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Archives for : April2017

Meet the ‘other Malalas’ – the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s friends now heading to Edinburgh University

Malala's friends Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan were also shot by the Taliban
Malala’s friends Shazia Ramzan (left) and Kainat Riaz (right) were also shot by the Taliban CREDIT:  JAY WILLIAMS

We have all heard of ‘the girl who was shot by the Taliban’. But the phrase – used as shorthand for Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize winner, youngest ever UN Ambassador of Peace and the most famous schoolgirl in the world – only tells half the story of that fateful Tuesday in October 2012. Well, a third, to be precise.

For two other teenagers were victims of the attack that injured Malala. They too were caught up in that shower of bullets.

Kainat Riaz, then 15, and Shazia Ramzan, 14, were Malala’s fellow pupils at Khushal Public School. They were sitting on benches alongside the 15-year-old education campaigner in a converted Toyota truck, clasping their books, as they travelled home after a chemistry exam in Mingora, north-west Pakistan.

I could not sleep because whenever I closed my eyes I thought that guy was going to come and shoot me again

Kainat remembers excitedly discussing the answers. Shazia was staring out of the window, daydreaming – when the lives of the three girls changed forever.

“The Taliban stopped us, two boys – or men,” says Shazia. “One was in the front and the other one came to the back. He said: ‘Who is Malala?’ We had our faces covered [with niqabs], but Malala didn’t.

“We were looking at him and then he shot Malala in the forehead. He shot me on my hand and shoulder, and Kainat’s shoulder as well. Then he started shooting randomly.”

Kainat recalls seeing Malala fall to the floor and hearing her classmates’ screams, before she fainted. Shazia says she was one of those screaming.

Eventually the bus, winding through heavy traffic, arrived at the local hospital. Malala and Shazia were rushed inside, but Kainat was terrified so ran home, gripping her arm all the way. When she reached her headmaster father and midwife mother, she uttered just two words: “Malala died.”

“I was lost,” she says softly. “I could not sleep because whenever I closed my eyes I thought that guy was going to come and shoot me again.”

Kainat was taken by her family to the local hospital, while Shazia spent a month in military hospital in regional capital Peshawar. Malala’s injuries were so complex that she was flown to the UK for life-saving treatment at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. She had splinters of skull in her brain, and her heart and kidneys were failing. The Peshawar intensive care unit was so basic that it had only one sink – and that didn’t work.

They call us Kainat and Shazia, not Malala’s friends. We are famous in Pakistan. Here, we are not special

While Malala, within hours of the attack, had been elevated to the status of international heroine, Shazia and Kainat suffered in obscurity. They returned to recuperate at home in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, but were treated as pariahs. Neighbours turned on Kainat’s family, telling them to leave because she was seen as a Taliban target; bus and taxi drivers refused to take her to school.

Five thousand miles away, Malala was the focus of increasing global attention, as the world watched her recovery. Tens of thousands of people signed a petition calling for her to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. By July 2013, on her 16th birthday, she was addressing the United Nations.

She was also inundated with offers to continue her education. One of these came from the prestigious international boarding school UWC Atlantic College in the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales. Malala replied that she was settled in Birmingham, enrolled at the private Edgbaston High School for Girls – but she had not forgotten her two friends and asked if the invitation could be extended to them instead.

At Atlantic College, St Donat's, on the Glamorgan coast of Wales where they have been studying
At Atlantic College, St Donat’s, on the Glamorgan coast of Wales where they have been studying CREDIT:  JAY WILLIAMS

Shazia and Kainat were given full scholarships (more than half of students receive a bursary to cover fees that would otherwise cost £58,000 for two years), while Gordon Brown, UN special envoy on global education, helped with visas.

The girls arrived in 2013, leaving their families behind.

Atlantic College, set in a 12th-century castle, could not be further from their modest homes in rural Pakistan. Instead of lush green mountains, the girls are surrounded by sheep farms. Sitting in the cold principal’s office today, they describe their initial feelings of disorientation – and freedom.

“Back home, you have to go anywhere with your father, mother or brother, because you are a girl,” explains Shazia, daughter of a bakery owner, and one of nine children. The girls relished being able to visit the shops alone and learnt to swim (“we don’t have pools for girls in Swat”).

British food, however, demanded more adjustment.

Now I think about all girls. I want to stand up for them

“Now I can eat pasta and pizza, which I couldn’t even look at before,” says Kainat. They order Indian take-aways to create a home away from home. Is our biryani as good? “They try their best,” says Shazia diplomatically.

The girls’ fellow pupils were unfazed by their arrival. Many did not even know their story for several months, until they gave a speech at a student conference.

“Everyone treats us normally,” says Kainat. “They call us Kainat and Shazia, not Malala’s friends. We are famous in Pakistan. Here, we are not special.”

While Malala was surrounded by family in Birmingham, her two friends had only each other, visiting to Swat just twice a year – a place to which Malala has not been able to return due to the ongoing threats.

Now, both 19, any homesickness has faded, replaced by soul-searching about how to fit into two radically different worlds. Says Kainat: “If I’m wearing jeans and my friends [in Pakistan] see pictures online, they say, ‘you forgot your culture’.

Her family, however, are adamant they did the right thing. Kainat relays a conversation in which her father told her to ignore others. “Now if people say, ‘don’t wear nail polish’, I want to know why,’” she adds, tapping her leopard-print trainers with maroon-painted fingers.

Though Malala was the trailblazer – aged 11, she had written a BBC blog and appeared on Pakistani TV to promote her campaign for girls’ education – the three are now united behind the same cause.

Kainat, once shy, is confident about her mission. “Before, my mind was closed,” she says. “I thought about education just related to my family. But now I think about all girls. I want to stand up for them.”

We are really proud. We follow her and we will follow her in the future

Her outlook is global. Though her parents have never left Pakistan, she shares a dorm with roommates from Brazil, Lebanon and Bermuda. And while Malala has dominated, her friends have travelled to conferences in Paris and Washington – not to mention the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo.

To their amazement, Malala mentioned them in her speech when she became the youngest Nobel laureate, aged 17 in 2014. “I am not a lone voice. I am many. I am Malala, but I am also Shazia. I am Kainat,” she told a spellbound audience.

“We are really proud,” says Shazia, “we follow her and we will follow her in the future.”

The three still chat online and met up in Birmingham to celebrate Eid, though they admit these get-togethers are increasingly rare. They have witnessed first-hand their friend’s celebrity – Shazia says Malala struggles to go shopping without being mobbed.

Back in Wales, the girls say teachers have dubbed them the “Pakistani twins” because they are inseparable. Both erupt into giggles.

Kainat and Shazia are still in touch with their famous friend
Kainat and Shazia are still in touch with their famous friend CREDIT: JAY WILLIAMS

They rise at 5.30am to pray before lessons. When not studying, they can be found dancing, kayaking and surfing on the Welsh coast. The nightmares they still suffered when they arrived are behind them – now the only daily reminders are their scars and the shoulder pain they get in cold weather.

But both are aware of how different life might have been. “Some of my friends are married and have children,” explains Kainat.

The duo’s sights are set on university. While Malala has received an offer from a top institution – understood to be Oxford – her friends were last month both given offers to study nursing at Edinburgh (“Inshallah, we get the grades”). Gordon Brown, who has become a mentor, is helping find sources of funding.

They are keen to restart campaigning. And both see their futures in Pakistan. Shazia – who remembers when girls’ schools were shut down under Taliban tyranny – insists things are improving. “In some areas, girls and boys are now even being taught in the same classroom.”

“I believe I should go back to my country and try to make change there,” Kainat insists.

Adds Shazia, “However we can help, we will.”http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/meet-malalas-nobel-peace-prize-winners-friends-now-heading/

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Kerala government is waging an ugly war on IAS officer by siding with land mafia

 

The young IAS officer has been cornered for taking on encroachers in Munnar.

DIPIN DAMODHARAN

Have you ever heard of a minister saying a bureaucrat serving under his government should be sent to a mental hospital? A Kerala minister is of the opinion that the state’s most popular bureaucrat needs to be sent to Oolampara, a famous mental asylum in Kerala.

“Devikulam subcollector Sriram Venkitaraman should be sent to Oolampara,” Kerala electricity minister and CPI (M) leader MM Mani said on Saturday.

30-year-old Venkitraman has been in the headlines since he started an anti-encroachment drive in Munnar, taking on the land mafia as they bulldozed through the forests to build illegal resorts and commercial establishments in one of India’s most ecologically-fragile areas.

Unfazed by opposition from the local cadres and leaders of the ruling party, the young bureaucrat cracked the whip on the encroachers. It was a mission to save Munnar, an ecologically-sensitive place known for its picturesque beauty, with the backing of Kerala’s revenue department, headed by E Chandrasekharan, a minister from the CPI.

MM Mani lashed out at the subcollector by calling him a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) agent, and the social media trolled him for this “revelation”, posting that even Che Guevara would be branded as RSS leader in the existing socio-political ecosystem of Kerala.

demolition_042317052845.jpegThe subcollector gained popularity for implementing the law of the land without succumbing to political pressure from any party. Photo: Deccan Chronicle

Sriram’s anti-encroachment drive reached a crossroads when his team demolished a crucifix at Pappathichola in Munnar, which the revenue department officials claimed was erected illegally.

As the subcollector gained popularity for implementing the law of the land without succumbing to political pressure from any party, the Kerala society saw the demolition of the cross as a legitimate move. But the CPI (M) leaders were not impressed with the man behind it.

The party rules the state under the leadership of strongman Pinarayi Vijayan, and the bureaucratic machinery is working under their direction. But leaders like MM Mani think that the officers are acting in line with the RSS agenda.

Minister Mani has gone to the extent of saying the cross was demolished just like the Babri Masjid was attacked in Ayodhya.

These remarks have put the LDF government on a defensive plank, at the same time demotivating the young IAS officers to carry on with such popular initiatives.

It’s a fact that inaction from government machineries has amplified the courage of encroachers in Munnar, resulting in ruining a large extent of forest area.

Sriram, a doctor-turned IAS officer, has put a halt on the free run of encroachers. This has caused irritation among the land mafia and local political leaders who have vested interests in the hilly destination.

Munnar, one of the top hill stations in the country, is situated at around 1,600 metres above the sea level in the Western Ghats.

An ecologically-fragile land with two wildlife sanctuaries and four national parks, Munnar has some exceptional natural attractions like Neelakurinji, a flowering plant that blooms once in 12 years, and the endangered Nilgiri tahr, along with more than 3,000 species of flowers, endangered birds, insects, and mammals.

The encroachers have put this rich biological diversity at risk. Sriram has given notices to more than 100 unauthorised constructions, spurring hope among the environmentalists. After visiting Munnar recently, Union minister CR Choudhary, has presented an inspection report to the Centre stating that place is in an extremely dangerous position.

But, the problem is that our “isms” don’t bother about the ecology, and the political parties are trained at grabbing power and retaining it at any cost.

The immature, yet powerful politicians have put the delicate ecosystem of Munnar at stake.

That’s the reason why this young bureaucrat makes great sense. To him, ecology matters.

Sriram Venkitaraman has been cornered now for taking on the politically-backed land mafia, and branded an RSS man.

And the grand slogan stands modified: it’s not ‘Long live revolution, down with imperialism’, but ‘Long live land mafia, down with law of the land’.http://www.dailyo.in/politics/kerala-sriram-demolition-man-munnar-devikulam/story/1/16809.html

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Aadhaar: On 139AA of Finance Bill what is at stake?

The matter of 139AA is not simply about linking the Aadhaar number to a permanent account number (PAN). It is about upholding rule of law and the dignity of the Supreme Court.
The apex court in its orders of 15 October 2015 noted that “We impress upon the Union of India that it shall strictly follow all the earlier orders passed by this Court commencing from 23 September 2013. We will also make it clear that the Aadhaar card Scheme is purely voluntary and it cannot be made mandatory till the matter is finally decided by this Court one way or the other”.
On 23 September 2013, the SC had ordered, “no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card inspite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory and when any person applies to get the Aadhaar Card voluntarily”. In the matter of CRL 2524 of 2014 on 24 March 2014 the apex court had reiterated that “no person shall be deprived of any service for want of Aadhaar number in case he/she is otherwise eligible/entitled. All the authorities are directed to modify their forms/ circulars/ likes so as to not compulsorily require the Aadhaar number in order to meet the requirement of the interim order passed by this Court forthwith”.
In its order of 11 August 2015, the Court ordered that Aadhaar may not be used for any purpose other than the PDS Scheme, for the distribution of foodgrains, and cooking fuel, such as kerosene and LPG. This was extended to allow its use for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), National Social Assistance Programme (Old Age Pensions, Widow Pensions, Disability Pensions) Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) in its orders of 15 October 2016. The court also stated that the information about an individual obtained by the Unique Identification Authority of India while issuing an Aadhaar card shall not be used for any other purpose.
On 14 September 2016 in the matter of WP 686 of 2016 the court stayed the operation and implementation of  that or Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme, Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme and Merit-cum-Means Scholarship Scheme to the extent they have made submission of Aadhaar mandatory.
The Supreme Court’s mind on Aadhaar has been unambiguous and consistent.
The Attorney General’s Promises
The Attorney General submitted to the court, on 11 August 2015, that to settle the legal position regarding the existence of the fundamental right to privacy, this batch of matters on Aadhaar is required to be heard by a larger Bench. He framed the questions before the bench as – (i) whether there is any “right to privacy” guaranteed under our Constitution. (ii) If such a right exists, what is the source and what are the contours of such a right as there is no express provision in the Constitution adumbrating the right to privacy. In doing so he caused the Court to place these matters before the Chief Justice of India to be referred to be examined and authoritatively decided by a Bench of appropriate strength.
The apex court further noted that the Attorney General stated that the Union of India would ensure that Aadhaar cards would only be issued on a consensual basis, which shall however not be used for any purpose other than a social benefit schemes. The Attorney General also stated that the respondents do not share any personal information of an Aadhaar cardholder through biometrics or otherwise with any other person or authority. This statement allays the apprehension for now, that there is a widespread breach of privacy of those to whom an Aadhaar card has been issued. It was further contended on behalf of the petitioners that there still is breach of privacy.
The Attorney General’s Acts
Despite the directions of the Court there have been hundreds of violations of the orders of the apex court. In 2017, more than 60 gazette notifications have been issued linking various programs with Aadhaar or mandating it. Authorities have not modified their forms/circulars/likes so as to not compulsorily require the Aadhaar number. Aadhaar card requirement has not been kept as purely voluntary. Aadhaar numbers have been used for purposes other than for the schemes permitted by the court. Information associated with the Aadhaar number has been shared with several government agencies as well as private parties. No advertisements, processes, procedures, Memorandum of Association (MOA), technology, framework, API have been amended to ensure explicit, unambiguous and clear steps to comply with the court’s orders. Many government agencies and private companies have been coercing the enrolment for Aadhaar. Crores of people continue to suffer from the Aadhaar.
Even while the matter was sub-judice and the apex court orders were explicit about maintaining status quo till the final decision of the Court, The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 was introduced on the advice of the Attorney General as a Money Bill. The Act violates the status quo, is preemptive and subverts the petitions pending before the Supreme Court.
As if this were not enough, in the WP 607 of 2016 filed by Lokniti praying for a definite mobile phone subscriber verification scheme, the Attorney General filed an affidavit describing “Aadhaar based e-know-your-customer (E-KYC) for issuing mobile connections introduced on 16 August 2016 wherein the customer as well as Point of Sale (PoS) Agent of the telecom service provider (TSP) will be authenticated from Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) based on their biometrics and their demographic data received from UIDAI is stored”.
The Attorney General omitted to mention to the bench that such use of Aadhaar was already a violation of his promise to the Court and the orders of the Supreme Court in the petitions on Aadhaar pending with it. The Court was misled into believing that existing subscribers can be verified in a similar manner and the process will be completed within one year. There was no effort by the Attorney General to either point out to the court its restrictions on the use of Aadhaar or to let the petitioners in the Aadhaar matter and have their say.
In March 2017, in a surprise addendum to the Finance Bill, under advise of the Attorney General, the union government introduced Section 139AA. Section 139AA requires linking the PAN card to an Aadhaar number to file income tax returns (ITRs) and allow the PAN to remain valid. This too is in contempt of the orders of the Supreme Court, is preemptive and subverts the process of justice.
In testimony of the fears placed before the court and contrary to the promise of the Attorney General to the court, the last two months have witnessed several data leaks that indicate the sharing of UID information across government agencies. The UIDAI continuing to service the partner agencies for KYC and authentication beyond the permitted usage also points to information sharing that is beyond government. As noted by the court, the petitioners’ fears of violation of privacy have been vindicated.
Questions of Rule of Law and the Balance of Power
Is the Attorney General above the Rule of Law? Is his word and interpretation law that must go unchallenged? Can the power of the Supreme Court not extend to hold the Attorney General responsible for commissions and commissions? Has the Attorney general used tactics that have preempted and subverted justice? Who is responsible for the national and public interest that may have been compromised in the process? Has the balance of power of the executive and judiciary been upset by the blatant contempt of the courts orders? Do the orders of the court matter to maintain the rule of law?
We the people of India have waited patiently and long as the justice, equality, liberty and fraternity promised to us by the constitution is kept from us.
(Dr Anupam Saraph is a renowned expert in governance of complex systems and advises governments and businesses across the world. He can be reached @anupamsaraph.)
http://www.moneylife.in/article/aadhaar-on-section-139aa-what-is-at-stake/50318.html

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Bajrang Dal members attack Sub Inspector in Agra #WTFnews

Sub-Inspector Attacked In Agra, His Car Burnt Down By Bajrang Dal Members Trying To Get Five Of Their Men Released

A police  officer in Agra was attacked on Saturday by Bajrang Dal members and his vehicle was also set ablaze by them in an attempt to rescue five members of the same outfit detained at Sadar Bazaar police station.

Sub Inspector Kumar

SUB INSPECTOR SANTOSH KUMAR, ANI

The Assistant Superintendent of Police, Agra City, Ghule Sushil Chandrabhan, said the incident took place after BJP Fatehpur Sikri MLA Udaybhan Singh, who was among the protesters, left the spot.

Later,  Assistant Superintendent of Police Shlok Kumar told  “the protesters were Bajrang Dal workers”.  The incident got sparked after police detained five men in the morning after Bajrang Dal workers gheraoed Fatehpur Sikri police station and demanded the FIR registered against nine men for allegedly beating up people from minority community be expunged.

They also demanded FIT to be registered against people of the minority community.

dal

REPRESENTATIONAL IMAGE

During protest, the workers misbehaved with police officials which resulted in police using mild force to disperse the crowd. Five people were caught and detained in the due course. They were later sent to Sadar Bazaar station.

On Saturday evening, when Sub-Inspector Santosh Kumar attached with Shahganj Police Station was returning home, a few men attacked him. A police officer said the protesters also attempted to break the lock-up at the Sadar Bazaar Police Station.http://www.indiatimes.com/news/sub-inspector-attacked-in-agra-his-car-burnt-down-by-bajrang-dal-members-trying-to-release-five-of-their-men-276262.html

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Nawazuddin Siddiqui got his DNA tested and found what religion he belongs to

 

Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui has shared a video on Twitter where he talks about what religion he actually belongs to.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Nawaz has found a way to weigh in on the debate.(YouTube)

A new video by Nawazuddin Siddiqui attempts to strike at the heart of secularism and make an emotional appeal to the viewer. The actor shared the video on Twitter on Monday .

Nawaz made the video with Magic If Films (Shamas N Siddiqui who the business manager for the actor) and is titled Sixteen Point Six Six.

The video starts with him introducing himself in regular clothes, holding up a placard that reads “Hi, I am Nawazuddin Siddiqui.” The next one reads “I had got my DNA test done and when the report came in, I found that I am…”. He is then dressed in white kurta pyjama with a saffron cloth over his shoulder and a vermillion on his forehead. He now holds the placard that reads ‘16.66% Hindu’.

Then dressed in a black bandhgala with a white karakul, with a placard that says ‘16.66% Muslim’.

Then he wears a red turban with thick moustache and the placard reads ‘16.66% Sikh.’

Nawaz then wears the robes of member of the church with a cross around his neck and the placard reads ‘16.66% Christian.’

He then wears a Buddhist monk’s robes and the placard says ‘16.66% Buddhist.’

Finally, he says that when he ‘discovered his soul’, he found that he is ‘100% artist’.

The video seems to be Nawaz’s own way of weighing on the national debate raging on secularism in the country.

Nawaz is currently working on four projects. He will star in Munna Michael, Manto, Mom and Babumoshai Bandookbaaz.

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India – Open your eyes, ears and minds on Kashmir

Otherwise the media can never portray the reality of Kashmir in a way that will help Indians understand their aspirations.
SHINZANI JAIN reports

Photo  of Jama Masjid, Nowhatta, Srinagar, by Sandhya Gokhale

 

Start a conversation about Kashmir in India and a hundred familiar questions are hurled at you. What about the Pandits? What if Pakistan invades Kashmir? What about Islamic fundamentalism? What if other states also demand the right to secede?

One question that I have been frequently asked in the most condescending tone is, “So, what is the solution? If you want to talk about Kashmir, you must have an answer.” This question, in fact, comes as a justification for the status quo. “Is anything else possible? What is it that you suggest?”

In response, I want to ask,“Is it possible for any solution to be evolved until we open our eyes, ears and minds to the realities of Kashmir?”

The utterance of the word azadi makes even the most liberal and progressive intellectual class in India jittery and uncomfortable. The Indian discourse on Kashmir is diverse and considerate till we reach the boundary called ‘the framework of the constitution’. It is, by and large, blind to the fact that ‘the framework of constitution’ is exactly what the Kashmiris have rejected most resolutely.

“The Indian discourse on Kashmir is diverse and considerate till we reach the boundary called ‘the framework of the constitution’.”

On April 15, the Indian Express published an op-ed titled “Sinking Valley” by Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the President of the Centre for Policy Research in Delhi and a contributing editor to the paper. In this piece, Mehta argues that New Delhi’s strategy of containment by force has failed. “The roots of the Kashmir problem are deep, and the point should not be to gloat at one government’s failure. The deep gulf between what the Indian state wants and what Kashmiris in the Valley want has always been unbridgeable.”

Mehta recognizes that there is an unbridgeable gap between the aspirations of the Indian state and the aspirations of Kashmiris.

However, he goes on to say, “It’s a fool’s errand to think that coercion alone will win India Kashmir….for the moment, Kashmir has been lost on Modi’s watch….more than militant propaganda, the way we talk about Kashmir does more harm to India’s cause in Kashmir which desperately requires breaking the cycle of othering and humiliation that has marked this conflict.”

Win India Kashmir? Kashmir lost on Modi’s watch? India’s cause in Kashmir?

If there is an unbridgeable gap between the aspirations of the Indian state and the aspirations of Kashmiris, it means that the Kashmiri cause is not the same as India’s cause in Kashmir. Then whose cause should prevail?

Our democratic ethos must remind us that it is imperialistic and colonial to coerce Kashmiris to accept India’s cause in Kashmir, by hook or by crook. Equally imperialistic, materialistic and patriarchal is the obsession with ‘winning over’ a population that has been incessantly demanding independence and integrity for decades now.

On April 15, Rajdeep Sardesai, a senior journalist, published a piece titled “Kashmir: Putting Indians first” on his website, which was later republished by Scroll.in. In this, he proclaims that he believes in ‘India first’ but goes on to say, “But my concept of India First doesn’t involve treating a nation as a piece of land defined by geographical boundaries alone, or by looking at every problem as a law and order issue. My India First involves putting Indians first, be they Kashmiris or jawans, or any law-abiding citizen.”

“Kashmiris do not want to be recognized as ‘Indians’. They prefer a distinct acknowledgement of their identity as ‘Kashmiri’.”

Over the last couple of years, a large number of young Kashmiris have been writing vigorously to articulate their grievances and demands. Just a little bit of curiosity and a couple of months of engagement with the Kashmir conflict and Kashmiris are enough to understand that Kashmiris do not want to be recognized as ‘Indians’. They prefer a distinct acknowledgement of their identity as ‘Kashmiri’.

In my interactions with people in the valley, I realized that even an acknowledgement of a distinction between India and Kashmir fills them with delight and reassurance. But the Indian discourse continues to be blind or dismissive of this reality.

In a Baramulla family, women narrated how they have been living with the fear of night raids and crackdowns for all these years. They sometimes move to their friends’ houses for weeks in order to escape harassment by the forces in the middle of the night.The same is true for their friends. Two of them were half-widows; their husbands had been disappeared several years ago. They have not been able to find out anything about them.

One of their daughters was taking treatment for depression when I visited. “Bohot zulm ho raha hai yahan pe,” they said. “Aap Modi ko bol dijiye,humein akela chod de. Humein azadi chahiye.” (A lot of oppression is taking place here. Tell Modi to leave us alone. We need freedom).

Lal Chowk Market, Srinagar. Photo credit Shinzani Jain

 

One of them mentioned that she participated in a number of protests and rallies last year along with her sons. I was reminded of something written by a Kashmiri friend, Zahid Rafiq, just a couple of days ago, “I am a pacifist. But here’s why I want to be a stone-pelter,” in which Rafiq  writes about his aunt, who took her five-year old son to join an azadi procession after the little boy, in a state of shock, told her how he was chased by soldiers threatening to kill him.

He further writes, “My aunt now writes, ‘Go India, Go Back’ on all the rupee notes that she handles and my cousin (the five-year old boy) scribbles it on walls – the only English sentence he can spell.”

The demand for azadi is omnipresent. The walls, shutters and even stones are adorned with slogans such as “We will fight till independence”, “Indian dogs go back”, “We want freedom”, “Kashmir is not a part of India” – all demonstrating the sentiments and aspirations of the people in Kashmir.

Uzma Falak, a writer and filmmaker from Srinagar, in her article “Aleph se Azadi” writes about how the aspiration for azadi is born in a Kashmiri child even before she is born. She writes about how this sentiment is actually something they inherit from their ancestors. In Kashmir, the songs of protest are not only sung in protests and processions. These songs accompany them in weddings, in fields, at home, at funerals and at almost every public gathering.

Falak writes: “Sing fearlessly. Do not exorcise us out of our songs. Our songs are not just our protest songs. These are our birth songs. Our death songs. Our wedding songs. Our funeral songs. Our lullabies. Our mourning. Our celebration. Our screams. Our silence. Our malady. Our panacea. Our unwritten history. Our militant memory.”

Conveniently ignoring these overt realities, the intellectual class in India chooses to lament how India has lost Kashmir indefinitely. The ultra-nationalist and jingoist posture that the Indian media take while reporting the protests rocking the valley limits the chances of Kashmiri narratives emerging and reaching the public in India.

These media prejudices become evident when elite and erudite media groups such as The Hindu and Indian Express use terms like “rampaging mobs” and “miscreants” while referring to the protestors boycotting the by-elections held on April 9 in Srinagar. The use of these terms is problematic as it amounts to assigning a character to the protesters, while the same treatment is never extended to the Armed Forces. In fact, the space used up by the Hindu in reporting the aggression of the protestors almost makes the retaliation of the forces by opening fire on them invisible.

While the Indian media fervently reported the violence of the protestors, none of these established media portals reported the fact that on the same day an ambulance driver at Beerwah was allegedly beaten up by government forces while ferrying the injured to the hospital. Nor did the news that the Indian government had imposed curfew like curbs on  movement in several parts of Kashmir a day after clashes, feature in the Indian media. The absence of reportage on the every day life and turmoil of the people makes it hard for people in India to gauge the nature of the conflict, scale of resistance and the demands of people in Kashmir.

The prejudices, biases and misrepresentations in our discourse push Kashmiris into a quagmire of anger and frustration. This has been voiced by Shahnaz Bashir in his recent piece for The Hoot titled “The competing narratives on Kashmir”. He writes: “The language of news and debates that have no space for balance or accommodating different opinions only make the audience hypertensive. I have personally witnessed many well-disposed audiences abuse the misinformation and disinformation, with some even breaking their TV sets.”

The boundaries of our discourse on Kashmir have prevented us from opening our minds to these realities thereby creating an unbridgeable gap between the aspirations of Kashmiris and aspirations of Indians. No resolution to this conflict is possible unless we shatter and transcend these boundaries.

http://www.thehoot.org/media-watch/opinion/open-your-eyes-ears-and-minds-on-kashmir-10060

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India – A Doctor Who Not Only Cured Malnourished Tribal In Melghat, Maharashtra But Also Eradicated Poverty

Today, when success is measured by the size of our bank balance, how many of us will find self-actualisation by leading a below-average life? After having brilliant professional qualifications and all the opportunities in the world to explore, how many of us will choose to live in a tribal area and dedicate our life to the people we were never related to in the first place?

Ravindra Kohle, an MBBS  graduate, has single-handedly transformed the Melghat district of Maharashtra into a self-sufficient region.

He not only treated sick people in Melghat but also played the role of social reformer and uplifted the locals’ lives socially, economically, and agriculturally.

Proving the famous saying “One flower makes no garland” wrong, Dr Kohle not only made a garland but also created a flourishing garden with it.

Dr Ravindra Kohle was born on 25 September 1960 in Shegaon village, Maharashtra. He completed his MBBS from Nagpur Medical College in 1985. His father, Devrao Kohle, a railway employee, had no idea that his doctor son would choose to spend his life in the tribal areas of Maharashtra instead of leading an extravagant medical practice in the city.



Dr Kohle was hugely inspired by the life of Mahatma Gandhi. David Warner’s book “Where There Is No Doctor” influenced him and completely changed the meaning of success as a doctor in his mind.

The Logical Indian was able to contact the Kohle family and convince them to speak to us. While talking to The Logical Indian, Dr Kohle enlightened us about his journey further.

Soon after completing his MBBS, determined to make a difference, Dr Kohle went on to explore the tribal areas of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh, where he could use his skills to help poor. He chose Bairagarh village in Melghat district. The area was so backwards that one had to walk 40 km to the nearest transport facility. Bairagarh was highly undeveloped and hugely deprived of medical facilities. It was also exposed to superstitions, poverty, malnutrition, and all sorts of diseases.



After serving in the area for a year or so, Dr Kohle realised that he needed to gain more knowledge and skills in his field. He left Bairagarh in 1987 to finish his MD. He wrote his thesis on malnutrition in Melghat – which was covered by BBC radio. He realised that to work at such a place, a doctor must know how to deliver the baby without modern facilities and equipment, how to detect and diagnose pneumonia without x-rays etc. So he went to Mumbai for six months to practice further.

Dr Kohle soon got married – to Dr Samita in Nagpur. Before the marriage, he made it clear that a life with him would involve walking 40 km every day and living on Rs 400 every month (he charged only Rs 1 to each of his patients).

The wedding was a simple registration in the marriage registrar’s office, costing only Rs 5.  Dr Smita not only agreed to his conditions but also went further to eradicate some orthodox rituals like animal sacrifice on Ram Navmi in the region. She gained the respect of the people when she saved a man, Hariram, who was attacked by a bear. Dr Ravindra wasn’t available that day she gave that man more than 400 stitches and saved his life. Furthermore, Dr Smita also proved her commitment to the people of Melghat when she decide to deliver her own baby in Bairagarh despite having the complication in her pregnancy.



Changes and Challenges

Dr Kohle knew that malnutrition was a major problem in the region and because of that the child death rate was high (more than 200 out of every 1000 children). Diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea were common not only with the children but also the adults. Thanks to Dr Kohle,  today it is less than 60 out of every 1000.

Ravindra Kohle understood that to fix malnutrition, the core problem of poverty had to fixed. He rented out some lands and started conducting scientific farming. He also studied Agriculture at Punjab Rao Karishi Vidyapeeth.  He started organising camps to make people aware about mixed crop farming and some other advanced techniques. He made people believe that they must grow all that they need for necessary nourishment and also for businesses to uplift the living standard. Due to their efforts, Melghat has never since seen a farmer committing suicide nor has any farmer been involved in any Naxal activities.



Today, the Kohles’ elder son, Rohit, is not only a successful farmer but a source to fund all the medical and healthcare activities conducted by their parents. Not to mention that Dr Kohle doesn’t charge his patients. Dr Kohle has never accepted any financial help from the government or from any other NGO.

They also took the charge of the National Distribution System (Rashion depot) under their control after knowing that due to corruption not everyone was getting their due share of grains, sugar etc.

Leading by example, the Kohle family was living with the facilities at par like any family in Melghat. Looking at their conditions, a minister from the Public Works Department once offered to build a house for them. But Dr Ravindra asked him to improve the road network in the region – and the minister obliged. Today, more than 70% of villages are connected by roads in the region.

In 2011, Dr Ravindra was  awarded “Lokmat of the Year” by LokMat newspaper and Rs 15 lakh award money was given, which he used to build a hospital with Melghat’s first operation theatre.

It was Dr Smita who convinced the people that the Ram Navmi fair will no longer entertain any animal sacrifice but rather will involve prayers and sports activities like volleyball and Kabaddi every year.

The duo conducts a youth camp twice every year to spread awareness among youngsters.



Future Plans

Dr Kohle wants to expand his hospital further to make sure everyone in the region is within reach of modern facilities and technology.

To fulfil his father’s dream of having a permanent surgeon in Melghat, the Kohles’ youngest son, Ram, is also doing MBBS and has it all planned to go join his parents and take their mission to the next level.

Electricity is still a major problem in the region and Dr Kohle wishes to get electricity in all the villages of Melghat.

One of his major plans is to establish a “Competitive Exams Study Centre” where young job aspirants can avail free education.



His Message to Young India

Ravindra Kohle’s appeal to the youth is to work towards the betterment of society.  The greatest satisfaction in life is being able to contribute to the happiness of others.


https://thelogicalindian.com/story-feed/exclusive/ravindra-kohle/

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In Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-hit Bastar, one doctor is the sole medical link for 200 villages

Ritesh Mishra
Bhaisgaon (North Bastar)
Chhattisgarh

For most of the last 15 years, Bheshaj Ramteke has been the sole medical link for nearly 200 villages in the state’s Kanker district, braving dense forests and left-wing extremists on foot, bicycle and motorcycle.(HT Photo)

His name means medicine, and for thousands of tribals in the heart of Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-hit Bastar region, 41-year-old Bheshaj Ramteke is the only thing standing between life and death.

For most of the last 15 years, the government doctor has been the sole medical link for nearly 200 villages in the state’s Kanker district, braving dense forests and left-wing extremists on foot, bicycle and motorcycle.

“Bheshaj in Sanskrit means medicine. I believe I was born to become a doctor and serve the tribals of this region,” says Ramteke as he walks towards a remote village, Bhainsgaon , about 45 kms from Antahgarh.

“The happiness of the tribals is the biggest award for me.”

The diminutive man in his trademark white apron with a box of medical equipment is a familiar, and reassuring, sight for the 80,000-strong tribal population spread across Antahgarh block.

Many of them say Ramteke is the only person they trust enough in a region that is swarming with insurgents and police informants after decades of violence that has driven most medical staff away.

For the tribals, Ramteke is like a family member. “My kid was ill and reached his house at around midnight. He came with me to our village and treated my kid,” says Somaru, a resident of Bhaisaur village.

41-year-old Bheshaj Ramteke is the only thing standing between life and death, for thousands of tribals in the heart of Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-hit Bastar region. (HT Photo)

Most other “outsiders” don’t dare venture into these villages deep inside Maoist territory but Ramteke has no intention of moving out. He has been transferred thrice — 2006, 2010 and 2016 – but community leaders met state ministers to block his transfer.

“Ramteke’s commitment is something which I have not seen till now. He is like god for thousands of tribals of this region,” says Ajay Mandavi, who works with surrendered Maoists in this area.

Born in a Dalit family in Dhamtari district bordering Bastar, Ramteke completed his MBBS from Raipur in 2003 and joined the Chhattisgarh health department the same year. He got his first posting in Antahgarh block that was in the grip of deepening insurgent violence at the time.

“When I came here no one wanted to come here. It was considered as most difficult posting but I decided to join ….My aim was to serve the tribals of Bastar,” Ramteke says. A senior police officer told HT that Ramteke was only person who can reach some of the Maoist-hit villages.

The 41-year-old was the only doctor in the region for many years but recently has been joined by two colleagues at the community health centre, underlining the crushing shortage of doctors and medical staff. Until June 2016, more than 40% of all doctor posts in Bastar were vacant, and almost two-thirds of health worker positions hadn’t been filled.

Last year, he was awarded the Icon of Health award by chief minister Raman Singh but he claims he never worked for awards. “I am a follower of Ambedkar….He taught me to serve the people who are marginalized and pooor. http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/like-a-god-in-chhattisgarh-s-maoist-hit-bastar-one-doctor-is-the-sole-medical-link/story-ulWbij8q3UyftPLPUWpLtM.html

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Digital Version – Myth busting book on beef eating #Download

India: Digital version of historian D.N.Jha’s myth busting book on beef eating by Hindus and Buddhists in ancient times

 

In The Myth Of The Holy Cow, the author reveals that in ancient times, Hindus and Buddhists ate beef. According to him, the cow earned its status as the holy animal of Hinduism only in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The book states that hindus regularly used cows both as part of dietary traditions and as offerings to God.

The_Myth_of_Holy_Cow_- Download book 

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Where Men shy away from vasectomy

THE HANS INDIA |

fileimage

Ongole: Men shy away from undergoing vasectomy operations. According to data in Prakasam district, 11,060 women came forward to undergo tubectomy, while only 14 men underwent vasectomy in 2014-15. In 2015-16, only 15 men were sterilised.

Highlights:

  •  In 2016-17, 8,261 women and 14 men are sterilised up to February
  •  Government campaign to promote vasectomy proves futile
  • Men are not coming forward to undergo family planning operation
  •  National Family Health Survey conducted in 2015-16 shows that the percentage of male sterilisation in the country has dropped to 0.3 from 1.0 in 2005-06 and the percentage of female sterilisation is 36 in 2015-16 while 37.3 in 2005-06. 

In 2016-17, about 8,261 women and 14 men were sterilised up to February. Dr Jaladi Saraswati, a gynecologist said, “In our society, giving birth and taking care of children are treated as the responsibility of women.

In many families even now, men do not help in even pacifying the crying child. In fact, it is not that men are against women here, it is the women in the family see it as a ladies affair and manages on their own. Also there is a belief for ages that men lose energy very quickly if they undergo vasectomy. So, men are taking advantage of the belief and avoiding the surgery.
Dr J Yasmin, district medical and health officer, said, “In the last few years, we have conducted a number of campaigns to promote vasectomy than the tubectomy.

With tubectomy the woman may suffer bleeding, infection, nausea and fatigue for a few days, but in vasectomy the man can attend his regular duties within hours and infection rate is zero for it. Though the government offers various benefits like offering about Rs 1,100 for men who voluntarily comes forward for the vasectomy, they are not coming forward. We are also planning to reintroduce the campaign for male sterilisation, but requires more number of surgeons in the district.”

The government has taken up a number of campaigns to create awareness in the public that women are undergoing a lot of strain and pain in tubectomy apart from the side effects that even cost their life in rare cases. Surprisingly, the statistics of National Family Health Survey conducted in 2015-16 shows that the percentage of male sterilisation in the country has dropped to 0.3 from 1.0 in 2005-06 and the percentage of female sterilisation is 36 in 2015-16 while 37.3 in 2005-06.

In the state, only 0.6 percent of men were sterilised when 68.3 per cent of women were sterilised. In urban areas, 65.6 per cent of women underwent tubectomy, while just 1.2 per cent men underwent vasectomy. In rural areas, 69.5 per cent of women are sterilised while only 0.3 per cent men were sterilised.http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/Health/2017-04-20/Men-shy-away-from-vasectomy-/294707

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