is not the first time, it has happened in past too.  No, I am not an alumna of Vishwa-Bharati University but I know its history, it is different from other university in many ways. To start with, it was the brain child of Rabindranath Tagore, the poet I truly respect. Tagore as an internationalist stood for the cooperation of various nations, he did not believe in the confinement of a nation with itself. His international experience gave him a new idea, that he must bring his country into contact with the world at large. He felt that over emphasis on narrow nationalism led men and countries into paths of conflict. There should be an institution that emphasized the unity of the world’s culture and streams of knowledge. He considered Santiniketan (later renamed into Vishwa-Bharati along with Sriniketan) to be that institution.  Tagore believed that India might be intensely national and yet, at the same time, international with her thought and sympathy embracing the world. In the midst of our national struggle, he created that symbol of internationalism that is Visa Bharati. During his last stage of life he is supposed to have said to Gandhi the words below, which in a way shows how deeply he loved the university he founded,
“Visva-Bharati is like a vessel which is carrying the cargo of my life’s best treasure, and I hope it may claim special care from my countrymen for its preservation.”

Apart from the need of education, Tagore had great respect for ‘woman’ and her position in family and society.  If we have to categorize Tagore’s writing then he was see that his early writing phase (1881-1897) concerns with injustice against the women. The inner strength of a woman was portrayed through mythological and female deities. Tagore emphasized that women should not be submissive under any circumstances. The second phase (1893-1913) of his writings was considered as the most imaginative phase by many scholars. In this phase, he depicted Indian woman as an urban and educated woman.  In the last phase (1914-1941) of his writing, women spoke in open the ills of the society, like untouchability, the caste system and the hypocrisy of religion. Much emphasis was given on education of women. In his novel, The Home and the World, he writes, “For me women are not only the deities of the household fire, but the flame of the soul itself.” So incidents like these, where the dignity of a woman is questioned could have make him feel mortified about the very university he has founded, if only he was alive.

The people who control the University should not forget its humble beginning and why it was started at the first place. When an institution fails, specially an institution of learning…who suffers? Many suffer but what damagingly suffer are the ideals on which the institution was build.

I pray that justice will be mended out at the earliest.









Tuesday, May 27, 2014

DR. AMBEDKAR AND WOMEN EMPOWERMENT: Embracing the plight of women in his works


 A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.”
                                                                  Diane Mariechild



It is not surprise in this present era, to see and hear that there are institutions and individuals who propagate that women need to gain the same amount of power that men have. Indeed the time had been ripen and the stage’s curtain has been lifted for the men to forget that they are the only sole holder of power and the chief decision maker.  However, in India, women are still facing subjugation from the patriarchal culture where society is constructed according to the convenience of ‘man’.  In matters related to women’s status and their futures the initiative taken is very microscopic.  But the great relief is Indian women are slowly getting basking in the rays of empowerment in the sectors like politics, education, the work force and even more power within their own households.  The work force is covered with intellectual women who currently hold the top most executive positions at large corporate firms which were never held by Indian women for a very long period.  Likewise, women are running for election and have achieved remarkable positions in literary fields. Indeed in our country, women have reached a long way eventually and it was not achieved with one single step, it was a journey of miles. With struggles and infallible courage women have discovered a new path for them to come out from the shells and cocoons of despair and pain.

The statistics of educational and job interviews show that women are outshining men. It shows that women are diligent and gone are the days when their aim was to engage in household chores, residing in the four corners of the wall. It arrests our attention that girls are now more confident of getting better-paid professional jobs than their counterparts.  Apparently, there is numerable amount of reason for the girls to be more confident than boys and this is because of their remarkable academic feat around the nation, moreover, this achievement of girls is a total reversal of what would have been expected a generation ago, and as appraisal this is likely to steer to higher-income jobs.   It is to be considered and not to be taken for granted that women rights confines to domestic rights only. The concept of feminism is fashionable and draws jaw dropping attention, in theory it stands for women’s right and efforts to win equality for women and glorifies feminism, women's political and property rights, equal opportunity in education and workplaces, and equal pay.  But in practice the wave of feminism is has not discovered the future of women and is in constant endeavour to seek it out.

India witnessed the works of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Virchand Gandhi; Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Dhondo Keshav Karve in the field of women empowerment.  Quite parallel to it were the works of Dr. Ambedkar who has done an enormous work in promoting in the welfare of the women in his country. His legal bearings and a deep understanding of the society he lived in acted like a guiding star to show him the way. Things were not a piece of cake, he had to meet differences and difficulties in bringing about reforms but like a hard taskmaster he did it with utter hope of uplifting the plight of women. The following section holds weight to the above argument.

DR. AMBEDKAR AND WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
Dr. Ambedkar slogged and went to utmost extremities for the upliftment of downtrodden and untouchables. He was strongly against untouchability and fought with determined voice for the backwards to live with respect and honour and to be ascertain of their rights. He championed the cause for liberty, fraternity and equality of every individual, especially considering to take the backward classes in the main stream of society and nation. Through his involvements he gave strength to the downtrodden class from rural area and small non-urban villages to fight against injustice, many a times he had to lead the movements on such occasions coming down on streets. He spent all his life in fighting/debating with the people who were well settled and established in society ignoring the rights of backward classes.

It is chanted that the worth of civilization can be arbitrated by the place given to women in the society.  One of the important aspects of the movements led by Ambedkar was the participation of women along with men in it. Hence, the role of women in the inclusive transformation of society was noteworthy. He was completely aware of the natural and inner strength of women, and he knew that the defensive skills of women could be used to their advantage during difficult situations.  Ambedkar gave ardent importance on the education of girls and women. It was he who made an announcement, “Learn get together and Fight.” He strongly believed that if a boy gets education, he is the only person to get educated in a family, and if a girl child does then the whole family is benefitted. In total, he continuously persisted on the education of girls and women for the all-round development and progress of all the suppressed classes. The backward classes were living a miserable life which was comparable to that of animal. They were totally neglected in society, and in worse case women were struggling hard even more than men of the backward classes. Babasaheb found the only weapon to fight against all sorts of abuses and discrimination in society was by educating women along with men.

In praise of women, he stated that women have the great duty of inspiring men to keep themselves away from all sorts of addictions. He believed that behind every successful person has a woman, guiding and inspiring him. In fact we then on to the pages of Indian history and culture wherein there were ample examples of women who served society and led with equal patience and courage as that of man. Dr. Ambedkar strongly believed in the movement run by women, and also believed that if the women are truly taken into confidence, they may change the present picture of society which is very miserable. In past they have played a significant role in improving the condition of weaker section and classes, and in present too they can play a pivotal role if given a part. He  truly saluted and honoured women for their work and hardships.
While addressing the crowd in conferences, he could easily communicate with women, he was a homely person and conversation with them. As like a patriarch he asserted on the key values to be followed by everyone in the family. He condemned all the bad traditions, habits and ways of life which made life difficult and complex. And to the surprise, even the women with little or no formal education followed his advice from the bottom of their heart. Similarly, like a man who can fascinated with the notion of freedom, he asserted on throwing away slavery and call on people to stand confidently on their own.  The result of that was hopeful and positive. Unsurprisingly, a number of women participated in that second freedom movement of getting education and having progress in all walks of life.                       
Dr. Babasaheb spent his life championing the cause of women, it is said that women who were involved in practices and professions like prostitutions took heed of his words. He gave his view on the state of life of all women. He stated that women must be treated equally and given equal prestige. He insisted on Hindu Code Bill suggesting the basic improvements and amendments in assembly. He also insisted and evoked all the parliamentary members to help to pass the bill in parliament. Eventually, he resigned for the same, as we all know what is recorded in the history. The teaching and thoughts of Ambedkar are useful not only to women but for all the Indians even today. His deep concern and feeling for the all round development of women, backward classes is expressed from his each sentence and word.
The role played by Dr. Ambedkar, as chairperson of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution, has left imprint on the social tapestry of the country after independence, and shaped the socio- political fabric of the India today.  It would be true to say that, it would have been a different India without him and, and chances are that much more inequitable and unjust one. He attempted to forge India’s moral and social foundations a new and strove for a political order of the constitutional democracy that is sensitive to disadvantaged, inherited from the past or engendered by prevailing social relations. Dr. Ambedkar had the highest academic credential for an Indian of his time, and his erudition and scholarship have been widely acknowledged.
In his paper on ‘Caste in India: their mechanism, genesis and development[1], Ambedkar described how women were traced cruelly by the way of sati, enforced widowhood and girl marriages just to maintain strict endogamy in a caste. The social evils regarding women in Hindu religion as well as in Muslim society were highlighted by him. As a researcher, Dr. Ambedkar extensively studied the position of women in both the religion (and also in the other religions) and thrown light on denial of rights to her and ultimately the status of individual. He stated that the consequences of purdah system on Muslim were that it deprives her of mental and moral nourishment.  He sought that Buddhism awards women, status equal to men and considered women capable of attaining spirituality. By adopting Buddhism, Dr. Ambedkar expelled in just   for underprivileged segments including women and accepting freed women from inhumane customs, rituals and superstitions and made the way for her liberation.
A long walk taken….
Some of the essential aspects of women empowerment are gender equality, gender main streaming, networking, leaderships, and financial freedom. Dr. Ambedkar realized these at his time and included in the process of social reforms. He started involving women in the struggle, for eradication of caste systems and upliftment of the underprivileged sections. He realized that this could not be achieved without emancipating the women themselves. He motivated women and addressed them to participate in struggle against caste prejudices. For instance, during the Mahad Tank Struggle[1], women marched in the procession along with men. He encouraged women to organize themselves. Impressed by the large gathering of women at Women’s Conference held at Nagpur on 20th July, 1942, he told women to be progressive and abolish traditionalism, ritualism and customary habits, which were detrimental to their progress. Dr. Ambedkar put all his efforts to guarantee the educational opportunities without any discrimination to all the citizens of India.  He knew that empowerment envelops developing and building capacities of individuals, communities to make them part of main stream society; and also education (It is a powerful tool for empowerment of individual) is the only mean by which societies grow out of oppression to democratic participation and involvement.  He had seen how over the generations, marginalized sections and women in Indian society were denied the opportunity to education. The British rule abolished detestable practices like sati but passed several laws to protect customs and traditions of Hindus.
It has been came to notice that Dr. Ambedkar as an architect of Indian Constitution provided strong constitutional safeguards to women. For instance, The Special Marriage Act sets four essential conditions for a valid marriage i.e, monogamy, sound mind, marriageable age and the parties should be too closely related. There are some grounds available to the wife only, both in Hindu and the Civil marriages provided to the women.  Under Section 313, brutal and forceful abortions and abortions without consent of women are crime. The Hindu Succession Act gives male and female heirs almost equal rights to inheritance. Likewise, Section 14 says that any property possessed by a female Hindu shall be held by her as full owner and not a limited owner.  Hindu Code Bill in 1948 which was introduced Dr. Ambedkar was revolutionary in confinement of propriety rights to women but when not accepted by the legislature, he resigned from the ministerial slot from the cabinet in 1951.
Ambedkar had pleaded the cause in favour of women. He argued that due to shortage of labour, the ban on employment of women on underground must be lifted.  Thus, he was instrumental for opening the avenues for women in field of employment. Dr. Ambedkar has advocated the principle of equality, liberty and fraternity for the formation of ideal state. He was inspired by the teaching of Buddhism, as the first law minister of free India; he fought for the equal status of women in India society. He wanted to improve the socio-economic condition of Hindu women and he wanted to bring Hindu women at par with men of the Indian society. He was strongly against the discrimination of women on the basis of inferior sex.
THE PRESENT CONDITION
Human resources are perhaps the most strategic and critical determinant of growth, and yet its development has not received the required attention. Even though a country may possess abundant physical resources, it cannot make rapid economic and social advancement unless there are people who are enterprising and have developed necessary skills and attitudes. Human effort is required to mobilise, organise and use these resources effectively and efficiently towards the production of the required goods and services. The economic productivity from the aspect of human resources in the country leave much of be desired.  In India we can see that there is rapid quantitative addition in population and on the other hand there is widespread poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and underemployment, low standards of living and low percapita productivity. The socio-economic structures, institutions and organisations have hampered full development of the human resources leading to rapidly changing socio-economic situations within the structure. Talking in human resource terms, the heavy burden of population can be mitigated and channelled towards economic development only by appropriate education, training and inculcating proper values and attitudes. This should hold good for men as well as women. However, the situation as it prevails in India is far from making use if human resources, particularly women power. Women over the years have had to face worst form of humiliation and discrimination from those quarters which were once considered a safe heaven for them. Women constitute half of the world’s population but continued to be deprived of the opportunities for equality in development. Despite their contribution in primary sector, they were not viewed as being within the production system or being the economic contributor to their families. As a result, the role of women in the primary activities and rural economy has been marginalized even though they have been involved in more labour intensive work. Due to socio-economic constraints, women’s potential for development remained far from fully utilised and they have been pushed back into the social hierarchical system.
As they are now highly qualified, make remarkable contributions to the economy through their paid work, they cannot be considered merely as home-makers in the conventional term. They work in a wide variety of professions around the country from teachers and secretaries to lawyers and doctors to scientists and child care workers too. Indeed, it indicates that these days, women have established themselves that they are equal to men. They have now forsaken their homely image and are making a major contribution to global service sector of the country. It is often considered that women are more diligent and consistent in works; hence more preference is given to them by the employers over male workers.
But, an upsetting place still remains for Indian women is the negative sexual attention that women often receive. Indian societies have earned a bad name for being unsafe for women. Whereby the fair sex is not only being hassled, stalked and raped but incidents of immoral trafficking also are very high. Add to this the heinous practice of female feticide and infanticide wherein nearly 10 million baby girls have been killed in the last twenty years alone, preference for male child act as a catalyst to such crimes. In fact, the level of atrocities against women is an indicator of the coercion of our society and shows that we are a suppressed society. It is the duty of law enforcement agencies to prevent crimes against women but they fail to solve or bring about accurate measures, law enforcing agencies cannot work alone. Teamwork by society is the key to eradicating this threat. People must come forward to help in rooting out such social evils, it is ultimately the people who should be dynamic in their drive against crimes; also the law enforcing agencies should not be police a mute spectator the protectors of citizens; they should co-operate with the people in tackling such problems. On the other hand, youngsters should be motivated to be socially responsible and protect women; for this is the need of the hour. Everyone must think of changing society; if we all abide by the rules and join hands then women in our country will surely be safer.              
If we consider women as a subordinate to man and subjugation based on sex continues then it would be an insult to all the reformers who made an effort to throw away such barriers which hampers the basis of equality in the Nation. Dr.Ambedkar who was a champion for women’s right might be very disgusted with the treatment mended out to women in this 21st century India. The time has come for us as individuals to consider the issue regarding women empowerment seriously. Currently, the women’s reservation bill is pending in India which proposes to amend the Constitution of India to reserve 33 percent of all seats in the Lower house of Parliament of India, the Lok Sabha, and in all state legislative assemblies for women if passed could be a milestone progress in the political social participation of women, however care should be taken that women who are elected as the representatives should be those who represents the interest of women as a whole and not for some opportunistic gain.



[2] On March 20, 1927, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar led the Mahad struggle for drinking water from the Cavdar tank in Mahad. This was the “foundational struggle” of the Dalit movement, a movement for water- and for caste annihilation.  (www.seekingbegumpura. wordpress.com.20/3/03/022/ the mahad-satyagraha) [Accessed on 25-6-2012]


[1]Caste in India: their mechanism, genesis and development’, paper presented by Dr. Ambedkar at an Anthropology Seminar taught by Dr. A. A. Goldenweizer, Columbia University, 9th May, 1916. Text first printed in Indian Antiquary Vol. XLI (May 1917).
 
 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

THE THEORY OF NON-REFUNDABLE


MY SISTER’S UNDYING CRUSH FOR JOHN ABRAHAM

 “If it was Abraham Lincoln then I could have been very happy, at least you could have known some portion of American political history but, things are different here. You are totally interested in other Abraham. Father Abraham had many sons, damn, you are not John Abraham’s sister.”
                   Ayangti Longkumer to Longchanaro Longkumer (Circa: July, 2007)

What does Theory of Non-Refundable says?

According to ‘could not be renowned’ economist Ayangti Longkumer, ‘The Theory of Non-Refundable states that goods once given or sold cannot be returned to the seller or the owner for a specific period of time. The exception with this situation is the rationality of the seller or the owner does not play into account while bargaining. On the other hand, the buyer or the new owner is totally unaware of who gives what and when to him/her, which results in non-accountability from his/her side. Since, such situation does not have a time period and is in constant flux, the Supply Curve, does not reach an equilibrium, which further creates a situation called, ‘Pack-it-up Dilemma’.

What is crush? Crush is not the name of some Oscar winning movie. I am not banging on its literal meaning like compressing or defeating. Crush here means infatuation, over extended admiration or temporary madness.

The Theory developed is, ‘The Theory of Non-Refundable.’ And, the case study is, ‘My sister’s undying madness for John Abraham’.

Without making you rotate further in this argument, let me tell you folks how it all began. 1, 2, 3…flashback,

Pankaj Udhas’ career graph was going down, he had to release albums where he sang and models acted like lovers, real lovers, giving the viewers 10, 00000 butterflies in their stomach. In one of the songs titled, ‘Chori chori chupke chupke’ the guy who was going to be my sister’s ultimate crush featured. Hmm, she did not know his name, but the spark in her eyes outshine the fireflies of Dimapur. Days later, she bought Cine Blitz magazine < I wonder whether that magazine is still in stalls> That is how she got and called out his name ‘John Abraham’.  I overheard it as ‘Don Ibrahim’, later she corrected.

One phenomenon I noticed was, she started admiring guys who had dimples, I don’t know what Raman Effect is, but sure I know it was JaAb Effect <love makes you blind, she never noticed his ache pores> Jism was his first movie, songs were awesome, story line was copied-pasted, movie did well, sister happy, how does it matter? Then his flop movie, Paap released, songs were awesome though, Sufi pop rocks!!! His acting skills were still not polished, but she was blind to all these. Along with dimples, my sister had a new addition in her list; she liked guys with neck length hair. Seriously, in that movie he reminded me of Apache worrier trying to seduce a white virgin<during high school days cheap novels were always under my pillow>
John Abraham and Bipasha were declared hot couples by the media, they went into live-in relationship, they were mostly seen in Clinic Plus (or was it Head& Shoulders) shampoo ads. Still! My sister was gaga over Mr. John. Then, Dhoom1 released, I don’t blame my sister, I totally understand, in front of Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra, he looked like a summer hunk. Movie did well. New addition, her eyes fell on guys who had dimples, neck length hair and who rode a bike.

Salaam e Ishq, desi version of Love Actually had nice songs, multi starrer, so starry it looked bazaary. Rumours of Vidhya Balan and John Abraham were doing the rounds. Did it matter to her? Celebrity’s hook-ups and break-ups are less happening than what is going in our neighbour’s house. Dostana had amazing songs; movie was hit but fultu, the irony? One of her side crushes took up photographer as his profession.

Finally, after so many years Bipasha and John broke-up. Madras CafĂ© was one of his best movies I have seen till date, thank goodness, my sister did not look for someone who works for Intelligence Agency. Alongside his production and acting, John Abraham was linked to an investment banker, I was the first one to break the news to her, she was totally his PR agent, she said, “Hmm, rumours.”

Months, I mean lots of months later, they secretly got married. They here is ‘John Abraham + Priya Runchal- Longchanaro’. Condolences were sent to her by her friends, well all were in good humour. I thought that her crush-on will extinguish the day he is hooked, booked and cooked but no J. Abraham was still topping her selection list. She wrote about John Abraham in her Facebook’s profile time and again. But, thank goodness, by the power of some federal philosopher, nothing of it is seen anymore. Cheers! However, who knows what big is cooking in her mind.

Why I am worried about my sister’s madness of John Abraham? Well, my sister carries my ‘genius genes’, hence I want her to do the mate selection carefully. I do not want my nieces and nephews to be the product of someone who produces sexist (pronounced as ‘success’) movie like Vicky Donor, or for that matter any man who reminds me of Barbie’s Ken. Yeah, here I am being superficial; actually, I am protective about my siblings and a bit possessive about my friends. Wow, is it an irony? Is ‘The Theory of Non-Refundable’ created by me for me? You must be kidding! Oh, no…




Saturday, March 2, 2013

“NEXT STEPS TO PEACE IN KASHMIR?” - SHEIKH F AHMAD AND AYANGTI LONGKUMER


Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

 Introduction

                     For Albert Camus, the late French philosopher; life is dull, monotonous and meaningless. Man tries to adjust himself with the situation, but the entire effort appears to be absurd when he realizes that this is not truth but mere construction. Henceforth, there are three ways of dealing with the absurd- suicide, hope or living with it. He rules out suicide. Since there can be no absurd outside human mind, there can be absurd outside the human mind, there can be absurd outside this world also. Absurd therefore, is a reality, and cannot be wished away by dying. Life, therefore, has to be preserved; Camus also rejects hope, which is nothing but a philosophical suicide. The absurd being the only truth, the essence of the human situation, the only proper alternative is to live with it. If ever Albert Camus’ philosophy holds true then the only way to deal with war, battle and conflicts is to accept as it is. However, the people of Kashmir have not considered what it is to be called peace as an absurd notion, and has not considered hope as a philosophical suicide. They are not ready to accept what is being given and seen, they are not ready to accept the present scenario as what it will be in future too, they are ready for change, in fact they are in constant quest for peace.
 
               This essay is an attempt to highlight the (un)peaceful state of Kashmir, through the lens of past and current events, and various steps which might result in bringing about peace in the valley. However, much can be debated, accepted or rejected but this attempt cannot be judged as a vague measure for in the words itself lies the aspiration and dreams of Kashmiri youth, who longs to see his valley shine in the glory of peace and the blessing of the forefathers.

Kaleidoscope of events: Where is the Peace?

For more than six decades, we ‘Kashmiris’ have been confused about our identity. To support the former line, we can jot the example of cricket match, where often we try to compensate the confusion by supporting cricket teams of neighboring countries, or by seeking solace from our own failures through celebrating victories of others albeit without any real connections. This has led Kashmiri identity [if at all there is one] into a state of flux and mutation. The politics of Kashmir (both the main stream and separatism) is no different; it is built on reactions, press statements, few very limited demos, 'all hot air with no substance'.
 
During 1990s: From 1990 onwards, a myriad of groups, organizations, people and religious and militant leaders and 'intellectuals' have claimed to represent Kashmir in various shapes, forms and denominations with competing and often confusing claims. The sum up of the last two decades of efforts on the Kashmir front can be best described as naught. As the dead are buried on an almost daily basis, molestation and rape has become a norm, youth of valley had eschewed politics in favor of their lives. At the same time the haze and fog around the 'Kashmir Issue' gets thicker by the day and our leaders issuing statements of zero substance add further confusion. Under such circumstances, any talk of solution to the Kashmir problem is tad too ambitious.
 
During the last decades, the Kashmiri leaders missed umpteen opportunities including several during the last two decades. Sadly, it doesn't seem that there would be many such opportunities in near future and hence one is left with this grim prognosis that the solution to the Kashmir problem may never be found and while waiting for a ‘respectable’ solution, Kashmir may ultimately be forgotten by all.
 
After 2000:  In the current geo-political order, the Kashmir issue has been forgotten by the world community. After India and Pakistan embarked on a 'peace process', Kashmir was no longer considered a 'nuclear flash point'. The international focus that was there in the initial phase of the militant struggle has long waned. Hard to believe but true!
 
The rude shock came when in May 2009 Javier Solana, one of the top most European politicians and the Secretary-General/High Representative (SG/HR) for common foreign and security policy of the European Union, brushed aside Kashmir saying that it was a bilateral matter between India and Pakistan. This was the first attempt in the withdrawal of any international support for the Kashmiris. After Pakistan was forced by the US to retreat from its traditional support for the 'right to self-determination' of Kashmiris, most of the world powers and institutions have been supporting the idea that the Kashmir issue should be solved bilaterally between India and Pakistan.
 
Nevertheless, another recent statement on Kashmir issue came from the US President Barak Obama when he very carefully read his ‘Kashmir Policy’ in a news conference at New Delhi with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November 2010. President Obama in response to a question about what role the United States could play in resolving the Kashmir dispute said “With respect to Kashmir, obviously this is a long-standing dispute between India and Pakistan; as I said yesterday, I believe that both Pakistan and India have an interest in reducing tensions between the two countries. The United States cannot impose a solution to these problems but I have indicated to Prime Minister Singh that we are happy to play any role that the parties think is appropriate in reducing these tensions. That’s in the interests of the region; it is in the interests of the two countries involved and it is in the interests of the United States of America. “So my hope is that conversations will be taking place between the two countries; they may not start on that particular flashpoint; there may be confidence building measures that need to take place, but I am absolutely convinced that it is both in India’s and Pakistan’s interest to reduce tensions and that will enable them I think to focus on the range of both challenges and opportunities that each country faces" (Reuters, Nov.9, 2010)
 
After decades of inaction by the United Nations due to its complicated bureaucratic structure, some Kashmiris based in the West have been harping upon the European Union and claiming that EU was interested in solving the Kashmir problem. Millions of US dollars were spent on Kashmir conferences around the world including in the EU to substantiate the claim. However, hundreds of press releases notwithstanding, this claim was destroyed by the clear statement of Javier Solana that EU considers Kashmir a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. This he stated some years back in Pakistan indicating that such thinking may also reflect the Pakistani government's attitude.
 
However the recent Kashmir statement by the United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, where he urged both India and Pakistan to resolve the problem peacefully and respect wills of the people of Kashmir has kindled some hope among the separatist camps back home. Ban who was in Delhi on a three-day official visit albeit expressed satisfaction over the improving ties between India and Pakistan but how to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio. He probably failed to answer. “I realize there are many outstanding issues but I encourage leaders of both the countries to persist with these efforts… I hope this issue (Kashmir) is addressed peacefully without violence and respecting wills of the people there (Kashmir)” Ban told reporters (Hindustan Times, April 28, 2012).
 
The bilateral character of Kashmir is not a new phenomenon or position. Both India and Pakistan have always maintained their 'trusteeship' of the respective portions of Jammu and Kashmir with the Pakistani government claiming to represent the aspirations of Kashmiris on the Indian side as well. However, during most of the last two decades, Pakistan slightly shifted its position by maintaining that Kashmiris should be allowed to decide their future. The statement by Pakistan President Zardari that the Kashmir issue should be set aside for future generations to resolve and the focus should be laid on other aspects for improving relations with India reflects the changing stand of Pakistan on Kashmir. More shocking was Zardari’s next sentence that “The relations between India and Pakistan should not be held hostage to the Kashmir issue".
 
 
 However, Pakistan has now once again reverted to its earlier position claiming ownership of the Kashmiri public under the rubric of the 'peace process'. The Pakistani rulers are on record to have openly opposed any move that would see any change to its cartography that may lead to an independent Kashmir. Therefore, there is parity between the Indian and Pakistani positions on Kashmir that only needs to be formalized and accepted by both the countries.
 
There is a general anger in Kashmir about this and many Kashmiri political activists have expressed their anger amid the usual rantings about Kashmiris being the sole 'masters of their destiny', a statement that is  more rhetorical and is contested by many. Whether Kashmiri leaders realize this or not, any support for the Kashmir case is dwindling by the day and we are left with almost no bargaining power to deal with either India or Pakistan. Under such circumstances, it is fair to say that if the Kashmir imbroglio is left unattended it will die a natural but painful death over next few decades.
 
Kashmiri 'leaders' - both the ones who have accumulated huge wealth and those who are really concerned about Kashmir - need to think about a possible strategy that will enable them to work with both India and Pakistan to find some sort of respectable exit from the morass that Kashmir has become. The continuous bloodshed and uncertainty has been contained by both the powers within the confines of the Line of Control and may not pose any danger to the two countries, but it is certainly dangerous to the Kashmiri population on the Indian side leaving the Kashmiri population vulnerable and open to further dangers. Hence, it is necessary for some sort of accommodation with both the powers for the necessary survival of Kashmir and its spirit.


 Steps to bring about peace in Kashmir: a brief examination

The best step to resolve Kashmir imbroglio and to bring peace is to show more flexibility and maturity in our leadership. Sagacity, political maturity and a change from the hackneyed and trivia politics is needed from all the three parties, Pakistan, India and Kashmir. Robustness in decision-making, flexibity in our approach, and inclusive character of the moment has to be maintained. The rights, demands and the aspirations of all the communities irrespective of region and religion have to be respected.
 
Second, “inclusive politics” or what I call “concave leadership” is needed, which will converge and accommodate the unheard voices and will represent the ‘unrepresented’. Kashmir politics is not about the urban “elites” or those who do business in the name of ‘dead bodies and mass rapes’. Instead we have to solve the basic day-to-day problems of every single native. We should be able to listen to the grievances of those millions of the people who live away from the eyes of these so called ‘representatives’ and ‘administrators’. They too belong to this land. They too are the real stake holders. The politics of ‘opportunism and ‘adventurism’ has to be stopped. Those who talk politics and show ‘radical’ stance at the same time send their children to Harvard, Barkley or Oxford for higher education on government sponsored fellowships. This mean politics and opportunism will not resolve the problem of Kashmir instead will aggravate it further. That is why crowd sourcing is important; the people of Jammu and Kashmir will only decide their future. Any readymade solution cooked at the ‘Khan Market’ New Delhi or from the Military Head quarters of Islamabad will not accepted. Every individual of Jammu and Kashmir has to give his or her mandate to any future solution.
 
Ensemble of academic scholars who tried to theorize Kashmir conflict argue that the main reason for political discontent and resort to violence in Kashmir has to do with the “repeated infringement of the social contract by the central government of India, acting often in tandem with the state government. This has been accompanied by the insistent erosion of the democratic space that permits articulation of political discontent.” (see Chandhoke 2005)

Repealing the draconian law like AFSPA is the need of the hour, as fake encounters and other military operations in the name of protection of the state has been rampant. It has been criticized that laws like AFSPA has been continuously violating human rights. The act has been criticized by Human Rights Watch as a "tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination".  It kills the democratic fabric of the country; hence measure should be taken to repeal such an Act. Measures to tackle unemployment can also be cited as a step to bring about peace in the valley. It has not been a rosy picture in the arena of employment statistics in Kashmir, youths after completing their educations find themselves without a job; so they negate from the peace system and engages in conflict activities. Studies have shown that there is a strong, automatic causal connection between unemployment, underemployment, or low productivity employment to violence and war. The Government of India should come up with sustainable plans and policies that protect the lives and improve the prospects of those very large numbers of people vulnerable to un and under employment and poor working conditions, to poor health and death, to poor quality of education and to extreme poverty; for these that specific variables, such as unemployment, typically have rather complex implications for violent outcomes; and that labour market and economic policy, if they are to be a part of efforts to reduce violence, cannot be reduced to policies designed simply to maximize the number of work opportunities for these might be various factors interlinking with it, however; it should be a bilateral between the people of the Valley and the Government at large.

The role of women in peace making progress cannot be ignored for there are many women, who may not stand as individuals but have contributed to the collaborative efforts in bringing peace and treating the wounds that has been inflicted for decades. Way back in 2000, Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace organized a roundtable, a group of women and men representing different ages and communities participated; where they spoke out the way they think about the reoccurring violence in the region, it was a very helpful initiative. Such measure where women get a participatory role inspires others to reach to new vistas of excellence in striving for national and international peace and harmony. Such struggles inspire the younger woman who can multiply their energies and talent in such a way that numbers become meaningless, and the value of their contribution becomes greater. After all, strong initiatives come from parallel directions and should not be initiated within a particular group.

Conclusion
 
                  It is not an easy task to extensively explore the possibility of peace in Kashmir. The optimistic steps lay down in this essay lies on the ground of economic progress and socio-political stability, however, strategic solutions can also be helpful in bringing about peace in the region. But, whatever the policies to bring out peace will be it should be inclusive and should not be exclusive, it should involve people, for they are the soul determiner of their destiny and the kind of democratic set up they want to bring on. And that economic development alone cannot bring about peace; therefore it should not be treated as a separate section; for it is in tuned with the socio conditions of the people; and hence development should be a whole round process. What should also be considered is; who are the people participating in the peace process of the region, whether it is the urban educated elites or the people in the villages; for there might be differences in the way they approach the whole framework of peace and resolutions. The best way is the united way, where in all the people comes under one umbrella and speaks up as one on the issue, however; that is more like an idealist thought; for it is difficult for everyone to suppress all their understanding as agree to what other thinks is the best way. It might sound like a Spartacus’ script but there is also a strong need of a charismatic leader, the personality of whose will be radiating one that he/she will be looked up as a guardian of their cherished goal for peace; and whose knowledge will be the blending force of all sections of the society. Lastly, much have been said but much abides, the road to peace is cumbersome, and no one knows what lies at the end of it; but we have started with the journey with the believe that no matter what it may be, and come what may be; we will strive, we will fight in the wings of the ancient pride and glorious civilisation that Kashmir stood for, and no matter how long it will take, we will try our best to make it happen now. May the minds of the Kashimiris be filled with the flawless divinity of the omniscient!