Sep 28, 2010

A Dog's Life

A dog's life couldn't get worse. A mongrel brought up in an upper caste home in Morena was kicked out after the Rajput family members discovered that their Sheru had eaten a roti from a dalit woman and was now an "untouchable". Next, Sheru was tied to a pole in the village's dalit locality. His controversial case is now pending with the district collector, the state police and the Scheduled Caste Atrocities police station in Morena district of north MP.

The black cur, of no particular pedigree, was accustomed to the creature comforts in the home of its influential Rajput owners in Manikpur village in Morena. Its master, identified by the police as Rampal Singh, is a rich farmer with local political connections.

A week ago Sunita Jatav, a dalit woman, was serving lunch to her farm labourer husband. "There was a 'roti' left over from lunch. I saw the dog roaming and fed it the last bread," Sunita said. "But when Rampal Singh saw me feeding the dog and he grew furious. He yelled: 'Cobbler woman, how dare you feed my dog with your roti?' He rebuked me publicly. I kept quiet thinking the matter would end there. But it got worse," she said.

On Monday, Rampal ex-communicated the dog. A village panchayat was called, which decided that Sheru would now have to live with Sunita and her family because it had become an untouchable. Sunita Jatav was fined Rs 15,000.

An outraged Sunita and her brother Nahar Singh Jatav rushed to Sumawali police station. They were directed to take the matter to the SC/ST Atrocities police station in Kalyan. "When we went there, the officer asked us why we fed the dog," recalls Nahar. "So we went to the DSP in the SC/ST Atrocities department and submitted a memorandum to him, as also to the district collector. But no one has registered our FIR so far.

DSP SC/ST Atrocities (Morena), Baldev Singh, recalls, "We got a complaint in which it has been alleged that a dog was declared untouchable and a dalit family fined for feeding it. We are investigating the allegation," said the officer.

Sep 23, 2010

Pyar Impossible

The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court will pronounce its judgement on the 60-year-old Ayodhya title suits on September 24, a decision that may trigger a political fallout. The date for pronouncement of the judgement reserved by a special full bench comprising Justices S.U Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and D V Sharma on July 26, was conveyed to the counsels appearing in the four title suits relating to the disputed site at Ayodhya.
The court will be addressing three issues. One, whether there was a temple at the disputed site, prior to 1538. Two, whether the suit filed by the Babri committee in 1961 is barred by limitation. And third, whether Muslims perfected their title through adverse possession.
The first title suit was filed in 1950 by one Gopal Singh Visharad, seeking an injunction for permitting 'pooja' (worship) of Lord Ram at the disputed site.The first suit goes back to 1885, the year the Indian National Congress was born. The case was revived in 1950. In 1885, the Faizabad deputy commissioner refused to let Mahant Raghubar Das build a temple on land adjoining the disputed structure. Das then filed a title suit in a Faizabad court against the secretary of state for India, seeking permission to build a temple on the Chabutra on the outer courtyard of the disputed structure. His suit was dismissed on the ground that the event (alleged demolition of an original Ram temple in 1528) had occurred over 350 years earlier, and so it was “too late now” to remedy the grievance. “Maintain status quo. Any innovation may cause more harm than any benefit,” the court said.

The second suit was filed by Paramhans Tamchandra Das also in 1950 seeking the same injunction but this was later withdrawn.

The third suit was filed in 1959 by Nirmohi Akhara, seeking direction to hand over the charge of the disputed site from the receiver.

The fourth suit was filed in the 1961 by UP Sunni Central Board of Waqfs for declaration and possession of the site.

The fifth suit was moved on July one, 1989 in the name of Bhagwan Shree Ram Lalla Virajman also for declaration and possession.

With one of these suits having been withdrawn, four title suits remained pending in the Faizabad civil court and in 1989, on an application moved by then then Advocate General of UP, these suits were transferred to the High Court.

So will that be the final word on Ayodhya? Certainly not. There are dozens of other petitions — for access, right to worship or pray, writ petitions and the like. Further more, any party can challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court which, if it admits the appeal, will immediately order status quo. The Supreme Court’s decision will be final unless one of the parties seeks a review — by the same bench — or file a curative petition to an apex court bench of at least five judges. Also remember that the Allahabad high court only began hearings in 1996, and in six years ,had managed to hear only twelve witnesses!

What could be the solution then? The solution, ironically, is obvious to any body who wants to solve the issue. The Government Of India, sadly, does not appear to be one.  
Union Home Minister Buta Singh called a meeting of leaders of all national parties in a bid to find a workable solution on May 16, 1989. The solution proposed by one speaker "The dispute cannot be resolved in a court of law, it should be solved by goodwill from both sides. In this connection, the site under dispute should be handed over to Hindus who, as a goodwill gesture, will maintain the structure as it is, without there being any worship by either community. A temple and mosque should be built near the disputed shrine, to satisfy both communities and restore harmony".

This came from, no not a pseudo-secularist, but from Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In the deposition of former prime minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh before the Justice Liberhan Commission on November 20, 2001, he testified that during his tenure, Muslim leaders led by Syed Shahabuddin put forward a three-part formula. The community agreed, firstly, to abide by any and all court orders. Second, the Muslims would withdraw all cases relating to all areas other than the one on which the Babri Masjid physically stood. Thirdly, the Muslims would not in any way oppose construction of the Ram temple from the adjoining Ram Chabootra onwards.

As per Singh, negotiations were begun with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the person of the late Bhaurao Deoras. The meeting took place in the home of RSS sympathiser and media baron Ramnath Goenka. Deoras on that occasion made an oral statement, which was then typed out and signed. In it, Deoras said that though the Ram Janambhoomi belonged to the Hindus, "it did not behove the Hindu ethos to demolish any place of worship". Therefore, the Hindu community would react favourably to the Muslim proposal for construction of the temple in the area immediately abutting the masjid.

News of the imminent solution, leaked out to the Congress. That party by then had begun seeing nightmares of a possible axis between the Janata Dal and the BJP, supported by the 'secular' left. In order to counteract it, Rajiv Gandhi went to the VHP's Ashok Singhal with a "better proposal" - shilanyas.

In 2003, the Prayag Peeth Shankaracharya, Swami Madhawananda Saraswati, had agreed to the building of a temple and a mosque within the area in question in Ayodhya.
Workable solutions have been found, and then scuttled by one party or another with a vested interest in keeping the pot boiling.

However when the pot boiled over, the leaders were seen asking for protection themselves.
Like on October 31, 1991, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders address thousands of karsevaks who have assembled in Ayodhya at their behest. The speakers range from VHP President Ashok Singhal to BJP leader L K Advani -- but the message is the same. 'You have given us power in Uttar Pradesh. And in return, the Kalyan Singh government has acquired the land, handed it over to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas for temple construction, and even performed a bhoomi pujan for the second pillar of the main entrance. Now we need you to go back home and work to bring the BJP to power at the Centre -- only then can we remove all obstacles and construct the temple here.'The karsevaks who had travelled to Ayodhya from remote corners of the country, and in the preceeding days been primed to the gills with emotional and religious fervour, were outraged. They had come to work for the Ram temple, not to listen to political propaganda.They expressed their disgust through abuse hurled at the leaders (Bajrang Dal chief Vinay Katiyar barely escaped physical assault on that occasion), and followed it up by breaking the security cordon, clambering atop the Babri Masjid, and hoisting a saffron flag on top of it.
On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished. In its aftermath, the BJP and the VHP repeatedly said that it was 'a spontaneous reaction' by the assembled faithful. So what were the karsevaks 'spontaneously reacting' to? Disappointment. Yet again, they had been brought together from various parts of the country, yet again an enormous amount of emotional energy and religious fervour had been whipped up, and yet again, they found themselves watching a token ceremony and listening to a lot of speeches. Enough is enough, they said as they proceeded to storm the masjid and say it with pickaxes and hammers.

On March 15, 2002, yet again, this time braving the most stringent security clampdown yet witnessed in the region, a few hundred karsevaks manage to infiltrate into Ayodhya. Yet again, fervour and emotion are systematically whipped up over the preceding fortnight. Yet again, karsevaks are led to believe that actual construction will commence. The shila daan procession commences. Without warning, Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas president Ramchandra Das Paramhans switches plans, scurries inside his akhara, and announces that he will hand over the shila right there.
The move angers the assembled sadhus and karsevaks. The sadhus abuse the VHP and the mahant - 'Is this why you asked us to assemble here? Is this why you put the people of Ayodhya through so much hardship?' they demand. The karsevaks raise angry slogans accusing the VHP of a sell-out. A housewife makes an angry speech accusing the VHP of corruption and of toying with people's sentiments, and the crowd that had gathered at the behest of the VHP cheers her on. VHP International President Ashok Singhal is reduced to asking the security personnel to clear the akhara premises, to protect him from his followers. He is also forced to ask for the summary ejection of the media. After all, which leader wants prime time viewers to see video footage of himself being abused by his own followers?

We have all been to places where local taxi drivers or relatives we are visiting to point out places where "Hanumanji rested" or "Pandavs came visiting". When travelling in Mathura, locals  would point to a stone and tell that this is where Krishna sat and played the flute, that this little patch of greenery and jacaranda trees is where Radha danced in ecstasy to the divine music. Do you ask for proof? No body does. Hinduism is full of such articles of faith.

The Supreme Court recognized this fact when it sensibly refused to entertain the then government's request that the apex court determine whether Ram was in fact born in Janambhoomi. So let's take that for granted and not waste the court's time raising the question and then producing truckloads of documents purportedly proving it.

One has to clearly understand that the verdict of the court is of interest to the parties involved and not any religious communities. The turmoil and unrest, if any, is for the benefit of political parties.

Bhopal : A Prayer for Rain

Bhopal : A Prayer for Rain, a film on the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, was declared tax-free in Madhya Pradesh by chief minister Shivraj ...