Signs of the times

By  Humra  Quraishi

Jolt for the government of the day. Rattled it is. Perhaps trying best to avoid a full fledged uprising to take off , much in keeping with what was witnessed at Egypt’s Tahrir Square And here as the build up seems simmering, isn’t it time to grasp and sense the rather obvious political shades gathering around this momentum. There’s that lurking danger of political lobbies intruding and puncturing the very purpose. Also, whether three drafts are presented – the government’s, Team Anna’s and Aruna Roy’s – the crux lies elsewhere – would corruption actually come to a halt by the passage of this Bill !

To crush corruption requires mass awakening at the political and administrative levels. And here it wouldn’t be amiss to add that if Anna and his team were holding this very protest at some obscure locale of the country they would have been arrested, their demands sabotaged even before the initial take off . In fact , tribal population or even those living in the so called conflict zones of the country cannot dare to protest or focus attention on just about anything – whether it is corruption or torture at the hands of the security forces or even when their young sons are killed to be dumped in unmarked graves. Don’t sit up too shocked by the very recent unearths in the Kashmir Valley, where unmarked graves are a reality of the day. Yet, the average citizen living in those locales and zones cannot dare hold a non – violent protest .And even if he or she travels to New Delhi to protest, there’d be little moving ahead .

If you and I were to sit on a fast unto death protesting about the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 or about any of the regular communal tactics and eruptions , we would be far from making a dent or putting adequate pressure on the government in the passage of a Bill which protects the weaker groups from communally charged rogues who hound and kill along well set agendas .

And though this protest led by Team Anna was largely non – violent but it had begun to show symptoms of turning violent. Film-maker Mahesh Bhatt’s Mumbai office was gheroed by pro – Anna mobs , when they’d heard that he was critical of this movement. Though Anna has been giving those directions of maintaining restraint but you cannot control mobs , more so if they carry that tinge of saffron ….In fact I just received a copy of a letter written by a Delhi based law student , 24 year old Shedzad Poonawalla. He has addressed it to Anna and though its rather detailed but here goes the crux – ‘ Dear Anna Hazareji, Sir, I am writing to you to complain of the brutal assault on my dear friend DP Satish, who is also a senior journalist at CNN IBN on the night of 22nd August 2011. The video link has been provided and the clip has been attached as well along with this email. My friend DP, who I met in the hospital (Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj Room no 105) describes how motorcycle borne supporters of yours dangerously overtook his vehicle last night at 10.30 pm when he was returning home and thereafter stopped his vehicle at the next signal and thrashed him and his driver despite being in the wrong. While beating them these supporters used the very same national flags that they were carrying on the bikes to your rally and even chanted slogans in your support. Today, my friend, who is due to get married on 5th September 2011 is lying in the hospital with a broken leg and bruises…Sir, you had assured us that your movement would be Gandhian in its spirit and approach but please explain to me whether you are happy with this unfortunate incident? Rajdeep Sardesai and Nikhil Wagle, both senior Editors of CNN IBN and IBN Lokmat also expressed concern about the movement taking a violent turn. Nikhil Wagle, who has recently met you, said that these biker gangs and the like elements he encountered at your rally bore strong resemblance to the nuisance crowd seen during right winged mobilization of Ram Janmabhoomi. He also said that he brought it to your notice that people were coming drunk to your rallies and you were disturbed by this….’


Three Iftaars hosted last week , one after the other …one by the prime minister, another by the President of the country and another by the Iranian ambassador to India . No, I couldn’t attend even one of these iftaars. There was chaos and visible tension in the very atmosphere. On Thursday a large segment of New Delhi , including four metro stations, were closed for the public and with that commuting got not just tougher but simply unbearable. Then there lurked an irony of sorts – there was Anna fasting and not far from that venue , feasting on …


Our grand old man of Literature, Khushwant Singh, turned 97. And is still writing and going strong .He does not believe in the notion of ‘ retirement’ …as he puts across ‘I’m going to continue writing till my last day … there’s no substitute for slogging …’

Living each day according to his own terms and that means with no change in his routine , in his perceptions and views .No contradictions between his head and the heart….relaying exactly what he wants to put across …no dilutions, none of that whitewashing .He is absolutely stark in his views and view points Unchanging he has been ,all these years.

I had first met him in the early 80s when he was editing the Hindustan Times and I was looking for a job …Only chai and cookies were offered on a platter but no job .Though he’d taken care to cushion that rather firm ‘no’ with humorous one – liners and there wasn’t a trace of impatience or arrogance. Thereafter, after a longish gap we met again when I went to his home for a feature on celebrity bedrooms that I was writing. He was warm as if those years hadn’t really come in between and introduced me to his wife Kaval, then took me around on a conducted tour of his home …coming up with exact details of the furniture spread out in the different rooms of his Sujan Singh apartment.

(The writer is a columnist and journalist. She has authored Kashmir – The Untold Story, short-story collection Bed Time Tales and a collective volume of her writings Views-Yours and Mine. Her essay on what’s it to be a singleton is part of the anthology Chasing the Good Life – On Being Single. She is the co-author along with Khushwant Singh, of Absolute Khushwant , launched in August 2010)

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