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Archives for : March2017

Theatre Zindabad on #WorldTheatreDay

by Ramu Ramanathan

First things first.

Gerukatte Gangaiah Shetty is no more.

The founder of the Kateel Yakshagana troupe, who trained and performed for more than 47 years, suffered a cardiac arrest, and collapsed on stage in Yekkar (near Mangalore).

He was more than 60.

He was essaying the role of Mahisasura (the demon).

He lent a voice to the anti heroes, the bad guys.

That was the specialisation of Gerukatte Gangaiah Shetty.

Mahishasur means the Buffalo Demon.

Goddess Durga vanquished Mahishasur after nine days of battle-strife and a bit of cunning.

A year ago, our Parliamentarians invoked Goddess Durga and the Mahishasura during a debate about the death of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula and the charges of sedition against students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

The story was told and re-told

In most mainstream renderings, the Asuras and the creatures of the underworld have been damned.

But Asuras are important, and the creatures of the underworld are very important.

More so, in today’s India.

To understand why, let’s travel back into time.

To 1876.

To the enactment of the Dramatic Performances Act (DPA) XIX of 1876 by the British Government.

To understand the ebbs and flows of what happens in today’s India, one has to grasp the first scene of the first act.

In the 1870s, two plays were on the DPA radar. These were: CHAKA DARPAN in Bengali and MALHARAOCHE NATAK in Marathi.

The then British official who ruled against the plays, said:

“I do not know who was the author, or what his motives were, but the work itself was as gross a calumny as it is possible to conceive. The object was to exhibit as monsters of iniquity the tea planters and those who are engaged in promoting emigration to the tea districts,—bodies of men as well conducted as any in the empire. These gentlemen… have what is called a Mirror held up to them in which the gratification of vile passions, cruelty, avarice and lust, is represented as their ordinary occupation. I do not know that this play was ever acted, but it is written, and in all respects adapted, for the stage, and it might, for any power of prevention the Government have, be acted at any moment.”

Give and take a few prepositions and semi-colons, the arguments remain the same in 2017.

The 1890s was a turning point.

The polemics of patriotism was in the air. Lokmanya Tilak had launched the Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav (Public Ganesh Festival) in 1893. The solidarity of Hindus during the 10 day festival became a political tool in the hands of the Indian National Congress. Tilak introduced the melā which entailed hundreds of singing troupes and performances. It was Brecht before Brecht became an -ism. The mela in outdoor performance spaces provided a solid political message for the masses.

On cue, this form of earthy theatre was under surveillance.

“During the ten days festival” wrote S M Edwards, the Police Commissioner of Bombay in The Bombay City Police, “bands of young Hindus gave theatrical performances and sang religious songs, in which the legends of Hindu mythology were carefully exploited to arouse hatred of the ‘foreigner’, the word mlenccha or ‘foreigner’ being applied equally to Europeans and Muhammadans.”

Lokmanya Tilak and his Ganapati melās became the bad boys of Indian theatre.

Tilak was prosecuted.

Maharashtra with its rich tradition of povādas (ballads) were silenced.

The chorus and the duffs were muted.

The seven act plays with their allegories and delicious dialectics were imprisoned.

As and when the DPA XIX of 1876 proved benign, the Government deployed the Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code plus the Bombay City Police Bill of 1898.

Like me, the UAPA was waiting to be born in 1967.

These laws became an instrument of political coercion.

The point is, it was Tilak hundred years ago.

It is the Ambedkarites, Marxists, Maoists, Muslims, Secularists, Socialists, Feminists, Trade Unionists, Human Rightists, Students, Workers, YOU (for reading this), and basically everyone else, now.

The DPA of 1876 has been rebooted.

There are a mind boggling 50+ licenses for a live theatre show. This means, technically every show in Maharashtra is “illegal”.

Ques: What’s the way forward?
Ans: The ultimate trump card in any theatrewallah’s armoury, budmaashi.

Aravind Ganachari, historian and scholar, mentions how in the 1910s, “The time between the two acts of a play was used to address the audience on the gospel of nationalism. At times, someone from the audience spoke on the theme of national interest. For example, during the performance of KANCHANGADCHI MOHANA at Thane, Dhonddev Kashinath Phadke, Narayan Atre and Diler Khan, a guard from the GIP Railways, made a speech on the desirability of unity between Hindus and Muslims. Many times, during the intervals, Swadeshi items, books and leaflets preaching nationalism and photographs of Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal were sold.”

There are scores and scores of anecdotes about Mumbai’s theatre budmaashi.

There is the delightful tale of the Swajan Hiteishi Natak Mandali (1907) who travelled to Ranibennur and Dharwar, plus Indore and Gwalior with their plays. In addition to the plays, the “drop scenes” curtains with its coded nationalistic graffiti were “a must see”. The messages were simple: “Be patriotic about your country” and “Don’t import articles from foreign countries” and “Don’t drink”. These “drop scene” curtains were deployed between two scenes or acts. The audiences loved it. The enforcement officers did not grasp the play within play. The subterfuge continued. It was much later that the DM of Satara confiscated the curtains under Section 42 of the District Police Act.

G B Phansalkar’s credo after he lost the curtains: Too bad, but we must find another way to beat the system.

This was true hundred years ago.

More so, now.

The other reason theatre remains an important art is, Language!

A lesson I learnt pretty early in life from my German-speaking Physics-loving father is: In maths, the symbol “!” is called a factorial.

The not so humble “!” in mathematics has a special significance.

It makes numbers grow.

So, 2! Is 2×1 = 2.

5! Is 1x2x3x4x5.

It’s the same with Language!

Isn’t it?

Languages beget languages.

I met a Kutchi businessman from Mandvi. At that time, I was struck by the multiple Kutchi dialects being used in the radius of the port area in Mumbai. Bhatia Kutchi, Memoni Kutchi, Khoja Kutchi, Lohana Kutchi, Bania Kutchi. Each with regional variations. Then there were the Maplahs, the Jews, the Nagoris, the Marathas, the Mahars, the Mathadis, the Kunbis.

That’s when I started to realise that in Mumbai, theatre is language.

And this language is shifting.

Did you know, the biggest 21st century crisis is: half of the 6000 languages which the planet speaks will die.

Over 50 languages have only one speaker left.

If you are reading this, you must know, one language will vanish from this planet in the next one month.

Never to be found, again.

Simply because many languages have never been written down.

Many languages cannot be read

They have never been.

This is a shame.

So many stories waiting to be told.

These languages are preserved through the theatre.

Theatre as a kind of living museum that preserves words.

Or else in this words of acronyms and abbreviations and global labels, we hurtle towards what Brien Friel and Vaclav Havel hint about.

We will be confronted by the world in an 1830s hedge school in Brian Friel’s TRANSLATIONS. This is a fictitious village in Irleand. A platoon of English soldiers are been commissioned to Anglicise place names and redraw territorial boundaries to the treasury’s advantage.

The play is about the struggle between England and Ireland. The play focusses mainly on (mis)communication and language.

A character has to recite Virgil’s Aeneid, which tells of the inevitability of conquest but also of its impermanence.

Yet, Hugh’s stumbling attempts at recitation are evidence that “words” are vanishing and every word is dead metaphor.

It is a play about words but about a man who is un-fluent (lovely word, no?) in two dead languages.

Then there is Vaclav Havel’s THE MEMORANDUM with its uncanny similarity to the TV pronouncement in English by The Most Popular Leader On Our Land on 8 November; and what followed.

A deputy manager of a large organisation whose business is mysterious – (don’t forget: Havel is the child of Kafka) – has introduced an artificial “official” language of gobbledygook into the office: Ptydepe (pronounced puh-TYE-duh-pee).

There are Ptydepe classes and an in-house translation centre and, inevitably, memorandums in Ptydepe that no one can understand. Ballas has a boss, Josef Gross who one such memorandum and wants to destroy this new tongue.

The story of an incomprehensible artificial language which is “imposed” on the people by governments and bureaucracy and departments.

Prague = Delhi.

Malá Strana = North Block.

This is the brief history of how an omnipotent government manipulates.

This is the short history of words.

It is true.

Time debases history.

Time debases language.

Today, every word is a dead metaphor.

This in itself is a dead metaphor.

A couple of more things.

Every time I say something.
I realise what I didn’t say.
Is a great injustice to those un-represented.

As a child I accompanied my friends to see a play performed for the LIC class IV union in the Community Centre in the LIC Colony. My first serious play was a Lok Natya called Ramnagari by Ram Nagarkar, who was also the songadya in the superhit lok natya, VICHA MAJHI POORI KARA, along side the inscrutable Nilu Phule. The play begins, “Saala, Hajjam, Ahe, Hajjam.” It is a road side altercation. Ram Nagarkar, the son of a barber, who is watching the entire episode, wonders. “Why do people, drag “our” hajjaam profession into their petty fights?”

That’s was the day when I started to realise that in Mumbai, theatre is language.

Also, I realised theatre is everywhere. Even today, there are more than 1500 play performances in a month in four main languages Hindi, English, Gujarati and Marathi (You can add Telegu and Kannada and Konkani to this list). This beats the mono-lingual mono-culture theatre of New York or London or Berlin, hands down. Plus unlike the subsidised art of Delhi or government grants, the top Marathi and Gujarati plays net Rs 2,50,000 at the box office. This is for a single show. All cash. No cheque.

So much to say, so much to say.

So let’s start in South-Central Bombay. This is the area from Khetwadi to Kamatipura: the epicentre of Bombay after the British royalty were gifted the island city by the Portuguese. The first thing to spring up was the theatre. There were 35 makeshift theatres which featured plays performed in English for the recreation of the British soldiers.

As old timers say about the theatre of Mumbai. It has to fulfil three conditions.
1). Be close to a tram stop or railway station
2). Be in proximity to a dingy bar
3). Be located in a red light area.

It’s most befitting that Falkland Road and the Golpitha chauraha is called the Patthe Bapurao Marg. Patthe Bapurao is the doyen of tamasha. Besides the 16,000 songs he composed, there is the legend about how he (a novice) participated in a jugalbandi and defeated the opponent (a veteran) in a sawaal-jawaab. A young and very pretty courtesan from the Mahar community called Pawala was besotted by his singing and his poetry. The Brahmin Bapurao married the girl. On cue, the theatre performances were banned.

But the manager of the Bangdiwala theatre, a Mohammedan, ensured “the show must go on”.

He got the Brahmin-Mahar husband and wife to sit on the stage and charged two annas for the tickets. The audience watched the banned wedding on stage. The manager made more money at the box office from a staged wedding than the actual show.

In the sultry days of 1944, when there were no air-conditioners, there were theatres like Baliwala Grand Theatre (Playhouse), wherein a play opened with a loud bang of exploding potash, whilst the curtain was being raised. And even as the audience went silent and attentive, occasional shouts from the vendors around the theatre percolated the auditorium. Pista-Badam – Chopdi – Punkha – Uthav Jaldi and the incessant extolling of the ticket-seller “Khel Abhi Chalu Hua.” For some of the performances in the Gothic-style theatre like Victoria, Rippon, Baliwala, the drama companies used to bring their own main curtain, which was operated by two men. Since the curtain pullers often dozed off, the cue to bring down the curtain was a shrill blast of a whistle. During one of the shows, the curtain pullers who were asleep were awakened by a shrill whistle, and so, they hurriedly brought down the curtain in the middle of the scene. It was only later that it was found out that the whistle was not blown by a prompter but by a BEST traffic conductor on the street.

I used the above scene in a play about the 1944 dock explosions which I wrote called 3 SAKINA MANZIL.

I plagiarised from reality.

I borrowed from the city.

Whether 3 SAKINA MANZIL rediscovered the magic of theatre, I don’t know. Whether the play is a success or not, I don’t know. Whether the play was understood, or misunderstood, I don’t know. For me what mattered is, I had to write the play about the 1944 dock explosion which tore this city apart!

That’s the beauty of theatre in this city. It springs up in the most unlikely of venues. From maidans like the Jambori Maidan which hosted the month long Kamgar Fest (the oldest theatre fest in this city) to a cult play like Vastraharan whose 5000 shows have been performed by mill workers from Lower Parel and Naigaon. In “the good old days” of working class solidarity, the plays were performed in the compound of the chawls or in the bylanes. The shows were mainly mythological productions, with artificial ornaments and gaudy costumes. The performances used to go on till the wee hours of the mornings, and the audience contributed to a noble cause.

Why is all this important?

As my Guru-ji Jorge Luis Borges asks, What is a book?

Then Guru-ji Jorge Luis Borges pauses in his public lecture (available on YouTube).

It seems to be like a picture.

We ask it something, but it does NOT answer.

The book is dead.

Fortunately a man called Plato invented the Platonic Dialogue.

Plato is the dramatist
Who invented Socrates
To help us hear
The voice of the master
He wrote the Dialogue
Today, even though Socrates is dead
Having drunk from a hemlock
Socrates is still with us

Like Narendra Dhabolkar
Like Govind Pansare
Like Malleshappa Kalburgi
And even the playwright from Navsari
Ram Ganesh Gadkari
Whose bust may be at the bottom of a river
But his words have resurrected
After Three Days
Because of the Dialogue

The incorrigible Talliram is back
Gadkari’s classic Ekach Pyala is back
Socrates is back
He never went away

Consider the extraordinary Kenyan playwright and novelist, Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

In 1977, he wrote a play called Ngaahika Ndeenda (I Will Marry When I Want).

To quote the blurb: (It is) The story of a farmer swindled out of his land by corrupt elites, it dealt directly with the plight of ordinary Kenyans and cast untrained villagers in starring roles.

The play was a super duper hit. But after six weeks of a box office run, the authorities shut it down.

On New Year’s eve, then vice-president and later dictator Daniel arap Moi despatched Ngugi to the notorious Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o could not be silenced.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o penned the Devil on the Cross.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o penned on a prison-issued toilet .

Ngugi wa Thiong’o wrote in his own language: Kikuyu.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o preserved ideas.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o preserved words.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o preserved Kikuyu.

And that’s the point isn’t it, Many people mistake the buying of a book with buying of its content or owning the author.

There is a beautiful book called BIBLOMANIA by Gustave Flaubert in which a fanatical bibliophile and antique bookseller lets his rival die in a fire so that he can get his hands on a highly coveted Latin Bible.

Charged with murder, he cheerfully accepts his death sentence.

But the twist to the plot (!) is that the bookseller cannot read The Bible.

Since Bhasa, Kalidasa and the Greeks, ideas have been considered dangerous.

There is no need to be surprised.

Which is perhaps why ancients had no great use of books.

Most of the great teachers.

Have not been writers.

But speakers.





Ved Vyasa.


Even Tukaram sang his abhangs.

So, the Brahmin threw a bundle with Tuka’s kirtans into the Chandrabhaga river.

Three days later.

The Pandãs (priests) opened the doors of the temple.

The Pandas found a wet sack on the head of Panduranga.

This is the brief history of ideas in India

I culminate this, with a reference to the LES COMBUSTIBLES by Amelie Nothomb.

The play transpires during a war, three figures are trapped in a library in the middle of a hard winter, with only books to provide the heating. They argue with one another about the relative merits of the books and order in which they should be sacrificed to the flames. The last book left comes to symbolise beauty in the face of the horrors of war. When this last book is thrown into the flames, the characters leave the cold library and offer themselves up to soldiers on the road outside.

They are shot dead.

All those books in their brain cells.

A life without books (and indeed words) seems meaningless to them.

Theatre zindabad!


Original post appeared at

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Will the new maternity-benefits Bill help close the gender diversity gap at the workplace?


It is definitely a quantitative leap, but will companies be comfortable giving employees six months off and ensuring the job is theirs when they return?

Photo: iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

Parliament recently passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which is now awaiting the President’s nod. One of its most talked about highlights is the increase in maternity leave, from 12 weeks to 26, for employees in the formal sector. It also provides for a “work from home” option once the leave period ends.

With this, India joins Poland and Ireland, both of which offer 26 weeks of paid maternity leave.

Maternity leave is very important for the health of the newborn baby because it enables the working woman to exclusively breast-feed her child for six months after birth, which is also recommended by the World Health Organization. This period also enables the working mother to recuperate herself before she returns to work as well as bond with the child,” says Maneka Gandhi, Union minister for women and child development.

It is definitely a quantitative leap, but will companies be comfortable giving employees six months off and ensuring the job is theirs when they return? Will it, in effect, lead to a decrease in demand for female labour? Women’s labour force participation in India is already low; between 2004-11, it saw a drop from 35% to 25%, according to a report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), published in 2016.

We asked a panel of experts, all women, about their views on the Bill. Edited excerpts:

In a 35-year career span for any woman, giving a six-month or one-year break (in case of two children) will only result in more loyalty, productivity and engagement from them, says Shachi Irde.

In a 35-year career span for any woman, giving a six-month or one-year break (in case of two children) will only result in more loyalty, productivity and engagement from them, says Shachi Irde.

Shachi Irde, vice-president and executive director, Catalyst India WRC, a non-profit that works to create and expand opportunities for women in the corporate sector

The passage of the Bill shows that organizations and the government understand the business case for having more women employees in the workforce. Our research shows that women employees stay longer with an organization throughout their careers. In a 35-year career span for any woman, giving a six-month or one-year break (in case of two children) will only result in more loyalty, productivity and engagement from them.

The next logical step is for organizations to take steps to ensure the smooth reintegration of women returning to the workplace after their leave. It could be done by implementing returnship programmes and fair performance management systems that do not penalize women for maternity breaks as well as by making flexible work arrangements a business strategy for all eligible employees.

An option that could be worth considering by the government would be to bear or share the cost of paid maternity leave; this will act as an incentive to hire more women. This is also a progressive practice followed by countries such as Sweden, which has had a minister for gender equality for more than six decades.

With higher maternity benefits, one would expect an increase in women’s labour supply, says economist Rupa Subramanya

With higher maternity benefits, one would expect an increase in women’s labour supply, says economist Rupa Subramanya

Rupa Subramanya, economist and independent researcher

With higher maternity benefits, one would expect an increase in women’s labour supply. However, it will only decrease employers’ demand for female employees as the cost to them will increase. Therefore, on balance, it’s not evident that this policy will lead to greater women’s employment. It could even lead to a drop.

In terms of providing benefits, comparing India to Scandinavian countries, which are at a much higher level of economic development, makes zero sense. Remember, all these countries in the West only implemented generous social welfare legislation because their per capita income levels are much higher than India’s.

This amended Bill should be repealed and, before any legislation is passed, a cost-benefit analysis must be undertaken and wider group of stakeholders, going beyond social activists and trade unions, should be consulted.

Ritu Dewan.

Ritu Dewan.

Ritu Dewan, president, Indian Association for Women’s Studies, a professional association that aims to further women’s studies

The Bill is full of gaps—it excludes the majority (the informal sector workers), doesn’t mention paternity leave (reinforcing patriarchal norms), limits coverage to two live births, placing the onus of a small family on the woman, and disregards the impact of additional children on her health. Most importantly, the Bill talks about providing a crèche facility for companies where the number of workers is 50 and above. What about companies with fewer workers? Also, it includes adoption, which is good, but only for a baby less than three months old. Why just three months?

The Bill is likely to open the door for private organizations to adopt discriminatory hiring practices and exclude women based on their age and marital status, says Swagata Raha.

The Bill is likely to open the door for private organizations to adopt discriminatory hiring practices and exclude women based on their age and marital status, says Swagata Raha.

Swagata Raha, consultant, Centre for Child and the Law (National Law School of India University, Bengaluru), and Development Management Institute, Patna

The Bill was an opportunity to modify social stereotypes about women’s role in child-rearing and the male-centric nature of the workplace. Unfortunately, the Bill not only reinforces stereotypes, it is also likely to have the opposite effect on women’s employment. A 2014 ILO report, “Maternity And Paternity At Work—Law And Practice Across The World”, observes, “When employers are statutorily mandated to shoulder the full direct cost of work-family reconciliation measures, for instance, by financing wage replacement during maternity and paternity leave (employer liability) or workplace childcare facilities—this may create disincentives to hire women and workers with family responsibilities.”

The Bill is likely to open the door for private organizations to adopt discriminatory hiring practices and exclude women based on their age and marital status. Practices such as inquiring about a woman’s marital status or her ability to balance responsibilities at work and home, will be encouraged. The measures in the Bill, apart from perpetuating gender stereotypes around childcare, are also likely to trigger hostility towards working mothers for the “work from home” benefit, one that should actually be available to all employees.

The Bill should ensure that the burden to provide these benefits is not imposed solely on employers. India should study the social security schemes that are operational in at least 107 countries, in which the burden is shared by employers, employees and government in varying degrees. Second, the Bill should provide for paternity leave as well as parental and family leave, not just maternity leave. Most importantly, the Bill should contain an anti-discrimination clause to ensure that the recipients of the benefits under the Bill, in public or private employment, are not discriminated against on grounds of sex, pregnancy, maternity or family responsibilities in any aspect of employment.

The Scandinavian and Nordic countries follow a social insurance model where the burden is not just on the employer, and they recognize parental and paternity leave besides maternity leave. The two vital lessons for India from the models in these countries is that parenting is not exclusively the woman’s responsibility and the obligation to support employees with family responsibilities has to be shared. In the absence of this, the gender gap is likely to widen further.

Adequate support from the organization is crucial to ensure they don’t leave the workforce, says Urvashi Singh

Adequate support from the organization is crucial to ensure they don’t leave the workforce, says Urvashi Singh

Urvashi Singh, senior vice-president (human resources), Genpact

Gender diversity in the entry-level talent pool is not the concern of the hour. But as a woman progresses through critical life stages like marriage and childbirth, the chances of dropping out of the workforce increase gradually. This leaking talent pipeline is one of the biggest challenges for every organization, across the spectrum. Adequate support from the organization—be it 26 weeks of maternity leave or daycare facilities—is crucial to ensure they don’t leave the workforce.

Genpact increased its maternity leave to 26 weeks in January. Applicable to not only birth mothers but also adopting and commissioning (surrogate) mothers, the maternity leave is accessible to women employees for giving birth to or adopting up to two children. At our India offices, about 200 children of employees avail the in-house and near-office daycare facilities. With the supportive ecosystem that welcomes a woman returning from maternity leave at Genpact, we have had a 96% deployment rate for returning moms and have managed to retain 88% of this crucial talent pool.

In most cases, maternity breaks are not situations of exigency. We always have adequate well-planned measures in place so that work is not hampered in any way while a woman employee is away on maternity leave.

Maternity leave

Number of weeks with pay offered across the world

UK: 52 Greece: 43

Ireland: 42

Slovak Republic: 34

Czech Republic: 28

Israel: 26 Poland: 26

Hungary: 24

Italy: 21.70

Estonia: 20

* The US is the only developed country that doesn’t provide any paid maternity leave. Source: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

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Behind the BJP’s spectacular success in Northeast, years of silent work by Sangh

Back in 1995, the RSS and its affiliated organisations had about 650 such units in the Northeast; today there are over 6,000.

bjp, manipur bjp, bjp northeast, rss bjp, rss manipur, rss northeast, indian express news, india news, latest newsTo form N Biren Singh’s government in Manipur, the BJP has risen meteorically to win 21 seats. (Source: Express Archive)What do T Thangzalam Haokip of Henglep, Vungzagin Valte of Thanlon, V Hangkhanlian of Churachandpur, Samuel Jendai Kamei of Tamenglong and Nemcha Kipgen of Kanpokpi have been common? They are all tribals, members of the new Manipur Assembly, elected on BJP tickets. More significantly, they are all Christians, and have been elected from constituencies where almost 99% voters are Christian. The elections in Manipur have dismantled the myth that the BJP is a party that belongs to and works only for Hindus.

In Manipur, the BJP has risen meteorically to 21 seats; less than a year ago, it had swept the Assam elections, increasing its strength from 5 to 60 in the Assembly. While credit for the success in Manipur is due to a team led by Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convener and Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav, the young strategist Rajat Sethi, party secretary in charge of Manipur Prahlad Patel, and Assam BJP secretary Jagadish Bhuyan among others — the party also owes is remarkable showing to the work carried out silently by a number of organisations of the Sangh Parivar, some of whom have been working in 100% Christian areas in the Manipur hills.

“It is a fact that the BJP worked hard. But one must also remember that various Sangh wings have been working very hard for years, both in the Imphal Valley as well as the surrounding hill districts,” Jagdamba Mall, a veteran RSS organiser who has spent 40 years in Nagaland and was deputed to Manipur for the elections, said. “Tribal people, irrespective of their religious faith, particularly trust and respect our welfare programmes. This trust was definitely converted to votes,” Mall said. As many as 15 organisations affiliated to the Sangh have been active in Manipur, some for over three decades. “All the good work these wings have done have paid dividends,” said Shankar Das, prachar pramukh of the RSS’s Uttar Assam prant, which covers most of Assam, and the whole of Nagaland and Meghalaya. Instead of openly campaigning for the BJP, the RSS wings focused on getting people out on polling day. “When you go from door to door, house to house and village to village asking voters to come out early, the message not only becomes clear, it also gets translated,” Das said.

Organisations like Sewashram, Ekal Vidyalaya, Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, Sewa Bharati, Kisan Sangha, ABVP, Vidya Bharati, Friends of Tribal Society or Van Bandhu Parishad, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bharatiya Jan Seva Sansthan, Bharat Kalyan Pratishthan, Bal Sanskar Kendra, and the Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh have been running formal and informal education units across Manipur, and have had some impact, especially on the parents of children attending these centres. “You should not be surprised if you find children of some so-called extremist leaders of Nagaland attending English-medium schools run by a Sangh wing,” said one RSS worker who belongs to Maharashtra but has spent over 20 years in the Northeast.

Back in 1995, the RSS and its affiliated organisations had about 650 such units in the Northeast; today there are over 6,000. The number of Ekal Vidyalayas is said to have crossed the 3,000 mark. The RSS has over 120 shakhas and mandalis in Manipur alone, and its Ekal Vidyalayas — though restricted to the Imphal Valley — have touched a large number of families. “We have not only promoted Indian culture, but have also successfully driven home the point that Manipuri culture is an inseparable part of it,” said Kedar Kulkarni, who has recently moved to Manipur after having served for several years in Nagaland. And while the illegal influx of Bangladeshis resonates across the region, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had, during a recent visit to Manipur, declared that the problems of the state were the problems of the entire nation.

The BJP’s alliance with the Naga People’s Front (NPF) in neighbouring Nagaland — which had not gone down well with the Meiteis because the NSCN (IM) includes parts of Manipur in its Nagalim map — too contributed to the BJP’s victory. Although the Congress initially gained some ground among Meitei and non-Naga voters of Manipur underlining the central government’s signing of the Framework Agreement with the NSCN (IM), a sizeable section of Meiteis later changed mind, with the RSS playing a role in persuading them. “We have been focusing for long on the patriotism and nationalism of the Manipuri people,” Mall said. The membership of the RSS has been increasing in the Hindu-majority areas of Assam. In the Imphal Valley, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura, the Sangh’s organisational structure has grown from 2 divisions until 2013 to 4 now.

Veterans in the RSS strongly believe that Manipur is just the beginning of the realisation of their potential in the hill states, and more is in store. The number of workers in Tripura has doubled in just a year, and with Assembly elections likely in February 2018, the BJP could give the ruling Left Front a run for its money. The RSS is also working to prepare the ground for the BJP in Meghalaya, another Christian-majority state that goes to polls early next year. Various Sangh wings are fast adding units, and last year, over 300 RSS cadres — mostly from the Khasi and Jaintia communities — paraded through Shillong in khaki shorts and white shirts, holding sticks. The BJP already has an ally in Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party, which has a strong base in western Meghalaya — what it needs now is the help of the RSS’s wings to reach out rapidly in the eastern region of the state.

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Gujarat communal clash: Mob came thrice, bigger each time, says survivor

Counter complaints have been filed by the residents of Vadavali and Sunsar villages with police.

Written by RITU SHARMA | Vadavali (patan) |

gujarat riots, gujarat communal riots, gujarat communal clash, patan riots, gujarat patan communal clash, gujarat 2017 riots, gujarat news, india news, indian express news, latest news(Source: Express Photo)On Saturday, like any other, Amzad Belim (19) returned from the fields to lunch with his brother Imran (21) in the afternoon, when he heard a group of boys from neighbouring Sunsar marching towards the village shouting “we will kill you all Muslims”. “But after elders of our village calmed them down, they left,” said Amzad. This was first of the three angry groups, mostly comprising the Thakors from Sunsar, that had reached Vagjipara — an extended colony of nearly 1,500 Muslims — at Vadavali on Saturday following a clash between school students In the subsequent violence, Amzad’s father Ibrahimkhan Lalkhan Belim (45) lost his life, 20 were injured, five of them seriously. All were residents of Vagjipara. Nearly 25 vehicles were gutted, homes set afire, cattle taken away and grains burnt.

Counter complaints have been filed by the residents of Vadavali and Sunsar villages with police. One compliant (filed by Manharsinh Zala) cited a Muslim boy from Vadavali “pushing” a girl from Sunsar and the resultant fight between Hindu and Muslim school students as the reason for the violence, the other (filed by Rehmanbhai Alibhai Malek) named the Thakors as the accused. So far, no arrest has been made. Ibrahimkhan is accused number 13 in the list of 14 in the FIR on the basis of Zala’s complaint.

According to his son Amzad, around 30 minutes after the first group of around 10-15 boys returned after being persuaded by the village elders, a mob of 100 youths armed with sticks and sharp-edged weapons reached Vagjipara. His father and other elders again tried to reason with the group. “But the group started hitting us with the weapons ,” said Imran, Amzad’s elder brother. Soon, a police vehicle reached the village with nearly five to six policemen, following which the mob fled, but with a warning that they would return, he said. “Hardly after 30 minutes, an armed mob of over 5,000 people from Sunsar arrived…. We rushed the women and children to the mosque at Vadavali village. Only 15-16 men were left behind ensuring safety of the cattle and our houses,” said Imran.

Before the mob arrived the third time, Ibrahimkhan hid his two sons and his nephews in a room on the first floor at his brother’s house and locked the door from outside. “That was the last time I saw my father. He said he was going out to see if the mob had left,” Amzad said. From inside, Amzad said, he heard four or five gun shots and people shouting for help. He suspected his father was ambushed. “We heard people shouting from outside and trying to break open the door. We had locked the door from inside. Soon, police reached and the mob fled… else we too have been killed,” said Amzad, who studies in an Industrial Training Institute (ITI).

On Saturday midnight, police informed the family of Ibrahimkhan’s death. Ibrahimkhan’s wife Naseembano said: “My husband folded his hands and requested them to goback. Was that his only fault? He ensured that his family is safe.”

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Mismanagement And Controversy Beleaguer India’s Chief Justice

 by- Alok Prasanna Kumar

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Less than three months since he took over as Chief Justice of India, and not even half-way into his tenure, it is safe to say that Justice JS Khehar has not covered himself in glory. For a judge whose judicial work gave the impression of one who worked with no fear or favour, his tenure as a Chief Justice has been disappointing so far, at least in the context of his administrative and institutional responsibilities as Chief Justice.

Collegium Mismanagement

Although Justice Khehar’s collegium of judges (which recommends appointments) broke the “impasse” with the Government over appointments, it still faces much internal dissension and discontent over its choices. Justice Chelameswar may have ended his “boycott” of the collegium proceedings, but his strong dissent against its decision to not elevate Justices KM Joseph (of the Uttarakhand High Court) and Manjula Chellur (of the Bombay High Court) to the Supreme Court has exposed the divisions within the judiciary. So much so that another overlooked judge lashed out in an ugly, communal manner to Chief Justice Khehar in a letter.

The collegium has been opaque and unaccountable, and those shortcomings have come back to haunt it, more so since it was Justice Khehar himself who observed in a post-decisional hearing after the NJAC case that the collegium needed to be more transparent. The widely conflicting reports (such as this and this) over the collegium’s position on the Memorandum of Procedure for appointment of judges are also a clear indication of this opacity, and it’s disappointing that nothing has been done by the CJI to mitigate this, despite his own observations on transparency.

Listing Controversies

There have been at least two high profile instances where Supreme Court benches have changed almost midway through hearings. As per practice, a case is supposed to “follow” a bench of judges, or at least the senior most judge, unless some pressing circumstance prevents one or both judges from hearing it or they retire. This rule seemed to have been ignored in the ongoing cases against Vijay Mallya when the matter was suddenly placed before Justices Adarsh Goel and UU Lalit, about a year after it had been heard by Justices Kurien Joseph and Rohington Nariman. No explanation was given and the new judges themselves were surprised at having to hear a case they had no background to, and one which had gone some distance in hearing.

Likewise, the combination hearing the Babri Masjid demolition case was changed over the intervening Holi holidays. The matter, which was being heard by Justices PC Ghose and Nariman, was placed before a bench of Justices Ghose and Deepak Gupta. This having followed wide reporting of Justice Nariman’s adverse remarks against the CBI for its work in the case, raises uncomfortable questions. When it came up for hearing, Justice Ghose adjourned the matter insisting that Justice Nariman had to be on the bench hearing it.

The Chief Justice also being in charge of deciding the causelist and allocation of work to judges, these lapses point to a serious failure in the proper administration of the court.

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Chief Justice of India JS Khehar. (Photograph: PTI)

Kalikho Pul

Perhaps the biggest blunder that Justice Khehar’s committed thus far is in the handling of the complaint of Dangwimsai Pul against judges of the Supreme Court, based on a “suicide note” allegedly written by former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Kalikho Pul. As I’ve written before, this was a mess-up of the highest order and the responsibility squarely lies with Justice Khehar. The former chief minister’s wife had filed for administrative action against two senior judges named in the suicide note (that alleges corruption within the judiciary). The CJI’s decision to convert the complaint to a writ petition and place it before a Supreme Court bench was criticised by the complainant’s lawyer as an attempted “judicial burial”.
Even if a fair-minded citizen were to be prima facie unconvinced of the allegations against the senior judges contained in Pul’s suicide note, Justice Khehar’s subsequent actions may have planted seeds of doubt about their integrity in her mind.

Other Failings

Like his predecessors, Justice Khehar has allowed the Central Government to freely defy the Supreme Court’s order in the Aadhar case by delaying the constitution of a bench to hear this all-important case, more than eighteen months after the last order was passed. His ill-conceived utterances on the Ayodhya land dispute (at the instance of an interloper to the case, and without all the parties being present before him) probably made the parties less likely to settle the matter or even approach him for mediation. Not to mention the contempt proceedings against Calcutta High Court Justice CS Karnan which, far from disciplining him, threatens to become a media circus, making the Supreme Court look more foolish than stern.

Prior to his appointment, I had raised the possibility elsewhere that his independent streak might make the Central Government think of superseding Justice Khehar for the post of CJI. It didn’t happen of course and he was appointed as CJI. Unfortunately, his work as CJI has not exactly inspired confidence. The court appears weak in the face of defiance from government and judges themselves, incompetent in ensuring smooth and fair functioning, and of doubtful integrity in the face of serious allegations. One hopes that there is a turnaround before the institution is irretrievably damaged.

Alok Prasanna Kumar is an advocate based in Bengaluru, an Executive Committee Member of the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms and was a Senior Resident Fellow at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.

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Kapil Sharma to be warned by Air India officials for unruly behavior on flight


Air India officials likely to issue warning to comedian Kapil Sharma for his unruly behavior on flight from Australia to India

The Kapil Sharma – Sunil Grover controversy thickens by the day. Kapil’s brawl with his crew members on The Kapil Sharma Show has not gone down well with Air India. After the reports of major actors walking out of Kapil Sharma’s show, Indian carrier Air India is reportedly planning to issue a warning to the comedian, who had reportedly created a menace on a flight from Australia to India.  Indian air carriers, in recent times have been experiencing a lot of unruly behavior from VVIP personalities and is planning to taking stringent actions against them to reduce such incidences.As reported by ToI, Ashwani Lohani, Air India chief has called for a report of Kapil Sharma’s behavior on flight from Melbourne, Australia to Delhi, India on March 16, 2017. Kapil Sharma was traveling back to India along with his crew in business class. The exact nature of the incident is yet to be determined and the warning is likely to be issued this week.

Reports state that Kapil Sharma had too many drinks on flight after which he lost his control and lashed out on his crew members while disturbing other fellow passengers. The business class only had an elderly woman traveling apart from Sharma’s crew. The voice of Kapil Sharma was so loud that even the passengers from the economy class noticed and got scared. The cabin crew then asked the actor to calm down and was requested to be seated as the other passengers were also getting disturbed.

Kapil Sharma reportedly apologized and calmed down. However, after some time reports state that the actor got up once again and started hurling abuses to his crew members and this time the pilot came out and warned Sharma. The comedian then calmed down and spent most of his time sleeping during the travel. Actors Ali Asgar, Chandan Prabhakar and Sunil Grover have reportedly left the show, while Kapil has roped in new actors for The Kapil Sharma Show.

While Kapil did take to his Twitter account later to make a public apology to Sunil, it didn’t do much to mend their ties.

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Whose Padmavati is it anyway?

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is fighting real battles on his film sets to paint the story of Padmavati on celluloid — even as experts debate her existence.


The mirrors, reflecting the queen’s luminous beauty, appeared to be lit by the light of a thousand lamps, leaving the emperor Alauddin Khilji dazzled. Until recently, this iconic moment could be imagined by tourists visiting the Chittor fort in Rajasthan by looking at the so-called ‘Padmini’s mirrors’, strategically placed inside. Not any more. A few days ago, self-appointed defenders of Padmini’s honour have smashed the mirrors, claiming that the queen did not show herself there. In a sense, they are right. The mirrors were installed about fifty years ago for the benefit of tourists. The mirror episode itself was a late addition to the legend of Padmavati/ Padmini, the mythical queen of Chittor.

Was the queen, whose face ‘made powerful monarchs lose their wits,’ as the comic book Padmini (Amar Chitra Katha series) claims, a figment of imagination? She is not alluded to in historical sources like the chronicles written by Aamir Khusru and Ziauddin Barani, both of whom claimed that conquest of Chittor (1303) was simply a part of Alauddin’s imperialist policy. The poem Padmavat, written in Awadhi around 1540 by the Sufi poet, Malik Muhammed Jayasi, mentions Padmavati for the first time. Since then, there have been divergent adaptations of the legend in multiple languages and for different target audiences. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film in the making, Padmavati is the latest of such creative ventures. At the shooting stage itself, the film’s crew has already suffered two attacks — first, reportedly by the Rajput Karni Sena in Jaipur and more recently, arson on the film set in Kolhapur.

Ranveer Singh plays Alauddin Khilji in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmavati.Ranveer Singh plays Alauddin Khilji in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmavati.

In Jayasi’s Padmavat, Ratansen, the prince of Chittor, learnt of the incredible beauty of Padmavati, princess of Singhal, from her parrot Hiraman, who claimed that she was a ‘Padmini,’ the best among the four categories of women. Resolving to win her, Ratansen travelled to faraway Singhal. Many adventures later, he married the princess and brought her to Chittor. When Ratansen banished a wily Brahmin, Raghav Chetan from his court, the vengeful pundit approached Sultan Alauddin Khilji and induced him to capture the ‘Padmini’ queen of Chittor. After a long siege of Chittor, Alauddin offered a truce. Ratansen invited the emperor to his palace, where Alauddin managed to steal a glimpse of the bewitching Padmavati. Intending to possess her, Alauddin imprisoned Ratansen through treachery. The king was subsequently rescued by Gora and Badal, two noblemen of Chittor.

In the meantime, Devpal, the Rajput ruler of a neighbouring kingdom sent a marriage proposal to Padmavati, which she refused. After his return, as Padmavati informed him about this renewed insult to her honour, Ratansen set off to avenge her. Both the kings died in the ensuing battle. Padmavati, along with Ratansen’s first wife, Nagamati, immolated herself on the funeral pyre of Ratansen. Alauddin resumed his siege and conquered Chittor. The men perished fighting him and the women immolated themselves. The political dimension in Padmavat, which was otherwise a typical Sufi romantic tale, can probably be attributed to the prevailing political situation. By reviving memories of Alauddin Khilji’s subjugation of local rulers, the poem seemed to comment on the expansionism of the contemporary emperor, Sher Shah, to whom Jayasi dedicated the poem.

Deepika Padukone plays the  legendary queen of Chittor in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmavati.Deepika Padukone plays the legendary queen of Chittor in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmavati.

Between late 16th to early 18th Centuries, several renditions of the legend were written under the auspices of the Sisodia rulers of Mewar who looked for a heroic past to legitimise their present political ambitions. In such chronicles, Ratansingh and Padmini epitomised the ideal Rajput king and queen. Alauddin Khilji was demonised as an immoral Muslim invader, a contrast to the brave and virtuous Hindu Rajput nobility. Ratansingh’s quest for Padmini became marginal. King Devpal disappeared altogether, since the focus shifted to a Muslim versus Hindu binary.

Glorification of the rulers of Mewar and vilification of Alauddin were rendered colonialist legitimacy by James Tod, resident of the East India Company at Udaipur from 1818-1823, through his book, The Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan (1829), according to which Padmini was the wife of Bhimsingh, uncle of Rana Lachhmansingh. The mirror as a narrative device made its appearance here. So did the patron goddess of Chittor, demanding sacrifice of royal blood from the Rana. Tod’s story was accepted as history by English educated nationalists, particularly in Bengal. They adopted it to suit their patriotic quest for a glorious Hindu past during the Swadeshi movement in early 20th Century. A number of fictional accounts of Padmini were now published in Bengali, where the queen was presented as an icon of Hindu feminine virtues and given voice and agency. For example in Abanindranath Tagore’s book Rajkahini (1909), Padmini ventured to wear the ornaments of the goddess of Chittor, thus becoming one with her.

Queen Nagamati was eliminated from these tales, presumably because polygamy did not conform to an idealised Hindu past. Lesser known Urdu versions of Padmavat also circulated in print. The Muslim authors of such works did away with Sufi and Rajput ethos, presenting Alauddin as a misguided conqueror who repented his actions later. The dramatic potential of this tale was not lost. In 1875, Jyotirindranth Tagore wrote a drama based on this myth, which featured, apart from the popular actress Binodini, a live fire jauhar scene. The legend captured European imagination as well, inspiring the French composer Albert Roussel to write an Opera ballet, Padmavati, which opened in Paris in 1923. Roussel inserted an element of Greek tragedy for his European audience: In the finale, Padmavati killed her mortally wounded husband before immolating herself in his pyre.

Unsurprisingly, Indian filmmakers also seized upon this saga, moulding it as they saw fit. Well known among such films is Jaswant Jhaveri’s Maharani Padmini (1964). Though it claimed to celebrate ‘the memories of Rajput courage, bravery and chivalry’ in its opening credits, it seems to have followed the Urdu variant. It made Malik Kafur, Alauddin’s general, the real villain who instigated the emperor to attack Chittor. The film ended with Alauddin shedding tears of remorse at the sight of the carnage. A Tamil film, Chitoor Rani Padmini (1963) had Vyjayanthimala playing the title role, with many dance sequences. It was not a box office success, probably because the audience could not accept the chaste queen being frivolous enough to dance. Millions of Bollywood fans are waiting for Mr Bhansali’s version, which hopefully contains spectacular shots, opulent costumes and melodious songs. Meanwhile, for curious minds, there are scholarly works, like the one by Ramya Sreenivasan, which explain the evolution of this engaging fable.

Baijayanti Roy is the author of The Making of a Gentleman Nazi: Albert Speer’s Politics of History in the Federal Republic of Germany.

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Aadhaar on trial: The litigations around #Aadhaar #mustread


The development of Aadhaar over the years has opened a Pandora’s box of litigations against its various claims and processes that range on the spectrum from privacy rights to compulsory carrying of Aadhaar cards by drivers. Prior to the drafting and operation of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial & Other Subsidies, Benefits & Services) Act, 2016 (hereinafter Aadhaar Act), the Aadhaar scheme was challenged by many petitions, tagged together under the case of K.S. Puttaswamy & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. However, upon the notification of the Act and various Regulations therewith, fresh petitions have been filed challenging the Aadhaar Act and the Rules in S.G. Vombatkere and Anr. v. Union of India & Ors. Apart from these, there have been a multitude of petitions filed around the Aadhaar scheme and its usage by various state agencies in several forums across the country.

(A detailed time-line of the Aadhaar scheme can be accessed here)

Initial petitions: The pending case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.(W.P.(C) 494/2012), was the first in the series of cases challenging the Aadhaar scheme. The case, along with 15 other matters tagged along with it,is currently pending before the Apex Court, after being referred to the Constitution Bench in 2015. The latest orders issued in this case on 11th August and 15th October, 2015 effectively held that until the issues in the pending case can be decided with finality by the Supreme Court, the use of Aadhaar card is not only purely voluntary, but can only be used on this voluntary basis for six Government schemes i.e. Public Distribution System, LPG, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Employees’ Providend Fund Organization, Pension scheme, and Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojna. Moreover, it also mentioned that no one should be denied any services or benefits that they are rightfully entitled to for the lack of an Aadhaar card.

(Our notes from hearings of this case can be accessed here)

Contempt: In the year that followed the above mentioned orders, there have been innumerable news reports of activities that would tantamount to contempt of these orders. We have attempted to record the violations of these orders where Government agencies and private bodies have not only used Aadhaar for purposes ranging from applying for Padma Shri awards to filing Income Tax appeals, but have also made it mandatory in many cases. A non exhaustive catalog created by us from news reports on these violations can be accessed here. Owing to the massive scale of these incidents, contempt petitions were recently filed in the Supreme Court, in the case of Mathew Thomas v. K.D. Tripathi and Anr. (Contempt Petition(C) 444/2016). Col. Mathew Thomas is also one of the petitioners in the cases tagged under the above-mentioned K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India. As these claims arise from the orders given in K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, the Supreme court has connected the contempt proceedings to it and are thereby, pending further listing and hearing.

Scholarship row: The Ministry of Minority Affairs, through a letter dated 14th July, 2016 had made Aadhaar a mandatory requirement to apply for the Pre-Matric, Post Matric, and Merit Scholarship schemes for the years 2016-2017, along with making the registration possible solely through an online platform. This is a scheme that provides scholarships to students of recognized minority communities for high school education on the basis of certain criteria. This order was challenged before the Supreme Court as well as the Delhi High Court in two separate petitions.

  • Supreme Court: In the case of All Bengal Minority Students Council and Anr. v. Union of India and Anr. (W.P.(C) 686/2016), the Supreme Court drew attention to the last order by the five Judge Bench on 15th October, 2015 in the case of K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, where it made the use of Aadhaar card purely voluntary, and ordered to stay the implementation of the letters issued by the Ministry of Minority Affairs that made Aadhaar compulsory for applying for Pre matric, Post matric and Merit based scholarships. In this order dated 14th September, 2016, a two Judge Bench also asked the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to remove the mandatory requirement for Aadhaar from the National Scholarship Portal as well.
  • Delhi High Court: In a petition filed by the Nasimuddin Educational and Charitable Trust (W.P(C) 7931/2016) that challenged the same orders by the Ministry of Minority Affairs, the Delhi High Court acknowledged the order passed by the Supreme Court on the issue in the above mentioned case. However, it recognized that the Apex Court had not provided any insight on the mandatory online application for the scholarships. Therefore, on the exclusionary nature of the application procedure by limiting it to only online applications, the Delhi High Court has agreed to hear the case on 7th December, 2016 subsequent to the filing of a response by the Union of India and other respondents. Although the Delhi High Court website states that this case was disposed off on 7th December, 2016, details of any order or judgment are unavailable on their online portal.

Mandatory for PDS: Following petitions challenging orders making Aadhaar mandatory for PDS are pending in Karnataka as well as Delhi High Court:

  • Karnataka High Court: It was reported that upon Aadhaar being made mandatory by Karnataka State Government on 29th July, 2016 to avail benefits of Public Distribution System (PDS), a petition was filed challenging it. The High Court has subsequently as per the reports issued notice to the State and district governments in this regard. (We have been unable to locate and procure the official records/ documents of the case, and would appreciate assistance/information regarding them)
  • Delhi High Court: A division bench of the Delhi High Court took up another public interest litigation filed by NGO Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan v. Union of India & Ors. (W.P.(C) 2161/2017) on 8th March, 2017, which sought the quashing of Centre’s  notification issued on 8th February, 2017 mandating the possession of Aadhaar cards for purchasing subsidized food grains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) on the grounds that it violates Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution.  The High Court has reportedly issued notice to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in this case and also sought response from the Delhi government before the next date of hearing on April 24.
  • Karnataka High Court: In another petition, Smt Sukanya G S v. State of Karnataka (W.P. No. 61098/2016), which challenged an endorsement issued by the Food and Civil Supplies Department, denying the ration to the petitioner on not producing her Aadhaar card, the Karnataka High Court, in its order on February 10, 2017, reportedly issued notice to the respondents and providing an interim stay, further directed them to provide subsidized food grains to the petitioner even without the production of an Aadhaar card.

Need to carry Aadhaar card while driving: In a press release, reportedly issued by the Cyberabad Police Commissionerate on 23rd July, it was said that Aadhaar card has been made mandatory to be carried alongside other relevant documents for people driving any vehicle in Telangana. Challenging this compulsion, the Hyderabad High Court in an order reported to be issued on 18th October, 2016 has asked the Police commissioner to justify the legal basis for mandating carrying of Aadhaar card for all drivers.

(We have been unable to locate and procure the official records/ documents of the case, and would appreciate assistance/information regarding them)

Compulsory for attendance of Government employees: In a public interest litigation filed in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, challenging the order of General Administration Department dated 1st September, 2016, wherein Government has made Aadhaar mandatory for Government employees for Aadhaar Based Biometric Attendance in government offices. It was reported that the Jammu & Kashmir High Court had, on October 4, 2016, provided an interim stay of the State Government’s order. It made reference to the Supreme Court’s order wherein it was clearly held that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory till the matter is decided by the Supreme Court. In the next hearing, on October 17, 2016, the High Court continued the stay on Government order and further sought response from the Government in this regard within four weeks.

(We have been unable to locate and procure the official records/ documents or any further updates of the case, and would appreciate assistance/information regarding them.)

Challenge to Aadhaar Act: The Aadhaar Act was proposed in the Lok Sabha by the Government as a money Bill as the core component of the Act was sought to be the distribution and dispersal of subsidies and benefits from the Consolidated Fund of India. It was passed in the Parliament on 1st March, 2016. (Our report on the parliamentary proceedings and discussions on the Aadhaar Bill can be accessed here)

The challenges to this Act have been two fold, with one petition challenging the passing of this Bill as a money Bill, and the second one alleging that the Act and the subsequent regulations passed therein are unconstitutional. A brief synopsis of these two petitions pending in the Supreme Court is as follows:

  • Money Bill challenge: Jairam Ramesh, the former Union Rural Development Minister filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court challenging the passing of the Aadhaar Act as a money Bill, alleging that the Bill did not qualify for an action under Article 110 of the Constitution that provided criteria for categorizing Bills as money Bills. In the hearing that took place on 10th May, 2016, it was argued in the case of Jairam Ramesh v. Union of India (W.P.(C) 231/2016) that the Aadhaar Act did not comprise solely of management of funds of the Consolidated Fund of India, instead it was only a part of the Bill that included amongst other things, the roles and responsibilities of enrollment agencies, requesting entities, and authentication agencies, and the information to be given to users. The Attorney General argued that as the determination of a Bill as money Bill is at the discretion of the Lok Sabha Speaker, it was not open for judicial review by the Supreme Court. In the subsequent hearing of 13th February, 2017, a two judge Bench of CJI Khehar, and Justice N.V. Ramana heard the Attorney General, representing the Union of India, and Mr. Chidambaram, representing the petitioner. Where the Attorney General forcefully defended the Speaker’s discretion in certifying a bill as a money bill or not under Article 199(3) of the Constitution, Mr. Chidambaram highlighted the case of Raja Ram Pal v. Hon’ble Speaker, Lok Sabha & Ors. (2007 (3) SCC 184), wherein the Supreme Court had held that if constitutional provisions are violated, the courts can look into that matter, even when Article 212 of the Constitution precludes inquiry into legislative proceedings. For the present case, the two judge bench did not issue notice, but agreed to hear the petitioner in another 4 weeks. However, no date of listing is presently mentioned for this case on the Supreme Court website.

  • Challenge to the Aadhaar Act: A fresh petition, S.G. Vombatkere & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors. (W.P.(C) 797/2016) challenging the Aadhaar Act and the subsequent Rules and Regulations released therein was listed in the Supreme court on 21stOctober, 2016. However, as the petition was listed before a bench that included Justice L.N. Rao, who had previously represented the Union of India as the Additional Solicitor General in the earlier Aadhaar petitions, the Supreme Court ordered the matter to be listed before a different bench to eliminate any conflict of interest. Further, at a subsequent hearing that took place on 28th October, 2016, notice was issued to the Union of India in this case by the Apex Court. On 5th January, 2017, this case was mentioned in front of CJI Khehar, and Justices N V Ramana, and DY Chandrachud, to be heard on an urgent basis due to the privacy concerns involved and the collection of biometric data by private entities as well. However, the Supreme Court refused to expedite the process and reportedly said, “We are not inclined to give immediate hearing as there are limited resources but biometric data collection by private agencies is not a great idea.”

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Aadhaar not mandatory for welfare schemes, says SC but next hearing date in ‘due course of time’

200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the SC said govt could make Aadhaar mandatory for opening bank accounts, it didn’t hear the issue of making Aadhaar mandatory for various other things.

The Supreme Court on Monday said the government cannot make Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of welfare schemes.

An apex court bench said the earlier interim order had not been violated since Aadhaar is not mandatory for getting various social welfare schemes.

However, it refused to give any date on the issue of making Aadhaar mandatory, saying that it would hear the matter in due course of time. The apex court also refused to give an early hearing into the Aadhaar case.

According to an alert by PTI, a seven-judge bench will be set up to hear the pleas challenging Aadhaar but the SC said, “right now it is not possible”.

Earlier in October, the court allowed use of Aadhaar cards for MNREGA, Jan Dhan Yojana, pension and provident fund schemes.

The court had earlier restricted the use of Aadhaar cards to public distribution system and LPG subsidies, after which the government rushed to the court for a permission to use it for more services.

The apex court maintained that the government cannot be stopped from using Aadhaar in other schemes like opening bank accounts.

There was widespread panic about the government making Aadhaar card mandatory for various things, excluding even welfare schemes for which, it had acquired an interim order. In the recent Finance Bill that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced as a money bill in the Lok Sabha, made Aadhaar card mandatory for filling income tax returns. Apart from that the government has also made it mandatory to have the 12-digit number to get a drivers’ licence or continue having a mobile connection. The Department of Telecommunications has recently written to all the telcos asking to conduct a reverification of all its subscribers with the Aadhaar card number. Failing which, those whose numbers are not verified through Aadhaar, will be disconnected after the February 6, 2017 deadline.

While the government is making Aadhaar mandatory for various schemes and functions, there is severe doubt about the government’s capability to keep this data safe. Recently, a Twitter user had pointed out that a ministry had allegedly kept the personal details of thousands of individuals – including name, address, caste, bank accounts, aadhaar no, pan card numbers – in excel sheets that were accessible by the public through a simple Google search.

With ANI and PTI

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Rajasthan: 20-year-old girl burnt alive for protesting over cutting of trees in Jodhpur #WTFnews

Boruda Police has registered a case in the matter and is further investigating the entire incident.

A 20-year-old girl was burnt alive on Sunday in India’s western state of Rajasthan after she allegedly protested over cutting of trees, news agency ANI reported.

The victim, identified as Lalita, had objected to the cutting of trees in her farm in Jodhpur’s Pipda city, police said.

The body of the girl has been kept in MJH hospital of Jodhpur, according to reports. She died in the hospital this morning.

Head of the village Ranveer Singh was also involved in this incident, ANI reported.

Police officer Suresh Chaudhary told ANI, “The sarpanch and other people poured petrol on her and burnt her alive. The body is in the mortuary. We will arrest the accused soon, after a fair investigation.”

The Boruda Police has registered a case in the matter and is further investigating the entire incident. 10 people have been named in the FIR or complaint, NDTV reported.

(WION with inputs from ANI)

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