Mamata Banerjee a spoilsport says a simple woman

Taniya Bhardwaj: I hold offers from the University College, London and the School of Oriental and African Studies to study development and administration. I too will probably leave, and now you know the reason why.

Taniya Bhardwaj a student of political science from Presidency University who was labelled as ‘Maoist’ by Mamata Banerjee on a news channel and became a centre of attraction, writes an open letter to CM:

Dear ‘Simple Man’,

On being asked a simple question, you acquired a complicated avatar. We all went to the CNN-IBN question-answer session on Friday, May 18, at the Town Hall expecting to hear some heated exchanges, but it got too hot to handle.

You, the most important person in West Bengal, labelled me and the rest of the audience ‘Maoist and CPM cadres’. What exactly did we do to deserve this honour? We asked you questions. I asked you whether affiliates of your party, specifically minister Madan Mitra and MP Arabul Islam, who wield power, should act, or should have acted, more responsibly.

Like many others, I was also greatly disturbed when Madan Mitra pronounced his own judgement on a rape victim before the police were done investigating. This woman, whose character was assassinated, is an Anglo-Indian, a member of the minority community. Thus, if we were to even forget about sensitivity, the question of political correctness still hangs over his conduct.

A few months ago, this very same man had misbehaved with policemen who had stopped his car on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass as part of its routine. As for the Arabul Islam case, it is still making headlines.

I asked you something that had been on the minds of most people around me, people who voted for ‘paribartan’ (change). Is this what we expect of our leaders? The ones who set examples and whom people follow. This is all that I wanted to know. What I got to know, instead, is that in West Bengal, asking a question can be the equivalent of being a Maoist.

‘Simple man’, you claimed with pride on stage that you’re not a feminist.

That proclamation did not surprise us, especially after the Katwa and Park Street cases. You also spoke of democracy. The answers you gave to the questions you took before mine were sprinkled with words like ‘people’, ‘democracy’, and ‘Bengal’.

But one of the most important features of a true democracy, which I have learnt as a student of political science, is freedom of expression. This freedom is the one that allows an individual to express oneself, to not have to mince words out of fear of authority. It involves enjoying a chuckle or two at cartoon about important public figures.

Sadly, there seems to be a gradual failure in this aspect of the democratic machinery in the state. And just like I won’t become a Maoist simply because you called me one, the state too won’t epitomize democracy unless it is truly so in all spheres. All said and done, what you did was in haste and it made me the centre of attention. And as you stomped off in fury, you automatically assumed the role of the spoilsport.

It would have been so much more ‘simple’ had you just answered my question, or even said “No comments” and moved on. The question became so important because you chose to make it important.

You have spoken of ‘brain drain’ so many times. I hold offers from the University College, London and the School of Oriental and African Studies to study development and administration. I too will probably leave, and now you know the reason why. Had you stayed on, it would have been fun. And you would have honestly been ‘a Chief Minister with a difference’. The role of your office as Chief Minister is to aggregate interest – you should at the least have heard us all out.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”. So said Abraham Lincoln.

Love

A Simple Woman – Taniya Bhardwaj

Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik’s sculpture with a message “Flowers Bloom, Earth Smiles”

116th Ooty Flower Show festival, Ooty: Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik’s sculpture with a message “Flowers Bloom, Earth Smiles” at 116th Ooty Flower Show festival.

Torrent Blackout:Hackers down Reliance “Big” Time, and counting !!!

Online hacker group Anonymous pulled down the Reliance Big Entertainment (RBE) website today  after targeting websites of the Supreme Court of India and the All India Congress Committee on Thursday to protest Internet censorship. With a few hours the followers of the @opindia(opindia_revenge) shot up to around 1000 where followers comenting:

Anish Jain ‏@Anish9500: @sreyo @opindia_revenge the govt. will lose. Egypt lost,Libya lost. The present Sonia Gandhi govt. will too.
Chirag Advani ‏@ChiragAdvani: @opindia_revenge You’ve got 1000 followers(and increasing) in few hours. This shows how tired we are from this Govt.
Shreyo ‏@sreyo: there’s a war going on between @opindia_revenge and those who r behind banning websites and services. dis day had 2 come sometime & its now.
Vidyut ‏@Vidyut: Reliance should partner with #TPB instead of blocking. They have too many fans to manage distribution on their own. :p@opindia_revenge
TomJerry ‏@TomJerrTJ: @opindia_revenge http://rbe.co.in is down again, the root cause of censorship of my torrent sites. I wish you keep attacking 24hours 😛

Anonymous launched Operation India with a tweet that said, “Namaste #India, your time has come to trash the current government and install a new one. Good luck.”

A YouTube video uploaded on May 15 by user Sen0nymous, titled ‘Operation India Engaged’, issued a call to action for fellow hackers. The video stated, “It has been known that the Government of India and its ministers are committing aristocracy. The idea of democracy remains an idea only.”

“We were and are watching closely all activities of the Government and its ministers. Many ministers were and are charged with severe cases of corruption. They do not care. They do not care for the injustice happening. They do not care for the freedom being snatched.”

“The Government has been covering up its activities and hiding the facts from its citizens. It has imposed the IT Act which allows it to censor the internet as it seems fit. None other than the Department of Telecommunications needs to be blamed. One cannot block on purview of security concerns.”

On Thursday afternoon, the websites of the Supreme Court (supremecourtofindia.nic.in) and the All India Congress Committee (aicc.org.in) were attacked and taken down. The Supreme Court’s portal was back after a few hours, but the hackers said AICC will remain down the whole day.

The Twitter account for Operation India, @opindia_revenge, claimed it had also targeted the website of the Department of Telecommunications (dot.gov.in), but it was quickly back.

Similarly, Sen0nymous reported that the Delhi government’s portal (delhi.gov.in) had been targeted , but it was back soon after.

The attacks come after the government asked Internet Service Providers to block websites such as The Pirate Bay, a file-sharing site, as well as video-sharing service Vimeo among others.

Anonymous is a disbanded group of unknown hackers spread across the globe. The international ‘hacktivist’ group has previously attacked the US Department of Justice, US Copyrights Office, Sony Playstation Network, FBI and Egyptian government websites, among others.

Whistle blower homemaker Vidyut Kale at receiving end of IT Rules

Vidyut, a housewife having little income is at serious risk of being attacked by a team of seasoned lawyers with money to burn for daring expose corrupt practices.

Remember Vidyut Kale, daredevil homemaker-cum-blogger that blogged to draw attention to the Keenan and Reuben murders when mainstream media had reported the story and let it go & due to her efforts led to large-scale media attention that helped the poor families get attention to their case and prevent the killers from going scot-free…??

Now, Vidyut is chased by a batteries of lawyers to delete the contents on her blog aamjanta.com about her expose on history of alleged financial misdoings by Belvedere yacht party fame Lt Col (retd) Gautam Dutta and Anju Datta of Marine Solutions..  She has received a take down notice for her article being defamatory. The IT Rules are so arbitrary that she has no chance to defend herself against the takedown, because no explanation or even verification of the premise of the take down notice being correct is required.

Legal voices on Twitter have pointed out that the legal notice that Vidyut received is stupid, as Vidyut is the author, not an intermediary, and the IT bill applies only to intermediaries. This means, that she does not have to take down her content, but the lawyers can make her ISP block her website if she does not, yes, without a court hearing. In short, the IT bill is evil, but has not legally been used against her yet.

In reporting stories from the RTI documents related to sailing scams she was again covering an area that is not big enough for mainstream media, but an important leak of money as well as integrity for the country. Not to mention the illegal practices around sailing making it a security risk through norms of “looking the other way”.

Anand Philip (Cerebral Salad/Anand Philip Blog) a friend of Vidyut appeals on his blog:

Vidyut, who is a housewife and has little income is at serious risk of being attacked by a team of seasoned lawyers with money to burnfor daring expose corrupt practices. This is a very concerning sign for freedom of speech and whistle blowing in our country. Any media attention highlighting her situation and precarious situation of smaller content producers in India like bloggers, independent artists, cartoonists, etc and the role played by the IT Rules will go a long way in protecting their rights and drawing attention to their victimization. 

Global Warming: Sand Sculpture by Sudarsan Pattnaik

Renowned sand sculptor Sudarsan Pattnaik recently created a 7- feet structure on Puri beach of Odisha, depicting climate change to draw tourists’ attention towards global warming.In his creation, that took around 5 hours to complete, Pattnaik portrayed scorching sun blazing down over a habitation.
Tourists at the beach supported the artiste’s attempt to create awareness about climate change and global warming. Pattanik, who has represented India in over 50 international sand sculpture championships, said, “The sea-level is rising. In Odisha, it is very difficult to come out during the day due to the scorching sun.”

‘desileaks ideator’ Aamir nays 125 Crore for ‘satyamev jayate’

Aamir Khan’s 13-episode Satyameva Jayate which fuses together the mass appeal of celebrity with the mass reach of the TV medium to raise awareness on social issues, is already the toast of drawing rooms. But it has also sparked questions: do hi-glitz shows such as this have a lasting impact? Or could this, like other shows, end up being just another platform to peddle products? Aamir spoke to Outlook’s Namrata Joshi in Jaipur. Excerpts:

I am using entertainment to reach out. Which is not to say I am using fun and games. It’s more about underlining things with emotions. Like I did with the issue of childcare and education in a film like Taare Zameen Par. The information people get from a newspaper and magazine article doesn’t change their heart. Very few people cry on reading newspapers. I try to affect them emotionally.

Asked about charging Rs 3 crore per episode for a show on serious social issues Aamir say:

I never discuss my fee. But since you asked I am getting Rs 3.5 crore per episode. Firstly what I get is none of anyone’s business. Main apni mehnat ki kama aur khaa raha hoon. [I am earning and enjoying the benefits of my hard-work]. I am not doing anything wrong. Main izzat se, achchaa kaam karke roti kama raha hoon aur mujhe fakr hai is baat ka [I am honourably, by doing good work, earning my bread, and I am proud of it]. Secondly to clear the misconception this amount includes the cost of the episode also. The bulk of the money goes into the cost and some of the episodes may have overshot the amount. Thirdly, I have endorsements deals of about Rs 100-125 crore per year. I have stopped them for a year while the show is on. There’s no logic in the decision, it’s purely emotional. But tell me who has ever said no to Rs 100 crore for a cause?

Asked whether such shows bring about change? Or do people engage and move on, Aamir says:

 The biggest change we can bring about is in ourselves. .. Female foeticide is a crime planned in our bedrooms and we can’t have cops in the bedrooms to monitor us. ……The choice has to be yours, …Even if one girl child is saved then the show is a success. I will be on TV. I will also be on Vividh Bharati, AIR, Radio Mirchi, Star News. I will write a column in HT. With every issue I want to go wide on many platforms. It’s a deep and concentrated approach to reach out in as many different ways as possible. I hope it will make people understand an issue for a life. I hope it will have them converted for life.

Read the full Outlook interview: You’ll see all kinds of India: the India I have seen. 


SJ’s Oprah Khan earns 30 million per gig!!!

It’s not unusual to hear about stars adopting the alter ego of social crusader. In India, actor/director/ producer Aamir Khan is being applauded for calling attention to some of the country’s longstanding challenges in his new show Satyamev Jayate (Truth Alone Triumphs).

Khan’s show, which debuted Sunday after a massive promotional campaign, began by tackling one of India’s darkest secrets—the traditionally taboo subject of female foeticide.

He explored how the nation’s longstanding preference for male heirs led to the tragic practice, which still occurs today in remote villages that are poor and hard to govern. During the show, Khan interviewed several young mothers who candidly shared their painfully raw and emotional experiences.

So far, critical reception has been overwhelmingly positive. The Hindustan Times newspaper went as far as to compare him to American talk show queen Oprah Winfrey due to his mixture of social activism and intimate, personal style.

Khan used data graphs and statistics to make his case, before urging the public to support progress and change. Satyamev Jayate ended with a powerful Bollywood-style song meant to maximize emotional impact.

The show immediately became a trending topic on Twitter. Actor and social activist Shabana Azmi tweeted “Aamir Khan’s show can bring a revolution.” She added it “forces us to re-examine ourselves.”

 Actress Preity Zinta told her 1.5-million followers: “I love this effort from him and thank him as a woman!”

Khan will reportedly earn 30 million rupees, about $564,000, for each of the 13 episodes, which will air on Sunday morning—a prime slot typically reserved for soap operas in India.

Such efforts have garnered considerable attention, which can only benefit the cause, but the actor remains humble: “I can only keep the issues in front of everyone,” Khan told reporters after the show. “One person cannot improve or bring solutions to an issue.”

Female foeticide in India has led to a huge gender imbalance. According to the 2011 census data, there are just 914 girls for every 1,000 boys across India – behind the global benchmark of 952.

Oldest Indian Parliamentarian Rishang Keishing says, It was so quiet and peaceful then!

For Rishang Keishing (92), the world of Indian Parliament had opened up through the window of a train. After getting elected from Manipur in the first Lok Sabha in 1952, it took four days for him to reach Delhi. He is the oldest parliamentarian in India.

“I had to board an overcrowded train to Delhi at Katihar. The police somehow pushed me inside it through a window,” Keishing, now a Rajya Sabha member, recalls.

For the first time, the man from Bungpa Khunou village saw India beyond Assam.

“I was awestruck when I entered Parliament. I entered the Lok Sabha and saw stalwarts like Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad sitting across me. I had only seen their pictures in newspapers. I thanked God for the day,” he tells HT.

Three other MPs of 1952 Lok Sabha are alive: Resham Lal Jangade (Bilaspur constituency), Kamal Singh (Shahabad-North-West) and Kandala Subrahmanyam (Vizianagaram). But they are leading retired lives.

Keishing is politically active and his memory remains razor-sharp. He recalls his first meeting with Nehru: He spotted the Prime Minister in the Parliament corridor and called out to him. The Prime Minister turned back. Keishing asked if some emissaries of Zapu Phizo (the secessionist Naga leader) can meet him.

“No, No, No” Nehru snapped back and questioned why a handful of Naga leaders refuse to accept India’s authority. Keishing, a die-hard Indian nationalist, hit back: “Why are you shouting at me? I have just come to hear ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”

“Nehru followed me and caught me by my arm after a few minutes. He said they should first meet the home minister,” Keishing recalls.

His closest association was with Indira Gandhi. Keishing, then a minister in Manipur, came to meet her and she said, you become the chief minister.

“I said I belong to a small tribe and she replied, ‘In democracy, the size of your community doesn’t matter. What matters is the confidence of people’.”

After his first Rajya Sabha term, Keishing requested Sonia Gandhi to let him retire.

“Soniaji threw a dinner party. After dinner, I walked up to her to say goodbye. She told me, ‘you are re-nominated. Now you rush back to Imphal to file your nomination papers’.”

The biggest regret of the MP is, of course, the deteriorating standard of parliamentary practice.

“It was so quiet and peaceful. Today’s disruptions don’t help much,” Keishing says.

APJ Abdul Kalam (13.97 votes) is the consensus President of India

The ‘five desultory years’ of the Patil presidency have awakened demands for the 13th President of the republic to be a person of stature.

In some 10 weeks from now, India will elect its next President.

The corridors of power are abuzz with gossip and innuendo, and some hard speculation, as to who that person could be.

The India Today Group has launched a ‘Pick your President’ campaign to be run through the print, digital and TV medium.

Setting the stage, as it were, is a special issue of the India Today magazine kicked off by a letter from editor-in-chief Aroon Purie inviting public participation in the campaign, whose subtext is summed up in his hope ‘that we get a President who makes us proud’.

Purie observes:

The President may be bound by the advice of the Prime Minister and the council of ministers, ‘except while naming a Prime Minister’ yet there is a need for a person who is ‘able to retain some independence of opinion and be seen to be above partisan politics’ and therefore be, ‘a person of stature’. 

In the cover story, India Today editorial director M.J. Akbar has analysed the history of the presidency in the country – as a high office and a symbol.

Looking at the early years of the republic, and the two models of presidency offered by Rajendra Prasad and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Akbar concludes that ‘a President’s power lies in moral authority, which demands the independence of a judge and sagacity of a wide-awake nationalist’.

Unfortunately, as he points out, a third category of Presidents soon emerged that devalued the high expectation of the highest office of the land.

He says:

The ‘five desultory years’ of the Patil presidency have awakened demands for the 13th President of the republic to be a person of stature who, he notes, could be an ‘overlap’ President, were the UPA to do badly in the 2014 general elections. There seems to be a congruence between some Congress allies and smaller opposition parties in pushing the idea of Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee as the next President. And it is Sonia’s worry about the ‘overlap’ moment that seems to go against a Mukherjee candidacy. 

As Akbar bluntly points out,

‘Rahul’s future could depend on the decision the President will take.’ 

The story points to the dilemma that Mukherjee’s strong showing among UPA allies and even some opposition parties has created in the Congress party.

Such is the seeming inevitability of Mukherjee’s candidacy that the party veteran could even contemplate resignation if denied.

 

At 6 Narayani is the 1st tribal leader of India

The first time sixty-year-old community leader Narayani Nanu Kolpara walked into a government office, her hands shook.

The first time sixty-year-old community leader Narayani Nanu Kolpara walked into a government office, her hands shook.

Traditionally marginalized tribal communities in Southern India continue to fight discrimination – and wide-spread alcoholism. Despite this, Kerala’s first female tribal leader, Narayani Nanu Kolpara, remains hopeful.

The first time sixty-year-old community leader Narayani Nanu Kolpara walked into a government office, her hands shook.

“I was terrified,” Narayani smiles. “There were so many rooms and so many people.”

…Narayani recalls that she was hardly able to sign the document a government official handed her. The color of her neat white sari and its red trim mark her out as a member of the Katunayaka, one of the many tribes of Southern India.

….Narayani, who grew up in a remote tribal community in the forest in Kerala’s mountainous Wayanad district, has also enjoyed a degree of political success. Her parents were day laborers, occasionally working for the local landowner. They would often venture into the forest to find roots, honey and wild fruits. “We were very poor,” she recalls. There was no school and no health facilities. There was not even a road to the next town.

….Instead, she attended another training course and learnt to read and write. She was put in charge of distributing government-subsidized rice and in 1989 was elected leader of the small community of some 30 families, followed as a stint in the panchayat, the smallest administrative unit in India. It made Narayani the first tribal leader in both her community and the region.

….Narayani spent her first months as tribal leader knocking on people’s doors, drinking their tea and persuading the community that they needed a school. With their consent, she went back to the government office to ask for the permission to build a kindergarten.

….The school, a tiny one-room hut, is surrounded by lush-banana leaves, built and maintained by the community with the support of a local NGO. Only the teacher’s salary is provided by the government. Children sit on colorful plastic chairs under bright posters of the Malayalam alphabet, eating their midday meal of rice and daal.

….and Narayani needs to take some documents to the government office there. She waves a last goodbye with her umbrella, then marches off, purposefully, towards the next village and her bus stop.

Author: Naomi Conrad, Kerala, Editor: Richard Connor

Read the full article in DWSouthern India’s ‘tribals’ take future into their own hands