By: Keyur Seta
The Republic Day marks the celebration of the Constitution of India. The Constitution grants equal rights to each and every citizen of the country. Ironically, on the very day, when the country was celebrating its constitutional rights, a group of women were not only meted out unconstitutional treatment but were also treated like criminals, when all they wanted was to enter a temple.
Women weren’t allowed anywhere inside the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra until 2011 when a number of rationalists like the Late Narendra Dabholkar made valiant efforts and protests. However, they still haven’t been granted access to the core shrine till today. Only men are allowed to enter the shrine and as women are considered ‘impure’.
Circa January 2016. A group of few hundred women, led by Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, decide to challenge regressive sexist practices by trying to enter the inner sanctorum. What happened was utterly shameful. They were forcefully stopped and, at times, beaten by the police. A large group of women from a so-called Hindu organizations also turned up to stop them. The protestors were not even allowed anywhere near the vicinity of the temple. In fact, they were stopped 70 kilometers away!
The behavior of fringe elements is expected because this is what they are actually. But one doesn't expect our authorities to be on the side of those indulging in unconstitutional and unlawful activities. Mind you, there is no law that prohibits women or any human being from entering any place of worship.
Therefore, although it was quite heartening to see Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis visiting the site, it was disappointing that he only gave assurances and didn’t do anything to open the gates for women. As mentioned above, no law supports this practice. So, where is the issue? Why didn’t he use the police force in protecting the women from the misogynistic bigots who aren’t letting them enter?
But thankfully, these women haven’t given up, which has ensured that the movement is spreading slowly but steadily. Now, groups of women have also started protesting outside Sabarimala Temple and Mumbai’s Haji Ali Dargah. For those who aren’t aware, women aren’t allowed inside the inner sanctorums at these two places too.
The fact that women have united across religious lines is a strong message to the thekedars of religion. These evil forces should be told that no religious book has ever spoken about stopping women from entering any place of worship and that no God has appointed them as thekedars of any religion. But in case such theories are found in some ‘religious’ books, they should still be discarded. India follows the Constitution, not any regressive ‘religious’ book.
But for the movement to succeed, it is absolutely vital for people across gender, religious and class lines to extend support. This has to become something as big as the 2011 Anna Hazare Movement. However, practically speaking, for a majority of us, including me, it is next to impossible to physically be present at the sites of protest due to our work commitments.
But this is where the power of blogging and social media comes into place. In today’s day and age, governments and authorities have become aware about the voices on the internet. Message them, tag them, email them and use various other options on the internet, but make sure you put across your message. Use the hashtag #RightToPray
The issue is not just limited to these few places of worship. It’s a fight against patriarchy and sexism in the name of religion, which have ruled our society for thousands of years. This is a major opportunity to kick such ideas and kick them hard. Don’t let the movement go wasted. It’s 2016, for God’s sake!
The flag scene in director Raja Krishna Menon and actor Akshay Kumar's Airlift is having a profoundly heartwarming effect on the audience. It is a non-verbal sequence that speaks more than a thousand years. Here is a poem based on the scene on the occasion of India's Republic Day.
Shaktidaai Drishya (title)
By: Keyur Seta
Ummeed na thi manzil paane ki,
Na thi taakat kadam badhane ki,
Namumkin tha shikhar tak pohochna,
Ab toh naseeb ko hi tha kosna,
Khada tha main thaka hua,
Baadhaaon ke saamne hara hua,
Aanthon dishaon se jhele vaar,
Ab tha kewal ant ka intezar,
Par hawa ne ekaek rukh badla,
Shakti ka swar hriday se nikla,
Durbalta ke baadal hue adrishya,
Aisa tha woh shaktidaai drishya,
Kadmo mein nayi jaan aai thi,
Ab toh manzil door nahin thi,
Veerta ki hai woh behti Ganga,
Saadhaaran nahin apna tiranga
In India, the word ‘job’ is generally referred to as ‘service’. But practically speaking, there is a vast difference between the two. Doing a job means carrying the work assigned to you. It doesn’t necessarily include any emotions.
But when we say a person is engaged in a service, it means he is serving someone. The act of serving is born out of compassion and isn’t limited to the material benefit one derives after its completion.
A one bus conductor named Sopan Bhagwan Javane in Mirajgaon, Maharashtra has taken the meaning of ‘serving’ to another level altogether, all by himself.
Working on an MSRTC bus, he takes care of his passengers in a way they could have never imagined from a bus conductor. He indirectly also cheers them up and provides a profound heartwarming feeling. Javane, in all sense, is an unsung hero of India.
Watch him and his special antics in the documentary below titled Ekla Chalo Re, conceived, written and directed by Swapnil Rajshekhar:-
By: Keyur Seta
“This is utterly shameful,” said Ashok with a disgusted look on his face. The 55-year-old bank employee was sitting with his gang of like-minded friends at their usual hangout place at Shivaji Park. Located in the Dadar locality of Mumbai, the place is thronged by people of all ages.
While teenagers and the ones in the 20s are either seen playing some sport or jogging, the elderly ones like Ashok and company usually, after a leisurely walk, gather around at their habitual spot to discuss and debate on various topics, mostly cricket or politics.
Today was the turn of politics. The reason for Ashok’s anger was a statement by an MLA from the opposition party in Uttar Pradesh. The state elections were due and the wily politician smartly played the caste card to woo voters belonging to his ‘caste’. Even in 2015, vote bank politics, especially with regards to religion and caste, was still prevalent in India.
“There are already various forces that are dividing the country on the basis of religion,” continued Ashok, “If this wasn’t enough, morons like him are stooping even lower by using something as shameful as casteism, even in 2015. How further backwards are we going? Only God knows when our late freedom fighters’ dream of a united India would come true.”
Normally, the gang would debate and, at times, argue like panelists on a news debate show. Over the last few years, people, who generally hated politics, have strong political opinions, so much so that any disagreement makes them aggressive. But as far as Ashok and gang are concerned, their debates or arguments always automatically ended with the rise of darkness as all disperse to their respective homes.
But today, that was not the case. The statement by the MLA found no takers. Agreeing with him would mean defending the indefensible. So, this time, each went to his respective home in a calm state. But Ashok was not only calm but also excited for what he had planned before dinner.
Swati, his 25-year-old daughter, was of marriageable age, he thought. Like every parent, he wanted her to have a life-partner, who would shower her with happiness and care. Ashok’s excitement knew no bounds as he braced himself to prepare a matrimonial advertisement for her. It took him 40 years back in time. The feeling was similar when he was filling his college admission form after passing 10th standard.
Despite the digital age, people from Ashok’s generation still couldn’t do without the morning newspaper. Daily he used to eagerly wait for the newspaper guy. But today, the excitement was uncontrollable. Unlike other days, Ashok didn’t even glance at the important front page news. He quickly turned to the matrimonial page. He couldn’t stop smiling as his eyes fell on Swati’s matrimonial ad that appeared…
… under the section of their ‘caste’.
The terrible floods in Tamil Nadu, especially Chennai, have taken everyone by a rude surprise. The floods were expected in the region but nobody thought they would be so devastating. So far, close to 300 people are head and lakhs are homeless or stranded.
While there is no harm in praying for the victims and dedicating numerous social media posts to them, what they practically need it help... and lots of it!
So this is how you can help them:
1) Spiritual leader Sadhguru's Isha Foundation has organized a donation drive. To donate in kind or doctors who can support the disaster relief work can contact: +918300011111, +918300051000, +918300052000
Helpline for donation via bank transfers: +919442139000
Online donations: http://www.ishafoundation.org/Donate
2) Donate via APP:
Click HERE to download an app to donate clothes, food and other items.
3) Check available shelter:
To know about places where shelter is available, click HERE.
4) Donate via AISC Flood Relief by clicking HERE.
5) People form 60 NGOs have come together to help Chennai flood victims. Those willing to contribute contact Prasanna: 96777-00081 or Ganesh 99442-77721.
6) Willing to accomodate?
If you are in Chennai and willing to accommodate people who are stranded, click HERE.
7) To donate food items, see the image below (click to enlarge):-
8) Chennai flood relief HELPLINE numbers:
OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION:
People who are stuck near Valasaravakkam, Megamart area, pls contact Vignesh Mailappan at +918122829693.
People who are stuck near Camp Road areas can contact Bala- +918056096733.
People who are stuck near Keezhkattalai area can contact Santha- +919042122271.
People who are stuck near Tambaram area can contact
Prasanna - 9994816896
People who are stuck near Mogapair areas can contact aswin - 7299518047
People who are stuck near Pallikaranai, Narayanapuram areas can contact Gayathri - 8220738092
Message from a kind-hearted person:
Anyone stuck in Annanagar, Arumbakkam, Aminjikarai, MMDA Colony, Choolaimadu or any other area are welcome to my house, please be my guest. Can pick up people from nungambakkan station, arumbakkam metro station or anna arch. No restriction on no as i have lots of Mats to sleep, power for essential and enough food, brijesh - 9962400760
SRM University is accommodating people in their buildings. Whoever stranded in GST, please go there.
By: Keyur Seta
Earlier this year, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced November 26 to be celebrated as India’s Constitution Day this year onwards. This was the day in 1949 when the Constitution of India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly for an independent India.
Unfortunately, the first Constitution Day of India has arrived at a time when the basic Constitutional value – Democracy – is under grave threat. It has come at a time when a person expressing his fear of intolerance is being targeted as if he is a dangerous criminal.
You have every right to be disappointed with Aamir’s statement about his wife Kiran Rao considering relocating to another country fearing intolerance. Even I didn’t like what he said. But does that give you a right to burn his effigies, blacken his posters publicly (violence) and, worst of all, write and share the most vulgar posts about him on social media? Some of the things said are not even fit to post here (check yourself).
By doing this, these so-called nationalists have only managed to prove Aamir right. I always thought there is growing intolerance in the country. But the disgraceful manner in which people have reacted has increased my fears manifolds. In fact, even Ajmal Kasab, who carried out the terrorist attack on Mumbai on the same day in 2008, wasn’t ridiculed in this way.
But Aamir is not the only one at the receiving end. Almost anybody who criticizes the government or any of its leaders is attributed titles like ‘anti-national’, ‘anti-Indian’, ‘Pakistani’, ‘leftist’, etc. Many are ordered to migrate to Pakistan. Even a polite criticism is met with filthy abuses.
Another important feature of our Constitution is Secularism (I know people following a ‘certain’ ideology get panic attacks at its mention). Sadly, this aspect too is now limited to school books. Ruling party leaders, including elected MPs, have been openly giving communal statements. The Dadri Lynching episode, where they even justified the ghastly incident, made things worse.
It has been almost a year and a half of such statements from those who are elected to govern us. But so far, no action has been taken against them, not even a mere suspension. The atmosphere right now is such that the mere mention of the word ‘Secular’ literally generates verbal violence. The scene is vulgarly worse on social media.
Hence, the first Constitution Day wouldn’t have come at a more ironical time. This gives rise to some simple questions – Is merely celebrating Constitution Day enough to respect it? What is the point of celebrating when we can’t implement the most basic rights it provides?
By: Keyur Seta
The Bihar Election results have surprised many of us. While Nitish Kumar’s Janata Parivar always had an edge over NDA, very few expected the alliance to win with such a huge margin of 178 to 59. Although the result is only confined to a state, it is a warning to the Central government because the election was fought by its seniormost national leaders.
Nitish’s good work in developing Bihar, which was once labeled as a backward state, has been instrumental in his alliance’s victory. But we can’t ignore the mistakes or, in some cases, blunders from the part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to be a major case for such a defeat.
Here are 8 possible reasons for BJP’s drubbing in Bihar:-
Unfulfilled Promises: One of the biggest promises the BJP offered during the Lok Sabha polls was the bringing back of black money stashed abroad. But they not only failed in doing so, but the party head Amit Shah, during an interview, openly stated that the promise was nothing but a ‘Chunavi Jumla’. In other words, it was just a ploy to attract voters.
Communal Card: The party leadership had said time and again that their agenda is only development. But their leaders, including some MPs, have been continuously giving communal statements since more than a year.
Dadri Demon: This incident turned out to be the biggest turning point. BJP’s Sakshi Maharaj, Sadhvi Prachi and Sangeet Som gave shocking statements in support of the lynching. Yogi Adityanath even assured Dadri villagers of providing guns!
Silence is not Golden: After such horrific statements, anybody would expect India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take strict action against the offenders. However, not only there was no action taken but there was no condemnation or suspension either.
Negative Campaign: One of the major reasons for BJP’s shocking loss in the Delhi Election earlier this year was the negative campaign they ran against their opponents. People expected them to not repeat the mistake in Bihar. However, there were no lessons learnt as their campaign mostly contained mudslinging against JP leaders.
No Local Faces: Like every other state elections, the party relied only on famous faces like Modi and Amit Shah to get them votes. But to win state elections, you got to have known local faces that have a good following. The BJP lagged behind in this department again which forced the PM, party head and a lot of senior leaders and ministers to leave aside their task and head to Bihar.
Beef Politics: The party used Beef as one of the important issues. Its leaders made sweeping statements that the election is between Beef eaters and non-Beef eaters, and those who wish to eat it should go to Pakistan. They also used Cow in their newspaper advertisements. This tactic backfired badly as it turned out to be a polarizing idea.
Pakistan Hangover: Statements asking someone or the other to go to Pakistan have almost became a standard response. What hurt them the most is Shah’s comment that if they lose the election, crackers will burst in Pakistan. But what took the cake was the attack on actor Shah Rukh Khan and comparing him with the most wanted terrorist Hafiz Saeed.
By: Keyur Seta
The Bihar Election results are keenly awaited in the whole of India. The political scenario in the country has changed so drastically over the last few years that the excitement for the result of a state election is not limited to that state alone.
Politics, which was once a loathed word, has now become a topic for debate, discussion and, even, fights across people of all age groups, including teenagers. This has largely to do with the advent of social media, where politics is discussed 24/7, even when there are no elections taking place anywhere in India.
The scenario during the 2015 Bihar Elections isn’t any different. After months of non-stop campaigning, attacking speeches with insults and name-calling and innumerable fights on social media among the supporters of various parties, it will all finally boil down to the result day on November 8, 2015.
The D-Day will answer few questions that have been lurking in our minds lately. Will Nitish Kumar be able to retain his seat as the Chief Minister? Will Modi magic work in Bihar as well? Who will win Bihar?
Here is a short analysis of where the two biggest alliances, BJP led NDA and Janata Dal-United led Janata Parivar aka Mahagathbandhan, stand:-
Plusses: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi still continues to be quite popular among the masses. BJP is banking on his name. His good work as the Chief Minister of Gujarat is still fresh in people’s minds. His promise of spending a humongous amount for the development of Bihar might also attract voters.
Minuses: Inability to fulfill Lok Sabha poll promises, including the failure to control rising prices and the return of Black Money within 100 days, has affected the BJP. But what has hurt the party the most is the continuous dose of hateful and communal statements by some key BJP figures and the PM’s failure of stopping them. It goes completely against the major promise of the party, which is development. Plus, Amit Shah’s Jumla statement has made things worse.
One of the major reasons for BJP’s loss in the Delhi Elections is been attributed to the fact that their leaders, especially Modi, resorted to a lot of personal attacks and mudslinging during their speeches. Unfortunately, they have continued it during this election as well.
Plusses: The biggest plus point for JPU is the way Nitish Kumar has developed Bihar in the last ten years from the Lalu mess. He has made sure that the backward stigma attached with Bihar and Biharis is slowly diminishing. His clean image and the fact that he is educated are also advantages.
Minuses: The tactic of joining hands with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD and the Congress can go against Nitish as it goes against his non-corrupt. Lalu, as we all know, is a convict under the Chara Ghotala. He is even barred from contesting elections for the next six years.
Not to forget, Nitish and Lalu were enemies at one point of time. In fact, they had openly attacked each other during the Lok Sabha Polls last year. The theory of compromise also stems from the recent leaked video where Nitish is seen meeting a taantrik, who is heard raising slogans “Nitish zindabad. Lalu murdabad.”
The same can be said about Nitish’s alliance with the Congress. It’s a party in shatters after the humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha Polls and the complete whitewash in Delhi Elections, thanks to the numerous scams during its regime at the Center. Hence, this alliance appears more like a compromise to satiate the hunger for power and to keep Modi and BJP away from Bihar at all costs.
Prediction of Bihar Elections:
(This prediction is not based on any exit poll and neither am I a political expert. This is just a calculation of a common citizen of India based on the recent political developments.)
No alliance will be getting a clear majority. The pluses and minuses of both camps are almost equal. From the look of things, the votes would be strongly divided between NDA and JP. Therefore, the final results for both alliances would either be too close or close to equal, if not properly equal.
Whose Happy Diwali will it be? There is a lot at stake.
By: Keyur Seta
Veteran actor Anupam Kher was booed quite a few times yesterday from a large crowd during a debate at Tata Literature Live festival. The topic of the debate was – Freedom of Expression is under imminent threat.
Sudheendra Kulkarni and Shobha De were for the motion while Anupam Kher and BJP’s Nalin Kohli were against. Kulkarni and De put forth their points related to recent incidents and statements by politicians. Kulkarni specially stressed on the statement against the protesting authors by Arun Jaitley. “If the government thinks this is a manufactured protest, they are mistaken.”
Kulkarni also condemned the act of Shiv Sena members who had inked his face for launching a book by Pakistani author Kasuri. He also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of making sure the atmosphere of intolerance is nullified.
“The PM and his colleagues should ask themselves why the President of India Pranab Mukherjee had to appeal for peace and remind India of its 5000 year old history of tolerance?”
Kulkarni was most vocal against the fringe elements demanding a Hindu Rashtra. “The idea of Hindu Rashtra violates the idea of secularism, which is against the Constitution of India. India never was and will never be a Hindu Rashtra.”
Kohli gave a clichéd government whataboutery response by citing incidents of the past. But his response was quite peaceful. But the arguments put forth by Anupam Kher draw huge outrage from the audience. He was booed regularly and rightly so.
Here is the gist of Kher’s arguments:-
- Firstly, he said he wasn’t told the debate would be in English and he is weak in it. Everybody knows such literature festivals are always in English. Plus, we have seen him debate in English on news channels regularly.
- He started going off track right away by personally attacking De for editing a gossip magazine decades ago and mentioning who slept with whom.
- Then went on to call her pseudo-intellectual, just like those Bhakts.
- He expressed his disappointment towards Kulkarni for agreeing to launch a book of a Pakistani by citing how our neighboring country has been executing terrorist attacks here. Once again, completely off topic. Somebody should remind Kher that he acted in Veer-Zaara where he preached harmony between both nations.
- He said, “People returning the awards have an agenda. They can’t handle a chaiwala becoming a PM.”
- Here comes the KILLER. Towards the end when he realized most people from the audience are against his views, he accused organizer Anil Dharker, a respected figure, of having a PAID AUDIENCE!!!
What else do you expect other than boos? Never expected this great artist to debate or argue like those Twitter trolls.
Other highlights of the debate:-
- Reacting on the point raised by Kher and Kohli as to why people didn’t protest against the atrocities in the past, an elderly person from the audience said, “You mean to say, just because we were quite earlier, we should continue to remain quite? How long shall we remain silent?”
- Kiron Kher, BJP member and wife of Anupam Kher, took the mic to defend her husband. However, her arrogant ways also garnered boos from the audience.
- Before the debate, most people from the audience voted for the motion. After the end, close to 90% took that stand.
By: Keyur Seta
It’s the season of festivals in India. But along with festivals like Diwali, the citizens of Mumbai’s Ulhasnagar locality are celebrating a one-of-its-kind carnival. It’s called Ulhasnagar Potholes Festival (UPF). Yes, you read it right. It’s a festival ‘celebrating’ the menace of potholes in Ulhasnagar in a sarcastic manner.
The movement is started by two residents of Ulhasnagar, Bhavna Chhabria Nainani and Professor Rekha Thakur as, like numerous others, they too are fed up with the problems faced due to the potholes and the innumerable false promises by the Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (UMC). The movement is initiated under Manch TV, a local TV channel.
The whole idea is to ask people to send photographs of potholes in Ulhasnagar, which would be posted on the Facebook page – Ulhasnagar Potholes Festival (visit it here). Following this, a team from Manch TV will worship the pothole and give it a name. This will, obviously, put the authorities to shame and they will be compelled to fill them.
The residents have instantly started sending in pictures of the potholes they came across and things have gone as per planned. In fact, the UMC has already started the temporary repairing of potholes on Bhatia Chowk Road, Nataji Road, Ulhas Flyover and Hira Ghat Road (as seen in the pictures below).
Says Rekha, who is also the local corporator, “The roads of our city are in pathetic condition and in spite of the numerous complaints sent to the concerned authorities, nothing was being done to resolve the issue. Fed up of all this, we decided to do something unusual to get the attention of media, authorities and citizens and it has really worked!”
Bhavna adds, “Frequent major accidents took place in Ulhasnagar due to the worst condition of roads. As nothing worked, we finally decided to do a mockery of system through our Ulhasnagar Potholes Festival and within few days maximum roads of the city were repaired.”
Although the movement has already started achieving favorable results, it is certainly not the end. Change, after all, is a never-ending process.
Pictures after the roads were repaired:
All pictures sourced from Ulhasnagar Potholes Festival Facebook page.