Monthly Archives: OCTOBER 2016
Kidnapping macabre apparently project the human face of ‘Patiala Police
28.10.16 - BIR DEVINDER SINGH*
The horrendous kidnapping of Six years old child Hartejbir Singh Bhutter s/o Jaspreet Singh Butter from Manjit Nagar locality of Patiala and his subsequent safe recovery from the brutal clutches of his insane abductor has established and brought to focus the operational capability of the Patiala police to handle the super sensitive case with utmost care and artfully restrained manner of veiled delicateness.
Ever since the news of atrocious kidnapping of Hartejbir, was broken in the city, the entire city of Patiala and the surrounding areas were shell shocked. Everybody was praying for the wellness of Baby Hartejbir Singh. The unendurable agony the Butter family went through is certainly unfathomable. The police have shown tremendous alacrity and brilliant synergy in handling the entire operation, from the beginning to end. It certainly deserve unreserved applaud and appreciation. Recovery of the kidnapped child without even a bruise and the arrest of all the five accused involved in the chilling crime, is undoubtedly remarkable.
It would be pertinent to mention here that on the similar pattern, way back in April 2016, a 14 year old boy Jaskirat Singh was abducted from Kapurthala city and was later killed by an insane jealous member of his close family. Similarly in October 2014, a 9 years old boy, Mehram Singh Sandhu was kidnapped from Mohali while playing in the Children Park, his body was recovered, almost two weeks later from the dumping ground of Sector 69 Mohali (SAS Nagar). In both the chilling cases of extreme brutality, the accused were arrested but unfortunately the precious lives of both the children abducted, could not be saved. Therefore the handling of the kidnapping of Hartejbir Singh is an outstanding job done by Patiala Police. Above all the nostalgic handing over of the kidnapped child to his parents by Parmraj Singh Umranangal IG Zonal, and Gurmeet Singh Chauhan SSP Patiala along with their team was so splendidly compassionate and touching, that it made every eye wet. The whole kidnapping macabre apparently project the adorable human face of the Patiala Police, which otherwise get whacks, all the time, for exasperatingly doing thankless jobs.
*Former Deputy Speaker, Punjab Vidhan Sabha
Achhe Din: Why a disabled person was assaulted in a cinema
A disability activist who uses a wheelchair was assaulted in India for not standing up to the national anthem being played in a cinema. The incident triggered outrage over what many say is the rise of aggressive nationalism in the country. Salil Chaturvedi, who has been using a wheelchair since 1984, recounts the incident that left him shaken.
As a wheelchair user in India, going to the cinema is not the easiest thing to do.
So my wife Monika and I, usually keep big screen cinema hall outings to the minimum.
Every once in three months, we summon up what it takes to make that journey. Some places are easy, some are hard, and needlessly so.
Anyway, that Sunday morning a few months ago we had a movie hall sojourn on our plans.
I was excited with the prospect of watching Kabali, the latest release of the superstar Rajnikant - I'd never seen a Rajnikant movie in the theatre before.
I got behind the wheel of my car, a golden-bronze beauty with an automatic gear shift, that's been modified for my use - accelerator and brakes brought up for hand usage.
I'm a deft hand behind the wheel and driving is exhilarating and liberating. It was a rainy Sunday, cool and green all around as it can get only in Goa.
We live on the island of Chorao, 12km (7.45 miles) from the main city of Panjim and the movie hall. That means a ferry crossing to get to the mainland.
At Panjim, we met a friend, and the three of us enthusiastically trooped to the INOX theatre in Panjim for an afternoon show.
It's always a well-planned operation going to the cinema: once we are in the theatre, Monika goes looking for the ushers while I stare wide-eyed at all the movie posters for the upcoming releases, ignoring the stares of people who are not used to seeing a disabled person.
Some toddlers usually point me out to their parents asking what a man is doing on a chariot. Cute, but irritating.
Monika finds two ushers and explains to them that we need help to get to my seat and two people will be required to carry me up the aisle.
She tells them to let us in before they open the gates to the public so it's easy to get to the seat. There's always an edge to her voice and I wish I can make it easier for her but there's nothing I can do.
So, this day, we are finally in our seats and I lift myself up and Monika slides my air-cushion under me and the three of us settle in to watch the trailers. The hall fills up slowly, with people and the smell of popcorn.
But just before the movie begins the national anthem is played and everyone in the hall stands up.
It's one of those moments when I feel a bit singled out since I am the only one sitting.
It's an unsettling kind of feeling, as if one is not participating, somehow alienated.
I can hear a couple behind me singing the anthem loudly and with obvious pride. I pay attention to their singing, admiring their passion.
Suddenly I get a rude whack on my head from behind. I flip my head back and the man gestures for me to stand up.
Stunned, I turn back to the screen and wait for the national anthem to get over. I should be feeling rage, I think to myself, but my hands begin to shake with nervousness.
When the anthem ends I turn around in my seat and address the man - "Why don't you just relax in life?"
"You can't even stand up for the national anthem?" his partner screams at me.
"Look, you don't even know the story here," I say. "You should just learn to relax a little in life. Why do you have to get physical and hit people?"
Monika is watching this with surprise wondering what's going on.
My friend is also clueless about what has just happened.
When Monika hears the word 'hit', she just loses it
"Did you just hit my husband?" she shouts.
"Why can't he stand up for the anthem?" the woman says loudly from behind. "Do you know he's disabled, you ******?" Monika screams back.
The man realises his mistake and he leans over and begins apologising to me. The woman doesn't seem to have caught on and she gets into a slanging match with Monika.
God, this is not happening. It was just meant to be an evening out to enjoy a movie.
Suddenly, an usher appears with a torch and tells everyone to calm down since the people in the hall are getting disturbed.
The woman asks the usher if the manager is on the premises. He sternly tells her to sit down and be calm.
"Are you alright?" Monika reaches over and asks me.
"I'm fine," I lie.
"Let's watch the movie, please,"' I say, though I would like to go back to my peaceful home in Chorao.
Suddenly, the couple behind us get up and leave the hall. I feel the muscles in my stomach relax a little.
That day, Rajnikant fails to spin his web for me. Strangely, my mind repeatedly travels to the empty chairs behind me.
I keep thinking of the moment when the man would have taken a decision to reach out and knock me behind the head. How was he to know that I wouldn't hit back?
Was he thinking anything at all? Was it a reflex action on his part?
Was the love for his country (and mine) so overpowering that he felt nothing about physically assaulting someone?
What am I supposed to do the next time?
Should I inform the people behind me that I am disabled and will not be standing up for the anthem?
Should I wear some sort of badge for people to know I am disabled?
Should the national anthem be played at a cinema hall in the first place?
After the movie we wait for the hall to empty and then Monika gets the wheelchair and goes looking for ushers to carry me down the aisle to the wheelchair.
Why do they always forget that they had got me up and are now required to get me back down?
The next morning the children in the school near our house sing the national anthem at the morning assembly.
I lie in bed listening to their tiny voices that are full of national pride.
I shoot off a letter to the editor of the local newspaper and then send an email to the theatre management requesting them to introduce a slide in the hall asking people to refrain from forcing others to stand up.
I hope I'll be able to rediscover the national anthem some day.
For now, I've hit upon a plan to go see the movies: Book the rear-most seats in the hall.
Art gives no Space to Extremism
25.10.16 - Adv. Masood Peshimam
The hotheads in Pakistan have never tolerated the flourish of the talents in music, acting, literature or any other creative endeavour more so if it is close to liberal moorings. The mighty hotheads in Pakistan have many a time roughed up the artists of their own country and there is no end to turmoil which sometimes lead to assault. The fatal assault over the noted Pakistani Qawwal was a case in point. The reason of the fatal assault was an outcome of the exasperation with the ideological deviation from the religious philosophy of the attackers though his father Gulam Farid Sabri a legend in the art of Qawwali for the number "Bhar Do Jholi Meri Ya Mohammad” had earned an enormous laurel captivating the hearts of the people. Such crimes are in furtherance of the bigoted and extremist ideology bereft of any logic and rationale. It’s a different matter if an actress like Veena Malik is in troubled waters with her skimpy outfit or no outfit dazzling the display of her physical assets arousing the inflammatory passions.
However notwithstanding the sensitivities of the radical elements in Pakistan the Pakistani artists have been drawn into the trouble waters in India for the different reasons. Here the Pakistani artists are targeted by the Right wing Hindu brigade over the unhappy Uri incident in which 19 soldiers are martyred. The Uri attack was reason enough for the right wing Hindu brigade to fish in the troubled waters. The Raj Thackrey led MNS set the deadline of 48 hours for Mumbai based Pakistani artists to leave the country. The Shiv Sena and MNS routinely target the cultural figures from Pakistan. The xenophobic sentiments are whipped up close on the heels of Mumbai municipal elections. There is one up-man ship born of political compulsions.
The formulation of hostile narrative against the Pakistani artists is visible in their own country as well India which can be explained in one Urdu couplet,
”Waize Tang Nazar Ne Mujhe Kafir Jana
Aur Kafir Ye Samajasta Hai Ke Musalman Hu Main”.
[The narrow minded sermonizer treated me an infidel and whereas the infidel feels that I am Muslim].
It is not the question of keeping the Pakistani artists on boil in Mumbai in Maharashtra but there are vigorous attempts to create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty for the people of U.P. and North who are to bear the brunt in the name of damaging the interests of the sons of the soil. Even the students appearing in the Railway Exams are not spared.
The savage attack evolved against the north Indians from the south Indians under the very nose of the police with impunity. There is no exaggeration to say that those playing the communal regional card playing with the sentiments of the people have not done anything to alleviate the sufferings of the people decaying to death lying on railway platforms. The underscrible agony of the poor and wretched thirsting for the glass of water has never factored in the priorities of the prevailing political culture focusing on the incendiary stuff to fragment the society for its own vested interest. Only the sympathy card is played for those living the catastrophic subhuman existence.
Those not interested in pulling the people from the brink of catastrophic sub human existence are only indulging in maniacal tirade. The situation has gone to such an extent that an appetite is developed to penetrate the kitchen rooms to ascertain as to what meat stuff the Briyani is made up. Given the volatile situation to know the components of Briyani do we need the Briyani Ministry at the state levels and the Centre. The fasccist attack over the Dalits and Muslims in the name of cow protection continues uninterrupted despite Modi’s loud talk of exercising restraint clearly explaining that his words were pretty much water off a duck’s back.
It is the same flexing of muscles in the name of nationalism the Pakistani artists are targeted as if they are involved in Uri attack. The artists focus on their performance and nowhere involved in the escalating conflict between India and Pakistan. Artists in both countries have no leverage to calm down the frayed tempers with the jingoistic overtones.
The nationalism or patriotism is not the monopoly of any group, political formation or religious identity. The vast mobilization of Muslims in protest against the Pakistani role in the Uri attack in Kashmir has fairly rebutted the delusion of patriotism or nationalism being the monopoly of those blowing the trumpet of nationalism. The Muslims are very much rooted in national soil. They are as Indians as their counterparts. Despite facing all-round ignominious offensive against its dignified survival the Muslim community in India was in the forefront to deplore and condemn Pakistan for its role in Uri incident. Falling in line a rally to pay tribute to the martyrs of Uri was organized in Kalyan by Parvez Ali Sayyed and Ms Alka Oulaskar. The people irrespective of any consideration have risen to show the resentment and anguish over terrorist strike in Uri. However notwithstanding the protest against Uri happening asking for the repeal of AFPSA Act or disagreeing with the use of pallet guns no way erodes the patriotic credibility.
With the reference to the Pak artists the fact remains that interaction with the Pak artists is quite an old one as the migration of artists and literary figures took place in both the countries with the trauma of partition. The filmi personalities like Kapoors notably Raj Kapoor, Raj Kumar, Dharmendra, Deo Anand, Balraj Sahani and the lyricists like Gulzar, Naqsh Lailpuri and scores of others have come from the area now falling in Pakistan.
In the same breath the legendary Ghazal singers like Mehndi Hasan and Gulam Ali had their roots in India.
Another noted name migrating from India was of popular mimicry artist Moin Akhtar. He went to Pakistan from Sewree, Mumbai. There was an incident associated with Moin Akhtar in Sewree, Mumbai when as a child he replied in a song to the song recited by the domestic help who was washing utensils in the common bath room as there was no flat culture in Mumbai in the sixties.
The literary figures have also origins in both the countries. Prominent among them was the celebrated fiction writer Saadad Hassan Manto.
Ayesha Jala wrote the biography of her uncle Manto. The author Ayesha jalal commented in the biography "Toba Tek Singh Was, is and will continue to remain one of the most revered short stories written by the celebrated Urdu writer Saadat Hassan Manto. Remembered for the incomprehensible babble of the Sikh Asylum Inmate, Bishen Singh, who cursed both India and Pakistan in the same breath, the story questions the twisted dogmas of both nations even today.
Ironically, Manto shared a reciprocal turmoil with his protagonist both coped with an incurable void after being displaced from nation they called home and both died searching for an identity "on a bit of earth, which had no name”.
The writer like Manto advocated equality and attacked social injustice and extremism through his writings.
Art plays the larger role in cooling down the frayed tempers and the jingoistic mood which is not allowed to do in the city like Mumbai which would have become Asia’s financial capitol had there been no provocation in the name of region, religious or anything of that kind.
No winners in India-Pakistan debate on press freedom
With Pakistan's Dawn newspaper standing by its story on differences between the civilian government and military over the country's security objectives, many in both the Indian and Pakistani media have cited the incident as proof that the Pakistani media has more spine than its Indian counterparts.
Around the same time, India's most liberal news channel, NDTV, dropped an interview of India's former Minister for Home Affairs, P Chidambaram, for reasons of "national security".
In a statement to online publication The Wire, the co-founder and chairman of NDTV Radhika Roy said, "Like all decisions we take at NDTV, we are driven by editorial and journalistic integrity and the belief that the political mud slinging regarding the surgical strikes without a shred of evidence was actually damaging to our national security."
Pakistani journalists, too, have been suggesting they are braver, and are able to express dissent more freely than their Indian counterparts, who give in to the government line more easily.
It's a zero sum debate. One that only ends up betraying the poor state of press freedom in both countries.
India, which makes a lot of noise about being the world's largest democracy, was placed in the bottom third of the World Press Freedom Index 2016 published by Reporters Without Borders. Ranked 133 of 180 countries, press freedom in India is only worsening, and Reporters Without Borders says the government is indifferent to the issue.
Four journalists were murdered in India in 2015, and at least one is attacked every month. A draconian criminal defamation law imposes major constraints on journalists, and results in self-censorship.
"The range of such attacks is staggering," says Geeta Seshu, who tracks free speech for TheHoot.org, a media-watch website.
"There is a dominant narrative of national security, which results in the ban on the internet and newspapers in Kashmir, the rash of defamation to silence reportage of corporate fraud, the killings of journalists who chronicle corruption by local mafias, and the jailing and hounding of independent journalists in Chhattisgarh by security forces and vigilante groups," she says.
In the ongoing unrest in Indian-administered Kashmir, the government has placed several restrictions on press freedom.
Curfew passes have been denied, journalists have been attacked, newspaper circulation in the state was stopped for days, and one newspaper Kashmir Reader, has been banned altogether.
In any other part of the world, the banning of a newspaper would have raised a hue and cry, but the Indian media has largely chosen to ignore it.
Given Pakistan's fragile democracy and large-scale terrorism, it is not surprising that Pakistan scored even poorer in the press freedom index, coming in at 147. The ranking contradicts that the claim the Pakistani media is freer.
"Journalists are targeted by extremist groups, Islamist organisations and Pakistan's feared intelligence organisations, all of which are on RSF's list of predators of press freedom. Although at war with each other, they are all always ready to denounce acts of "sacrilege" by the media. Inevitably, self-censorship is widely practiced within news organisations," says the RSF's 2016 report.
"When it comes to national security in Pakistan, there may be some space for dissent in English language newspapers. On news TV, however, any divergence from the establishment line is too risky. It is simply not allowed," says Pakistani journalist and commentator Raza Rumi, who lives in self-exile in the United States after surviving an assassination attempt in Lahore in 2014.
Mr Rumi hosted a TV show in which he differed from the country's foreign policy and raised issues of minority rights.
Reporting on human rights in Balochistan also resulted in an assassination attempt on prominent news anchor Hamid Mir in 2014. Mr Mir's brother immediately went on air and blamed the Pakistani military for the attack.
"On religious extremism, with issues such as the blasphemy law, television journalists fearing for their lives exercise self-censorship even when there is no official restriction. News of the persecution of the Ahmediya community barely makes it into mainstream news," says Rumi.
Physical attacks and direct censorship are only a small part of the problem, a manifestation of the wider effort in both countries to control the media narrative.
The result is that in both countries, news that is critical of the government or military, is becoming increasingly an exception rather than the norm. The media is increasingly toeing the establishment line.
"No one knows anymore the difference between censorship and self-censorship, between truth and propaganda, between journalism and jingoism," wrote Manini Chatterjee in The Telegraph newspaper.
Also, India's Narendra Modi-led BJP government has reduced access to journalists and heightened PR so as to be able to better control the narrative.
In Pakistan, the pressure comes more from the military. Columnist Ayesha Siddiqa, a prominent critic of the country's security policies, finds her columns edited or rejected so often that she publishes more in India than in Pakistan.
"Today the ISPR [Inter-Services Public Relations] is a corps strength headed by a lieutenant general… The military PR agency today runs a large network of radio channels, has stakes in different television channels, finances films and theatre. This is not just a benign institutional expansion but is shaping up and controlling the national narrative," Ms Siddiqa writes in The News, a Pakistani daily.
Marred by rebel groups seeking secession from Pakistan, Balochistan is an information black hole that journalists don't even have independent access to.
In the debate over which country's media is freer, there is no winner. In both India and Pakistan, press freedom is under heavy strain.