RELIGIOUS SYMBOLISM AND DIVIDE IN INDIA

India is a representative democracy. The people of this country together cannot be at a single place at a single time to take part in the decisions that affect us. Therefore, we elect people who would represent us  and engage in policy making on our behalf. As active participants of this nation, we trust these people and support them.

The atmosphere in the Parliament, where our elected representatives ensconce themselves, has to have vibes of a healthy competition. This particular atmosphere should be impartial in its treatment of representatives from different communities.

A rewind into some years, the hyper-fanatic religious chants of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and ‘Vande Matram’ were a rallying call on the streets of India by the uncompromising zealots. Although Hindutva still remains the ideological bedrock supporting the BJP’s existence as a national party,  these rallies were devoid of the people from the mainstream political party. Rather, the fundamentalist stance were undertaken by Bajrang Dal, one of the most radical and extremist fringes of Bharatiya Janata Party.

The principle of secularism enshrined in our Constitution is emblematic of equal respect to all religions. However, the past few years have been an eye-opener and sent us in a state of shock. This bigotry has penetrated the walls of the Parliament , and religion once again becomes the ingredient of divisive politics.

On June 18, 2019, many ministers went for the swearing-in ceremony in the Lok Sabha . Asaduddn Owaisi was re-elected to the Lok Sabha for a fourth consecutive term from the Hyderabad seat.  We see the sway of majoritarianism when he was interrupted with derisive comments and heckled with chants of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and ‘Vande Matram’. In response to the age-old, muscular and divisive Hindutva which weighed heavy in the Parliament, president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) concluded his speech with – “Jai Bheem, Jai Meem, Takbeer Allahu Akbar, Jai Hind.”

The BJP is a right-wing political party which stresses on the need for political Hindu resurgence through any means possible. It wrongly constructs an imaginary notion of India, by trying to change the discourse on secularism and exploit religion and caste-based differences for electoral gain.

 The ideology of Hindutva can only survive by homogenizing ideas, history, culture, gods and in this bid, the entire nation. This fascist project, in its process to create a Hindu rashtra, also reins in the multitude and diversity of ideas, cultures, faith and gods within the Hindus.

India is not, and will never be a single, homogenized rashtra. Nor can any particular religion/community predominate its plural landscape. It shall remain a peaceful coexistence of various languages, ideas, sects, religions and schools of thought.

To equate the ideology of Hindutva with the mainstream politics and play the religion card, only delineates how the fundamentalist approach is trying to foment discord and seclusion amongst people. A Muslim representative in this secular nation-state is as much deserving of the honor and respect as a Hindu. But there is no defence for the inclusive and plural ethos India stands for. Rather, democracy in the Narendra Modi government is under attack and facing a political authorization. The chants are symbolic of the majoritarian bullying and the strategic political message from them to the minorities. It is an overt use of religious symbolism that easily legitimizes hate and violence, and a complete disregard of the secular norms that India stands for. Because the BJP thinks itself as the sole custodian of national pride and security, anyone who speaks up for the Muslims, or against the violence in Kashmir, is tagged with the epithet “anti-national”.

The fact that India is wrongly imagined as mono-religious, mono-cultural and mono-lingual becomes the root cause of the polarized environment and the 

emergence of a country divided by hate. A nation-state’s unstable and weakening condition is visible when regionalism and religious oppression becomes rampant.

The constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion seems to be set only in theory as the young generation is blindly imbibing the idea of bigotry and hatred ; thus creating violent, irrational and de-individualised participants. The concept of India is not reducible to a single faith. The complete polarization based on the politics of religion enables the radical elements to marginalize minorities.

India has a religious problem, and  as far as the BJP retains political power, the sectarian line-up of the political conflict is to dominate the political landscape of India.    

France To Give 7 Lakh Euros For Railway Station Development In India

In a recent agreement with the French National Railways SNCF, French Development Agency AFD will give a grant of 7 lakh euros for the world-class infrastructural development of Indian railway stations.

The tripartite agreement (A tri-party agreement is a business deal between three separate parties. In the mortgage industry, a tri-party or tripartite agreement often takes place during the construction phase of a new home or condominium complex, to secure so-called bridge loans for the construction itself. In such cases, the loan contract involves the buyer, the lender, and the builder.) between the “three parties” are namely:

French National Railways SNCF: The Société nationale des Chemins de fer français is France’s national state-owned railway company. Founded in 1938.

French Development Agency:) The Agence Française de Développement (AFD) funds, supports and accelerates the transitions to a fairer and more sustainable world. Focusing on climate, biodiversity, peace, education, urban development, health and governance, our teams carry out more than 4,000 projects in France’s overseas departments and territories and other 115 countries. In this way, we contribute to the commitment of France and French people to support the sustainable development goals

IRSDC: Indian Railway Station Development Corporation (Presently the authorized share capital of Indian Railway Station Development Corporation is Rs. 250 crores and the paid- up share capital is Rs. 51.60 crores.)

On Twitter, Ziegler said, “Just after the signing ceremony of an Indo-French agreement to support India’s modernisation of railways stations, @JBLemoyne (Lemoyne) met Shri @PiyushGoyal (Piyush Goyal) to discuss about the future of this cooperation! (sic)”

 

“Under this agreement, AFD, has agreed to provide in-kind grant financing up to 7,00,000 Euros, through SNCF-Hubs and Connexions as a Technical Partner to IRSDC to support capacity building for the Railway Station Development Program in India,” said a statement released by the Indian Railways.

The agreement was signed under the presence of:

  • The Minister of State for Railways, Suresh Angadi
  • Minister of State for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, Jean Baptiste Lemyone
  • Ambassador of France in India, Alexandre Ziegler and other senior officers of the French authorities and Indian Railways.

The ultimate aim of this agreement is to transform the current condition of Railway stations throughout the country to Airport like infrastructure. Stations which have been considered to have a makeover at first are: Chandigarh, Anand Vihar, Baiyyappanahalli, Surat, Shivaji Nagar, Sabarmati, Kanpur, Kanpur, Bijwasa, Sabarmati, Gwalior, Nagpur, Amritsar, Thakurli, Gandhinagar.

According to this financial years’ statement, Indian Railways plans to redevelop around 70+ stations throughout the country.

This will impose no financial liability on IRSDC or Indian Railways, the statement said.

 

“India and France have a strong and long standing prosperous partnership in the railway sector. French Railways (SNCF) in the past has been associated with Indian Railways in conducting speed upgradation study for Delhi-Chandigarh section and station development of Ludhiana and Ambala stations,” Angadi said.

 

“I am sure that this effort will go a long way in further strengthening Indo-French cooperation and will help Indian Railways in positioning its stations to world class standards,” he added.

 

However, this huge step of Infrastructural development brings in question the current scenario of the country and poverty at a glance.

 

With Winter Came the Reunions!!

Spoilers are here!

The episode 1 of Season 8 premiered on 14th April in the US and 15th April in India.

The episode, named Winter fell, begins with the same old tune but new wooden miniatures where the pieces roll over white & blue from brown, bringing in winter. Elaborate titles in Winterfell castle make way for the upcoming war in the region around the castle.
This leads to the citadel and then kings Landings, where the first time the iron throne takes form.But on to the drama from the season premiere itself.

There were reunions, introductions, dragons, Swords and a little bit of cheese.

The journey to conclusion kicks off with a boy running and making way through the crowd, Arya style from season 1 episode 1, in Winterfell to get a glimpse of the Unsullied and Dothraki entering Winterfell for the first time.
Arya makes way for the boy, as Jon aka Aegon enters with Queen Khaleesi & her 2 dragons by his side.
Renuion of the Starks is hurried through with Bran informing about the wall being broken and Night king riding the dragon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3YjXrEbCEs

Flattery doesn’t get you anywhere in the North. Sansa greets Danerys with Ned Stark’s words “Winterfell is yours, your Grace” welcome to King Robert Baratheon back in season one.
Sansa, like all of the other Northern Lords and Lady Mormont, is sceptical of Daenerys and displeased with Jon’s decision to bend the knee and give up his title as King in the North.
The episode makes way clearly to pitch the Stark and Targaryen women against each other, with mistrust on both sides and Dany being smart senses that.

Sansa is probably the new Cersei in Westeros.

Sansa is reunited with Tyrion, they speak about Cersei sending her army to help their cause and she is shocked that he actually believes that his sister would do that.
Perhaps Sansa’s below the belt “I used to think you were the cleverest man alive” comment will make him question himself. Sansa is dead right, we know that as Cersei has absolutely no intention of doing such a thing, Sansa also calls into question whether Jon was swayed by his love of Daenerys in his decision to bend the knee. She has learned a lot from the masters of manipulation and deception, Little finger.

Jorah brings Daenerys to meet Sam, the man who cured him of his greyscale

Image result for Daenerys to meet Sam

During the episode, Daenerys meets Sam and what started out as a lovely first meeting turns bitter when he learns that she executed both his father and brother as they refused to bend the knee to her.
He later questions Jon on whether he would’ve shown them mercy had it been his decision. He also reminds Jon that he gave up his crown to save his people, but would she do the same? Doubtful.
Clearly Bending the knee is not getting Mother of Dragons any respect.

Sweetest reunion of the episode, Arya and Jon hug and compare swords – he is moved to see she still has the Needle, he gave her.

Image result for Arya and Jon hug

There is a touching moment between the siblings. Jon asks her to help with Sansa and Daenerys, but Arya has her loyalties with the starks. She reiterates that the Starks loyalties lie with the Starks and Jon is one too. Laying base to make Jon question his sides when the right time comes.
Arya is reunited with key figures from her past with Arya coming face to face with The Hound and Gendry again. She has a special weapon request from Gendry too.

The reunions were really well done; there was warmth, emotion, humour, and Surprise
For me the mother of all reunions was: Bran meets Jaime at the episode’s close, the old friend he had been waiting for. Because it all began with them in season 1 episode 1,
when Jaime pushed Bran from the tower when he had seen something he should have not. Possibly an indication that Bran will see things and we did not read it back then.

Image result for Bran meets Jaime

Jon and Daenerys go on a dragon date. It felt a bit cheesy to have a big romantic kiss by a waterfall thrown in the mix. The protective looks from her dragons was also a bit of an odd. It was refreshing to see Jon riding Rhaegar, especially considering his Targaryen bloodline, probably the only thing that the scene established in the minds of the viewer and Tyrion & Varys.

“Never been a Bastard… But the true heir to the Iron Throne”
Words which made me teary-eyed in season 7 are uttered again.. by Sam.
Sam, at the directions of Bran, tells Jon the truth about him being the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, and that his real name is Aegon. Jon is left confused, and in true Jon Snow style, he seeks refuge in Ned Stark’s Honor.
The scene focuses on Jon, but I think it could have been better executed.

White Walkers make conquer their first house.
A message from the dead brings us back to the horrors that are coming when Tormund, Beric and co. find the young Lord Umber left for them with body parts of his men placed around him in that familiar shape the Night King has used before.

Image result for Lord Umber

Another warning sign ?? and another sword to our fancies. The humour about Tormund’s blue eyes makes the horror later further scary.

Reunions in North but Introductions in the South
King’s Landing Cersei has been busy.
She meets the captain of the Golden Company, an army of sellswords founded by Ser Aegor Rivers, a ‘legitimised bastard’ of King Aegon IV Targaryen, who was brought to her by Euron Greyjoy.
The Lannister Queen is left annoyed by not receiving elephants in return of the gold. Does she think elephants are her reply to Dany’s Dragons?? Errr I don’t think so.

Image result for cersei and euron

She gives in to the private meeting request of Euron after her classic Cersei style banter: ” You buy a whore… A queen is earned”. Maybe she is too desperate to win and scared that Euron might turn against her if she did not give in to his demands. The scene ends with her drinking again teary-eyed … Miscarriage, as expected by fan theories, has already happened ??
The Queen has sent Bronn to kill Tyrion, with Qyburn handing him a crossbow to do it with as revenge for killing their father, Tywin with one.Finally maybe Bronn rise to honour than gold.

Theon and his remaining Iron Island brothers sneak aboard the ships and rescue Yara. Yara goes back home, but Theon heads North to Winterfell. Probably the words from Jon from last season have left a lasting impact.

Image result for theon and yara

It was a good episode with a couple of great scenes, but I had hoped that all six episodes to be like the Winds of Winter or Rains of Castermere – Kinds.
The episode establishes the season neatly making way for the greatest battle of Westeros.
Till then I take leave with finally Winter & Warmth in Westeros.

Promo of second episode –

 

Section 377- “I Am What I Am. Take Me as I AM

The world had to endure highly atrocious forms of evil in the past that obstructed global progress of human civilization. From the church’s assault on personal freedom in Spain during the Middle Ages to the ghastly practice of apartheid in Africa; Human conscience has failed to protect the rights of their own neighbours. But then, with modernization, came progress which swept the world with belief systems of racial justice, feminism and tolerance of differences.

India’s ‘miniscule minority’ today finally have a reason to feel a sense of pride to have been blessed with the citizenship of a true democracy.

The LGBTQ community of India fought a herculean battle to secure their dignity among the rest. There was a major win in the past as well, however it wasn’t long-lived. But the sense of rage and betrayal from the judiciary 4 years ago, helped create more allies that joined their voices together with the victims, condemning the unexpected and horrendous judgment from the Supreme Court in 2013.

The verdict dictated by the religious right dubbed a significant population of the country devoid of fundamental rights for the way they are. If that wasn’t enough, the Supreme Court of India called the LGBTQ community as a ‘miniscule minority’ and believed that was a sufficient and justified excuse to keep them from experiencing full citizenship of the country where they were born.

Four years later, the same institution atoned for its grave inadequacy to protect the rights of all Indians. The Apex Court accepted the undeniable fact that civil liberties and personal freedom shouldn’t be at the mercy of the whims of the majority. Religious and social prejudices cannot overshadow the lives of law abiding tax-payers who do nothing to infringe upon the rights of other individuals.

Members and allies showered their support over social media and corporate giants like Facebook, Google, etc joined in to celebrate the mammoth victory in India. Top celebrities too congratulated the community and thanked the Supreme Court for rescuing one of the most oppressed group of people from further bigotry.

A law that has served more as an instrument of harassment than punishment, though the latter was not rare, should have been removed years ago. A baggage of the colonial imperial past, which the English themselves removed from their books more than 4 decades ago, couldn’t leave the law of the land. There have been several people from the community who were persecuted under this piece of Indian penal code. Majority of those were persecuted by the rampant homophobic prejudice. The scars marked by section 377 can still be seen in the testimonies of several members of the community.

Professors sacked and forced to take their own lives, children thrown out of their homes and getting fired from workplaces are some of the examples of the existence of this law.

It’s a tragic reality that majority of those who believe in the heritage of India cannot differentiate between a culture where every community had a place of acceptance from Victorian morality of the western world. But that’s what education is for.

As of now, the faith of so many people in the law and the keepers of the law have grown overwhelmingly and even though it will never be able to rectify the wrongs done by the society, it can always set an example for the future keeping the Indian Constitution as the cornerstone.

Section 377- A Christian perspective

Since the mid-1950s, social issues have a crucial part in determining the number of people in pews on Sunday mornings. Many denominations in the United States, tried to hold back on the progress of issues such as allowing African-Americans to be accepted as leaders or even as members within the congregation, one example being the Church of the Latter Day Saints. But today, segregated churches are a rare phenomenon.

Similar to this, acceptance of people from the LGBTQ community is something that many denominations are struggling with today. Many are splitting from their actual groups in order to protest or support this idea.

The United Methodist Church, USA which tends to be more on the moderate side than on any extremes has voices speaking for and against gay marriage. The denomination being the largest of the ‘Mainline Protestant’ group of church that tend to be more accepting of differences compared to the evangelical and charismatic groups of churches, will hopefully make a decision on this highly divisive issue very soon. Other churches such as the United Church of Christ, Metropolitan Community Churches, the Episcopal Church, etc. have already been accepting LGBTQ people as leaders in the church as well as bless their marriages.

But that is more about the present groups of people that have their own perspective on scripture and believe their interpretation to be more accurate compared to others. Should people who are more scriptural support the idea of two men or two women marry each other?

Taking the six primary clobber passages into consideration, perhaps it could be said that the Bible sees same sex behaviour in conflict with religion. Study of scriptures in Koine Greek and Hebrew however, seems to emancipate these clobber passages from being homophobic in anyway. That is something not many conservatives are comfortable with as it contradicts their understanding of their faith.

That upon a deeper study of the scripture would give a picture of the faith that contradicts the character of Jesus himself.

A rebel, who challenged the religious authorities for their hypocrisy, embraced the outcasts, had murderers as his disciples and forgave those who went against their religious ethics from being killed by a mob of people.

That is Jesus, who personally was completely silent on the issue of homosexuality but had a lot to say against religious leaders who in their hatred and disgust of other for not behaving like themselves, were blinded to their own arrogance.

Reading Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:24-30 in English would make you see homosexual acts as a sin and reading 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34 would make you feel that Women should never exercise authority over a man but submit to his authority. Which are why, for the fear of being called archaic, many evangelical churches in India now ignores the sexism in the Bible while promoting the homophobia that they perceive in the scriptures.

It’s a sad scenario where most of the followers of Jesus can’t stand up for people who are persecuted wrongly but instead add fuel to the fire for their entertainment.

I personally feel no reason as to why one cannot be devoted to his faith as well as stand up for people who are in need. I will not be condemning the fringe groups of the Indian Christians that stood for a law that criminalizes the lives of up to 50 million people, as they too have a right to speak their opinion.

However, when those opinions are taken seriously while making laws that govern the lives of people in a country, an obligation arises to speak against them.

Passages from the scripture point mainly towards a deep sense of sacrificial love for one another instead of persecuting people who might not similar to the rest. One of them is as follows:

 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

  • Matthew 22:35-40

And what kind of love would one be promoting when they cannot see their neighbours as human beings but criminals and lesser human beings for being in existence?

Being gay and Christian isn’t contradictory, Loving Jesus but failing to love all people however is.

We Live in Rape Culture

“8 MEN GANGRAPED A GOAT”, “A WHOLE BUNCH OF SCHOOL FACULTY INCLUDING SOME STUDENTS RAPED A GIRL IN SCHOOL”, “A RELIGIOUS DIVERSION BOUGHT THE RAPE VICTIM INTO A TEMPLE WHERE SHE WAS RAPED FOR 15 DAYS”….and so on.

Where are we? Does any of this make sense when you hear it like this? The agony, the rage and the intolerance that people felt while a few movements in our country put us into grief for not being able to make our country worth living but did anybody think of these? Where are they? The leaders, the representatives, the beggars whom we have given control over us, is there anyone around whom we can look upon with hope?
Definitely, there must be something wrong with our upbringing that brought us into such deep girth of hatred that we now, hate the fact that we were born human to show some humanity.

We use a large percentage of brain to prosper among the billions of lives that exist cordially with us. The expectation to behold our race prominent among others is what we should actually focus ourselves upon. But what do we focus on? Raping a girl who has not even started to realize that the world which she is a part of, is nothing more than a cage with hungry wolves who just want to lick some skin and hear some moans out of you as they grapple your flesh. If it would have been something to laugh upon, we could have depicted this as a graph of which age group experiences what amount of such threat. And trust me, talking with the science background, the graph would be a straight line parallel to x axis which infinite percentage of risk and is common for all age groups.
Nobody is safe.
Articles here and there focus on women because they’re the ones being molested and fingered upon the self-respect very often and very easily. But here, I wouldn’t exclude the males as well. They feel similar threats but talking of truth, the percentage is strictly negligible.

The basic format of articles like this bound me to write in a way that the ending paragraph suggests something that could be considered as a help for implementation. But what am I supposed to write when it is about your ethics? What do I suggest to make you understand that your wish to touch someone else is more heinous than my wish to personally assault such people! Is there any way that I could provoke those monsters to realize that the girl they left with no life in her, was nothing more than a child who saw an uncle, a brother and a guardian in them. They not only tore apart her clothes but didn’t even consider fragmenting her skin. Going deeper into her became more important for them so as they felt manly after it. Being culprit to my own soul, I consider myself not worthy enough to pay condolence to the soul whose peace can never be achieved, not even if the guilty are hanged.

We can only talk of dreams. The dream that every girl, if you see naked, reminds you more of a human than a man who wishes to grab her. The dream that every single girl who passes your road in the midnight with whatsoever clothes, reminds you to be citizen you pledged to be and to not become the dog who simply tries to bite each and every part of the flesh that’s visible. The dream is to leave a girl back to her home if she finds difficulty on those days of her month rather than you deciding to uncover her body so you could satisfy your greed to touch something meaningless. These are dreams that shall now, considering what we are growing in, be given as chapters from the very primary education. As for now, education and the scream to be polite seems the only way to protect a few girls who are, till now, free from the holy rape mark.

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.

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.

 

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.