The Morning After: Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

“You were supposed to be either brilliant without effort or accept your limitations”.

Stephen Hawking, the great physicist and the pioneer of modern cosmology , died on 14th march ,2018 at the age of 76. The world has lost a rare genius and an extra ordinary human being.

Hawking’s contributions to science are immense. He was among the first to show that quantum fluctuations (tiny variations in the distribution of matter), might give rise to expansion of galaxies in the universe. His theory of cosmic inflation is hailed as one of the most beautiful ideas in the history of science.

He was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of general relativity and quantum mechanics. He was a vigorous supporter of the ‘many worlds interpretation’ of quantum mechanics.

His proposal that black holes radiate heat stirred up one of the most passionate debates in modern cosmology. Hawking theorised that if a black hole could evaporate into a bath of radiation , all the information that fell inside it over its lifetime would be lost forever. The theory contradicted the most basic laws of quantum mechanics, drawing plenty of disagreeing physicists into the debate. However, he later took a U turn on the information paradox and admitted that maybe the information loss does not occur after all.

Young Stephen in London marching against the war in Vietnam in 1969

In, 1974 , he was elected to the Royal Society at the young age of 32. He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for 30 years from 1979 to 2009. It is considered to be Britain’s most distinguished chair, formerly held by Isaac Newton, Charles Babbage and Paul Dirac. He went on to become the director of research at the centre of theoretical cosmology, Cambridge. He achieved commercial success with his works on popular science discussing his own theories on cosmology. His most notable work that catapulted him to stardom was the Brief History Of Time, published in 1988. The book made it to the Guinness book of world records after it stayed on the Sunday Times Bestsellers List for 237 weeks. It sold 10 million copies and was translated in 40 languages.

Hawking married Jane Wilde, his college sweetheart in 1965. They have 3 children together. However , the marriage got strained and the two divorced in 1995. He married Elaine Mason, one of his attending nurses later that year. After 11 years, the marriage ended in a divorce in 2006.

Jane Wilde wrote about her relationship with Hawking in her 2013 book, Travelling to infinity:My life with Stephen.

Stephen Hawking had a rare early onset , slow progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis(ALS) that gradually left him paralysed over the years. He was only able to communicate using a single cheek muscle attached to a speech generating device. After being diagnosed with the motor neurone disease in his graduate years at Oxford, he fell into depression. But he soon returned to his work with encouragement from his colleagues. In a way , the early diagnosis of his terminal disease ignited a fresh sense of purpose in him. He once said,”I am not afraid of death but I am in hurry to die. I have a lot of work to do in the time I have on my hands”.

He has won the Albert Einstein Award, the Wolf Prize, the Copley Medal and the Fundamental Physics Prize but the Nobel Prize eluded him. In 2009, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama. His life has been played out in various biographies and documentaries, most notably movie The Theory of Everything in which his character is played by Eddie Redmayne.

Hawking once declared,” My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe . Why it is as it is and why it exists at all”. Indeed, he was one of the greatest physicists of his time who reshaped cosmology . Rarely does it happen, that a person of science goes on to achieve such celebrity status as Mr. Hawking . He was widely admired and respected for his sheer wit and humble nature .With his death, a glorious era in the history of science has come to an end. But his legacy will live on for years to come . His persistence and perseverance are an inspiration to the world.

The Fate of The Ones Who Are Feeding Us- Kisan Long March

12th march, 1930. Eighty Satyagrahis, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi set out on foot from Sabarmati Ashram for what would be known as one of the greatest revolutionary protests of Indian freedom struggle- the Dandi March. Exactly 88 years later, on 12th march, 2018, fifty thousand Maharashtrian farmers completed their six day long protest march covering over 180 km to reach Mumbai . The farmers staged a massive rally in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan to protest against the government’s apathy towards the plight of the farming community and its inability to protect the farmers of the country from losses incurred due to crop failure. The protesters, spearheaded by the All India Kisan Sabha, the farmer’s wing of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, demanded an unconditional waiver of loan and electricity bills. They also demanded for the announcement of a pension scheme of Rs.5000 per month for every poor farmer of the state. Earlier the government had implemented the Maharashtra Loan waiver scheme but its execution had been inefficient and patchy. The Kisan Long March was also a struggle to demand for the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations and the Forest Rights Act 2006.

Drawing inspiration from their counterparts in Maharashtra, the farmers of Odisha, headed by Navnirman  Krushak  Sangathan organised a similar protest rally in Bhubaneshwar on 12th march. Over 15,000 farmers staged a rally near the state assembly demanding the allocation of Rs.21,600  crores for farmers in the state budget. Similar to the Maharashtra farmers, they too asked for the implementation of a pension scheme and hike in MSP of their crops.

Farmers in Maharashtra walked all the way from Nasik to Mumbai  to stage the protest rally in order to draw the government’s attention towards their cause. They skipped meals, slept in the open and covered over 30 km in a single day inspite of their blistered and bleeding feet. They endured all this so that they could breach the government’s wall of ignorance and neglect towards the farmers of the country. They marched all night to reach the Azad Maidan so that they do not cause any inconvenience to the students taking the SSC exams. Even in their suffering, the poor farmers were sensitive of problems that their protest might cause for other people.

The people of Mumbai too, showed their heartening spirit as they welcomed the farmers. Many organisations took upon themselves the task of providing water, footwear and food to the tired and injured farmers. Students from many colleges also showed their solidarity with the protesting farmers by accompanying them in the rally.

Victory finally came for the farmers as the government finally bowed in front of their indomitable spirit on 13th march . Most of the demands by the farmers have been accepted by the government . Regarding the implementation of the Swaminathan Comission report, the government will pursue it with the centre. Protests were called off after the government gave its acceptance in writing. Also, the government will make provisions for the return of the farmers to Nashik by special trains.

The Agriculture crisis in India:-

A farmer ends his life every 41 minutes in India. From 1995-2015, more than 3,18,528 farmers have committed suicide . The average annual income of an Indian farmer is a meagre Rs.20,000  i.e. Rs.1660 per month . How is a farmer supposed to make his ends meet and fulfil the needs of his family with that meagre amount? It takes us five minutes to finish a plate of rice, but do we ever realise how much effort and time goes behind producing that rice? It takes months of hard work and toiling in the field on the part of a farmer to produce the food we consume. And they don’t even get fair prices for their produce. Even the consumers leave no chance to belittle the hard work that goes behind crop production just to save a few bucks.

Agriculture is the only source of income for the majority of farmers. So, what happens when the crops fail? The farmers incur huge losses and are forced to take loans from local money lenders at high interest rates. Many of them are not able to repay the loan and have to lose their land or even worse, they fall prey to the evil of bonded labour. Despite the fact that 70% of the loan defaulters belong to the corporate sector and only 1% to the farming community, corporate sector is issued loans of hundreds of crores at interest rates as low as 0.1% whereas a poor farmer is required to pay 24-36% interest on a loan of a few thousands to microfinance institutes. The lives of the farmers could potentially improve and transform if the banks showed even a bit of interest or empathy towards their cause.

 The government’s apathy towards the farmer crisis:-

The farmers have been protesting for their rights since a long time but their demands and requests have fallen on deaf ears. The government has been nothing but ignorant of their suffering. The government needs to accept the truth of farmer suicide due to crop loss and debt burden . Agriculture crisis is for real. The problems faced by the farmers are not specific to any state , they are same throughout the country . So is the government’s approach, little has been done to improve the condition of the farmers. On the top of that , some of the government fronts have gone on to compare  the protesting farmers with urban Maoists misguided by the CPM. Such insensitive comments only belittle the struggle and problems of the farmers.

How can the government be so insensitive towards the community that is the backbone of the country’s economy , the community that feeds the entire country? Farmers’ demands for the halting of the acquisition of their lands for projects like the bullet train had also fallen on deaf ears till now. The government needs to rethink its priorities. What is more important? Improving the condition of the farmers or introducing facilities such as bullet trains at the cost of their lives? If the government is unable to provide even the basic rights & facilities or a fair market to the farmers, how can it plan on acquiring their land and using the budget for unnecessary projects like the bullet train? The backbone of India’s economy is agriculture with over 50% of the population involved in the field. If the government cannot even provide financial security to the farmers or fulfil their basic demands, what is the use of spending a large chunk of the budget on high end facility projects?

Media’s non-existent coverage of the Kisan Long March:-

Even more disturbing than the government’s negligent attitude is how conveniently the mainstream media of our country has ignored the Kisan Long March. Instead of covering the protest march and acting as the voice of the farmers, our news channels have left no stone unturned to side-line the issue entirely. The media still has not gotten over the mysterious facets of the ‘Maut ka bathtub’. They would rather show you Md.Shami’s wife’s unseen pictures or update you on Prince Taimur’s latest adventures than take on the coverage of one of the greatest protests of recent times. But then, why would the media choose to cover the Kisan Long March? There’s no glamour in the worn out tired faces of the frail farmers. There’s nothing to sensationalise about their honest struggle. Where would the TRP come from? How would the primetime news circus go on?

The media may have chosen to ignore this powerful demonstration of dignity, determination and strength, but it has shaken the conscience of the small section of public it has managed to reach. The revolution will soon be forgotten with the majority of public not even being aware of it or fully understanding it but the government should understand that it’s time to wake up from the slumber. The farmers have shown their strength. They have suffered silently for long enough. The entire country has been moved by their plight. Maharashtra was just the beginning. It wouldn’t be surprising if the event inspires further protests throughout the country as it did in Odisha.

LOVE- NEED, WANT OR LUXURY?

Society at large, is certainly inclined towards the definition of love portrayed in the media. The definition large bases its foundation on making Romantic emotions a part of being human. #CoupleGoals would be one of the most trending hashtags on social media and it isn’t on any fault of theirs. The entire populace acts in certain manner because it has been accustomed to think in such fashion.

However, practically speaking, it would be a highly unreal scenario. Majority of couples who find themselves in the emotions of affection, do often forget that life in that way doesn’t always go as in movies. Marriage, child rearing and occasional disagreement with poor choices of words are imminent when two people express their desires to be in each other’s company for a longer duration.
This is where the aid of the ancient Greeks come in handy. Unlike our current perception of this word having a prescriptive view, it was more inclusive and encompassed a variety of emotions and relations.

They identified the emotions that are relatable with string sexual and bodily desires within a relationship as ‘Eros’. They were well aware that Love as they would understand it wouldn’t come to an end after the strong sexual urges within a relationship loses its potency. This is usually the initial months of a relationship.

The next form of Love can be identified with a form of friendship within a relationship. It usually springs into existence after the period of Eros grows of less importance. It is perhaps the same emotions that are shared by a couple more focused on having a better future for their children than making their bedroom events worthy of remembrance. This is usually called as ‘Philia’.

Agape’ makes its presence in the sacred pages of the Holy bible well known in the New Testament. This is what could be more accurately put as Love for everyone or a sense of compassion about people, even animals around you. The ability that makes oneself see the suffering in someone else and able to sensitively act to ameliorate the pain.

Sometimes people in their childhood would give into innocent attractions devised by their own hearts. Often playful flirting or teasing each other can be an example of this form of love which the Greeks referred to as ‘Ludus’.

The final form of it had more to do with knowing one’s true worth. It would keep its distance from narcissism but will allow oneself to know their worth. This would be called ‘Philautia’ by the ancient Greeks. It allowed oneself to make oneself secure and slaughter all forms of insecurities that would harm one’s peace of mind.

The English vocabulary will never do justice to the true essence of these words. However, being one of the most advanced intellectually superior realms on the earth in the ancient times, it can be understood as to how a culture that gave the west its core philosophers, were equally spectacular in naming and dividing the various facets of an emotion that appears similar on the surface but has wider distinction in details and are highly vital.

Architect Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi becomes the first Indian to win Pritzker Prize

Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi, has been awarded  the Pritzker Prize 2018, the highest accolade in the field of architecture, for his phenomenal work on low cost housing. He became the first Indian to win the $100,000 award, established by the Pritzker family of Chicago, in its forty years of history. The jury lauded Doshi for architecture that has created an equilibrium and peace among all the components- material and immaterial referring to the poetic underlining of his work.

B.V. Doshi is the pioneer of low cost housing , sustainable designing and city planning. He is one of the prime contributors of architectural discourse in India. He is considered to be an important figure of south Asian architecture. He was born on 26th August, 1927 in Pune. He studied at the JJ School of Architecture, Mumbai. He is a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and has also been on the selection committee for the Pritzker Prize. Apart from being an architect of national and international fame, he is also a noted academician. He is the Founder Director of School of Architecture Ahemdabad,  Founder Director of School of Planning , first Founder Dean of Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, Founder Director of Kanoria Centre for Arts and research institute Vastu Shilpa Foundation for Studies & Research in Environmental Design.

ARANYA LOW COST HOUSING, INDORE

Mr.Doshi has more than 1oo buildings to his credit including IIM Bangalore, NIFT Delhi, CEPT &  Aranya  Low Cost Housing Development  Indore for which he won the Aga Khan Award for architecture. He was honoured with the Padma Shri in 1976 by the Government of India. He has also received France’s highest honour for arts , the ‘Officer of the Order of Arts & Letters’ in 2011.

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He draws inspiration from Indian cities of Benaras, Ahemdabad and south Indian temples. Fatehpur Sikri has been the most inspiring monument to him. The works of great architects of Europe and America have also had great effect on him.

In his interviews, Mr.Doshi has cited that to him, architecture signifies the celebration of life. “ There is a sudden consciousness , propelled by beautiful spaces, where you are aware of your inner feelings, that’s when we are happy and we create. Architecture is a backdrop to life”. He is of the opinion that social consciousness is a part of the architect’s duties. The plight of the street dwellers was a motivating factor for him to take up the challenge sustainable projects of low cost housing. He feels that  architects’ sole aim shouldn’t only be to create beautiful designs and monuments, but they should also strive to undertake such projects which would contribute in making a positive difference in the society.

Queer in Europe expectation vs reality

I would love to give you that story. The story where I moved to Great Britain and life was perfect. The story where I moved to Great Britain and the sky cleared up, my skin cleared up and I sprouted a thousand wings. The story where I moved to Great Britain and queerphobia faded like a distant bad dream. But this story is not that story. This story is the truth. It is honest. It is one I have always looked away from. Are you ready?

 

Wait. Let’s rewind for a second. Who was I before I left? It’s making me cringe a little bit to say this but “the party don’t start till I walk in.” That’s who I was. Vivacious, funny and a bit what they call, “crazy”. I would touch an exposed electrical wire to see if it was live. My first heartbreak was accelerated by the fact that my boyfriend refused to climb a tree with me in the middle of the road. Yes, I know.

 

At the same time, I was living in lies. I was folding in bits of myself, away from discovery. I have always known I am queer. I have been dreaming of both men and women since I was a kid. But I didn’t know how to hold that truth in my arms. I would always find some half-truth to cover it with. Until I didn’t.
Yes, I came out even before I left. To that first boyfriend. To my sister. To best friends from boarding school. None of those times were easy or particularly pleasant. But I tried. I wanted to be my whole self. And in that the UK helped enormously. I can’t deny that.

 

In my very first year, I joined the university’s LGBT+ Society. Almost immediately, I became the International Student Representative. It was going to be a great year, I thought. Alas, it was one of the worst years of my life.

 

You see, when we imagine life abroad, we miss out on a crucial aspect of that experience for people like us: race. We have heard about racism on TV and social media. We seem to be adequately aware of what it means, right? No. We do not know how racism feels or even how it works. We do not know how racism can reside in a wide-eyed stare that makes you recoil. We do not know racism resides in the distance of an arm’s length that makes you shrink. Racism, like the British weather, is a cold you can feel in your bones. A cloud casting its shadow wherever you go. A hand that wipes your name off your mouth.

 

The UK welcomed me with a racist flatmate who laughed every time I spoke. Because of my Indian accent, get it? Sometimes, she would have friends over and they would laugh at me together. So, I lost my words. My social anxiety rocketed upwards. I wouldn’t go to the kitchen in fear of people. I dropped 10 kgs. That’s a diet plan for you.

 

Yes, yes, I know. You’re here for my queer story, not my race story. But can you really separate the two? I am a queer brown woman. And my experiences are coloured by all three. When discrimination holds your throat in its fist, can you tell which fingers belong to race, which to gender and which to queerness?

 

One day, I returned to the flat all happy after painting a closet with the LGBT+ society. My all-white all-British flatmates, surprised by my unusual perkiness, asked where I had been. I told them. Their faces emptied like plates. They had no clue what “LGBT+” stood for. I told them. Silence. The bully was the only one to respond, with a halting “O-kay..?” I had come out without realising it was going to matter. A few weeks later, one of the girls felt it necessary to explain to me that on Facebook she is in a relationship with another girl in the flat, but it’s a joke and they’re just good friends. “We’re not gay,” she clarified.

 

I do not know if I found a community in the LGBT+ Society. I was one of two people of colour there, in an international university with students from around the globe. Maybe I could have done something about it. But I was a fresher in a foreign land – fast losing my sense of self, with no idea of how to be, how to function. And those in charge didn’t notice the lack of inclusivity or brushed it off as someone else’s inconvenience.

 

And yet, the Society added a bit of rainbow to my otherwise greying life. It showed me that hey, queer people exist. In hordes. All kinds of queer people. All of L, G, B, T and more. And they can live openly. That made all the difference. So, I emptied my secret onto this page of an LGBT+ Indian blog, and came out to every single person I knew. It was only the beginning.

 

To this day, I watch young queer students of colour arrive in the country and thank white audiences for accepting them. They talk emotionally about how they are persecuted back home and here, they are not. And the white people in the audience applaud themselves for being welcoming, for saving queer people of colour automatically as they set foot on their soil. Meanwhile, queer people of colour are refused entry to queer clubs for not looking “queer enough”. Queer asylum seekers humiliate themselves to prove their queerness to the Home Office. And people of colour – queer or not – waste away in detention centres. As I’m writing this, there are detainees starving themselves to be treated like humans.

I too – in that first year – saw the rainbow flag unfurl atop my university and believed myself saved. If there was something that did save me that year, it was meeting Lubna. That’s another story for another time.

 

When Tripura made headlines!

Rarely has this remote state in the hilly North east was successful in making the news, which could be one of the significant reasons of why most Indians aren’t even aware of its existence. But 2018 is unlike all previous years, when the genesis of a new government made the state familiar to a lot more people than previously known.

The events that took place on February 18th 2018 changed the only consistent identity of this state- by removing the bastion of the Left winged or more precisely the CPI. After 25 years of a single party ruling, many expected the similar results of 2013 to remain. Reactions varies on all sides of the spectrum and the probability of the future is being perceived in many variations.

However, avoiding any over exaggerated premonitions, would be best as of now. Being a state where infrastructure is still developing and private businesses stand skeptical about landing themselves there, swift change needs to be the command for faster progress. Unemployment for the youth still remains a titanic challenge that needs to go down as well. These are many other urgent issues that the government would require to face. The changes that CPI was unable to make for more than two decades, people are now hoping will be a reality under BJP leadership.
On March 3rd 2018, CPI was compelled to face the facts and concede to the BJP’s win. Together with Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, BJP has managed to secure majority wins by having a vote share of 50.5% compared to the 42.80% vote share of CPI.

I am more than certain that the people of the third smallest state in India will be able to get along with this change and will welcome the BJP and its promise to change the perils of this state in terms of jobs and infrastructure.   

This women’s Day, let Naaz’s story be a lesson to you that you will learn to cherish and love yourself even if no one else does.

Here we bring for you another beautiful animated short film from our Kitty- NAAZ

This short film by Vidushi Yadav follows the story of a woman named Naaz. It is a heart wrenching depiction of how women who are denied love and affection in their childhood grow up to become insecure and start loathing themselves. We only accept the love we think we deserve . This film beautifully picturises Naaz’s complex character, who struggles through a troubled childhood in a family that consists of her depressed mother and an alcoholic father. Throughout her life, Naaz craves for love but she never gets it. She grows up to believe that she is unworthy of love and willingly gives herself to whoever shows an ounce of affection or care for her. In order to protect herself from the harsh realities of the world, she carves out a wall around herself. Tired of her insecurities , she gives up on love. But then , a man comes into her life. He promises to give her the love she has been desperately seeking all her life. But she is so scared of being deceived, so unsure of her worth, that she prefers to stay locked up in her own boundaries rather than take a chance at life. She loses against her inner demons and lets go of the love she craved so much for.

So many women can identify with Naaz’s story. There are a lot of women who go on living a loveless life because they don’t think believe they deserve more than that. A woman will give you everything in return for a little love and affection. The most prominent force in a woman’s life is the desire to be cherished for what she is. When her need for affection is neglected, she starts doubting her worth. And such women often miss out on great opportunities of a better life because they are too afraid to take the leap of faith. Because they have believed in their fears for so long, that they fail to recognise a silver lining in the grey clouds.

This women’s Day, let Naaz’s story be a lesson to you that you will learn to cherish and love yourself even if no one else does. That you will not settle for anything less than what you deserve. That you will dare to hope, and have faith in yourself , no matter how hard life may get for you.

Celebrate feminity in whichever form it is manifested in our lives.

Happy women’s day to all our readers. It’s a day to celebrate womanhood in all its essence and glory. It’s not a day specifically for women, but for all of us to embrace and appreciate feminity in whichever form it is manifested in our lives.

Today there’s so much chaos and confusion surrounding the ideas of feminism. So many people, so many versions. Seldom, we come across thoughts that are as refreshingly put together as in this video by WildChild. This video will make you look at women’s day through an entirely different coloured lens.

All these people that are around you, are a part of your experiences. And experiences are what makes a person. Experiences shape our attitude towards life. Some of these people might teach you valuable lessons , some might show you the dark side of the world. Some might treat you unfairly, some might go on to become a part of your happiest memories. Some may give you life goals, some may inspire you to achieve more. But every one of these people is helping you gain an insight on life.

This video beautifully explains how a woman realises her true beauty, her through potentials through the plethora of different kinds of people she meets in her everyday life; that all the experiences she goes through , whether good or bad are vehicles taking her along the journey of self discovery. These small lessons and experiences that you gain in your daily life ultimately agglomerate over time to transform you into the woman you become- limitless, above all judgements, without any boundaries. You learn that you can overcome all your weaknesses, you just need to tap into your inner strength. That you can achieve anything if you try hard enough. You can be whatever you wanna be, you don’t have to be afraid of anything or anyone. You can rise above any hurdle that life throws at you; you just need to have confidence in yourself. Your life can be a failure or a success. It all depends in which direction you steer it. You realise that you are not defined by your face or your body. Those are temporary. Your soul is eternal. And true beauty lies in your soul that no one can ever take away from you. So this women’s day, let us all resolve to celebrate our uniqueness. Here’s to the limitlessness of womanhood!!

The Canadian PM did not only lose a great opportunity to strengthen ties with India but he missed out on warm Modi hugs too!!

The long awaited India tour of the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family came to an end this Saturday. Despite trying hard to the point of desperation, Trudeau’s visit could not make any positive impact on the Indians. The viral memes made on him managed to impress India more than the entire ‘Mimic the Native’ theme of the visit could.

Trudeau has been trolled relentlessly over social media for the weird choice of Indian attire during the course of his visit. The Trudeaus tried to strike a positive chord with the Indian people by dressing in traditional Indian attire but ended up looking more Indian than what Indians look like in weddings. The Trudeaus’ outright gaudy and flashy costumes displeased most Indians with some even considering it as an act of cultural appropriation. They even managed to upstage the Bollywood stars at the party they hosted for the Trudeau family. But this is not the first time that he has been in controversy for something like this. In a Toronto Gay Parade, he showed his support by wearing rainbow socks that had Eid Mubarak written on them ( Some Muslim countries are known to violently persecute gay people) to celebrate the month of Ramadan. His critics have stated that his over enthusiastic liberal attitude often misses to address the complexity of the issues. Something similar happened in his recent visit to India. Justin Trudeau’s over the top antics can be used to draw parallels with another fellow Canadian  Justin’s overhyped gig last year. Both failed to live upto the hype.

Trudeau wore Eid-themed socks to a pro-Pride church service.

On the top of that, Government of India left no stone unturned to snub the Canadian PM. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself receives the world dignitaries upon their arrival in India; but this time around, putting the protocol aside, a junior agricultural minister received the Trudeaus at the airport while PM Modi was busy campaigning in Nagaland. Our social media savvy  PM did not even post a welcome tweet for them until five days into the trip. It got even worse when the Trudeaus visited Agra . They were not received by the Chief Minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh or even by any junior minister, but by district officials.

So why did India display this rude attitude towards Canada?

India has often accused Canada of sheltering the Sikh Separatists rooting for the separation of Punjab from India and the subsequent formation of an independent Khalistan. The violent Khalistan Movement in the 1980’s wreaked havoc in Punjab. India managed to suppress the militancy. But after the Indian Army cleared the Golden Temple of militants , PM Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own Sikh bodyguards in 1984 leading to anti sikh riots in which thousands of Sikhs were killed across the country. The next year the militants had blown up an Air India plane flying from Canada to Mumbai.

Even though a minority group in Canada, Sikhs form a voting block for Trudeau’s Liberal Party. In fact , the sikh vote bank matters so much to the party that he even attended a Khalsa Day parade organised by a radical  Gurudwara in Toronto. Some Gurudwaras in Canada have barred the entry of Indian diplomats .Trudeau publicly boasts of having more sikh ministers than Modi. All four of his Indian origin ministers are sikh who have been accused of having sympathies with Canadian sikh extremists .

Moreover, Trudeau’s attendance at the Canada-India Business Summit was overshadowed by reports that the Canadian High Commission in India had issued an invitation to the businessman Jaspal  Atwal who has been convicted of trying to assassinate a politician in 1980s.

Canada maintains that it cannot curtail the freedom of expression of its sikh citizens whereas New Delhi maintains the stance that while Canadian citizens do have a right to support Khalistan or any group they identify with, the Canadian ministers do have a choice when it comes to associating with them. India demands that Trudeau publicly distance himself from the supporters of the secessionists. The issue had not been resolved till the visit as Canada refused to comply. Hence, the royal snub meted out to the Canadian contingent.

 

The effects of the visit on Canada-India relations:-

As for the outcomes of the visit, India-Canada relations remain frozen in time as Canada has little to offer in terms of assisting India with objectives including China, Pakistan, maritime security in Indian Ocean and in the subcontinent. Canada is reluctant to engage in such issues. Then there are trust issues regarding the Khalistan secessionist groups. India is afraid they might re-instigate Sikh separatism in the country and cannot rely on Canada for it’s prevention.

 

Trudeau’s over the top enthusiasm and sparkly costumes have failed to mask the epic fail that his India visit has been, drawing flak from all over the world. Moreover, Trudeau could not use this opportunity to bring content or continuity into bilateral relations with India. However the final joint statement does indicate that both countries are keen to expand strategic co-operation on several issues like Bilateral Foreign Investment  Promotion , economic partnership, electricity and renewable energy efficiency. Efforts will continue on the civil nuclear front.

Trudeau has said in his statement that Canada supports “One United India” and has been all praises about India’s diversity and Pluralism. This is definitely not going to go down well will the Sikhs back in Canada. On the other hand, the revelation about Canada’s invitation to Jaspal Atwal has proved the linkage between Canadian ministry and the sikh extremist groups. Trudeau and his Canadian contingent’s actions have been suggestive of heir ulterior motif of securing their sikh vote bank through the visit. He has been trying too hard to keep everyone happy. Mr.Trudeau wants to appease his sikh vote bank and India at the same time. He can’t have both. And this time, his visit has been nothing but a messy failure as he has managed to displease  both the Canadian sikh community and India . In an attempt to appease the two opposing parties, he has lost the confidence of both. His image has deteriorated back home as well as internationally. The Canadian PM did not only lose a great opportunity to strengthen ties with India but he missed out on warm Modi hugs too!!

 

Meanwhile, India’s stance on the issue is to be appreciated. India sent out a strong message that it will not be welcoming those who promote secession. It will definitely mount pressure on Canada to stop sheltering the Sikh extremists if Canada hopes on fruitful bilateral relations with India.

Right In, Left Out in Tripura

The results of the Tripura Assembly polls conducted on 18th Feb were released on Sunday and BJP –IPFT alliance has emerged as the winner with a clear majority of 43 out of 60 seats. BJP won 35 seats and IPFT won 8 out of 9 seats that it contested. BJP backed by the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura handed a crushing defeat to the Manik Sarkar led Left front CPM, who had been ruling over the state for 25 years. BJP rose from a non-entity party to chief opposition party in Tripura in the last four years. With Tripura under its wing, BJP will now rule over six of the seven north eastern states with the exception of Mizoram. The north east which was mostly cut off from the mainland politics until now, has been taken over by the Saffron wave that prevails over the country with the exception of very few states.

Let us have a look at the factors that actually led to the historic victory of BJP in Tripura:-

The people of Tripura voted for CPM in elections after elections for 25 years and still could not see any development or scope of improvement in the conditions of the poor. Despite being in power for such a long time, the Left has not been successful in uplifting the tribal population of the state. Basic facilities still elude a large chunk of the tribal population. They are still poor and many families cannot send their children to school. Drinking water continues to be an issue as tribals still drink water from rivulets. Also, the unemployment rate in the state is one of the highest in the country. Local CPM leaders were accused of providing the benefits of government schemes to their own people only. So basically, the people of Tripura gave up on the Left and were looking for a better option to dislodge the state government. All these years, there was no such strong opposition option available to them apart from Congress. With the extensive BJP-RSS campaigning in the state for the last two years, BJP was able to create a vote base for itself as the population turned in its favour. A lot of Congress supporters too converted to BJP. The Bengali majority of the state was a loyal vote block for the Left but this time, they too got lured into BJP’s call for change.

ROSE VALLEY CHIT FUND SCAM:-

Kolkata company Rose Valley Hotels and Entertainments Limited has been accused of running a scam and cheating investors of more than Rs.17000 crores across the eastern states of Assam, Tripura, West Bengal and Bihar. It is one of the biggest chit fund scams of India. A large number of poor people in Tripura who were among the investors, lost their money in the fraud. BJP used the Rose Valley scam issue to not only intimidate the Left but also gained the confidence of the people by promising them thorough investigation of the scam and justice for the victims on coming to power in the state. BJP also promised to work out a mechanism to compensate the 14 lakh people cheated by the Rose Valley company. In the past two years, BJP has managed to bring out a lot of big names associated with the Manik Sarkar government who were involved in the scam with the help of CBI.

Unemployment in Tripura is a major issue of concern. The state has nearly 7 lakh unemployed youth. The Bangladeshi immigrants managed to infiltrate into the state and somehow procure all necessary documents, taking up the few employment opportunities that are available while the youth of Tripura continue to suffer. The Manik Sarkar government has been suspected of encouraging the Bangladeshi infiltration. With BJP coming to power, the people are hopeful of generation of more employment opportunities and overall development of the state.

The shifting of the loyalties of the tribal and backward class voters (considered the vote bank of CPM) towards BJP turned the tide in its favour. BJP’s masterstroke was the striking of an alliance with the regional party IPFT, an agenda it has followed in all the north eastern states. The common goal of the alliance was the formation of a government with representatives from centre, state and the indigenous community for better addressal of the tribal issues. This move by BJP helped it procure the votes of even those areas which were not aware of the party owing to their trust and loyalties to IPFT.

The Seventh Pay Commission has not been implemented in Tripura yet. State government employees continue to draw salaries on the basis of the Fourth Pay Commission. BJP has promised to implement the Seventh Pay Commission which would lead to an approximate doubling of salaries of the government officials. A majority of the 2.5 lakh government employees of the state voted in favour of BJP.

While large parts of rural Tripura are yet to be provided with electric supplies, the state continues to supply electricity to Bangladesh. This issue is a major source of discontentment among the people.

Post-election Scenario in Tripura:-

Tripura State BJP president Biplab Kumar Deb and BJP general secretary Ram Madhav

After the BJP victory in Tripura, Lenin statues were brought down by the BJP workers. The Left has accused the BJP of violence against its cadres. Currently, section 144 has been implemented in the state. The violent acts have drawn criticism across the country after which BJP issued a warning that any party worker who was found to be involved in such activities would be arrested and expelled from the party. While Biplab Deb, the state president of BJP in Tripura is being considered for the post of the Chief Minister, IPFT has raised demands for a tribal CM for the state and proportionate representation at respectable positions in the ministry. The IPFT continues to stand firm regarding its demand for a separate state for the tribals . It would be interesting to see how BJP manages to handle the sensitive issue.