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Archives for : September2017

No, The SC Has NOT Made It Mandatory For You To Link Your Phone With #Aadhaar

But who is going to challenge the government circular that makes this claim?


“As per Government’s directive, it is mandatory to link Aadhaar card with your mobile number”—this is a message most of us have been repeatedly receiving of late. Telecom service providers have also been sending reminders by calling us and emphasizing on the requirement to link. Now, not all of us have an Aadhaar card, and a lot of us do not wish to link our phone numbers with Aadhaar. Such people have been protesting this move, and for good reasons.

Consumer ire is being directed towards telecom service providers, but that is not where the problem lies. The “directive” being referred to by service providers is a circular issued on 23 March 2017 by the government of India’s Department of Telecom (DoT), calling upon all telecom operators to conduct an Aadhaar-based re-verification exercise of all existing pre-paid and post-paid mobile connections. It further directed that that exercise be concluded by 6 February 2018.

[T]he circular, by stating that the Supreme Court has directed the DoT to mandate Aadhaar as the exclusive method for re-verification, is misleading the public at large, intentionally or unintentionally.

As per the DoT such an exercise has been ordered to implement directions of the Supreme Court of India. The circular refers to an order passed by the Supreme Court on 6 February 2017, in a writ petition filed by the Lokniti Foundation which sought the establishment of a scheme to ensure verification of all the mobile phone subscribers in the country. The DoT relies on an observation made by the Court in the said order:

“[A]n effective process has been evolved to ensure identity verification, as well as, the addresses of all mobile phone subscribers for new subscribers. In the near future, and more particularly, within one year from today, a similar verification will be completed, in case of existing subscribers.”

The DoT calls this observation a “direction” which has to be complied with. This is an erroneous conclusion drawn by the DoT and is based on a misinterpretation of the order. Using the said observation without context is misleading.

When the writ petition was taken up by the Supreme Court, the government submitted on the basis of an affidavit that the DoT had launched an Aadhaar based e-KYC for issuing mobile connections where authentication will be based on the consumers’ biometric and demographic data. The government however conceded that there are still a substantial number of people who do not hold Aadhaar cards and, more importantly, that Aadhaar or biometric based authentication is “not mandatory” for obtaining a new telephone connection. The government was of the view that e-KYC for new connections based on Aadhaar would be more efficient than the normal methods in currency. Such submissions of the government of India make it extremely clear that Aadhaar is not being used as the exclusive method to authenticate new subscribers, and that the same is not even mandatory in nature. The government also submitted that an effective method would be devised to verify existing users.

[M]andating that subscribers provide their Aadhaar details… to telecom operators without authority of any law, in contravention of interim orders of the SC, and on misinterpretation of another SC order, cannot be construed as due process of law.

Now coming back to the purported basis of the DoT circular, the court passed the above stated observation based on the submissions of the government and hoped that verification of existing users could be done in a “similar” manner. This can in no manner be construed as a “direction” to use Aadhaar exclusively for re-verification. There can be no question of Aadhaar being made mandatory for re-verification of existing users when it is not even mandatory for obtaining new connections. Therefore, the circular, by stating that the Supreme Court has directed the DoT to mandate Aadhaar as the exclusive method for re-verification, is misleading the public at large, intentionally or unintentionally.

It is important to note that an interim order of the Supreme Court passed in the petitions challenging the Aadhaar scheme clearly directs that obtaining an Aadhaar card cannot be made mandatory. The government had then submitted in court that no personal information of Aadhaar card holders shall be shared by any authority. However, the DoT has done a volte face by actually requiring private telecom operators to directly obtain such personal information. In this background, the DoT has indulged in a colourable exercise to bypass the interim order of the Supreme Court by erroneously relying on another Supreme Court order by grossly misinterpreting it.

The trouble is that till the time the DoT circular is quashed by an appropriate high court or the Supreme Court, the telecom operators are bound to follow it.

The recent Supreme Court judgment on the right to privacy stated that such a right would also include a fundamental right to informational privacy which would be exercisable against the government as well as private entities. Such a right can surely be restricted by a due process of law. However mandating that subscribers provide their Aadhaar card details, including biometric information, to telecom operators without authority of any law, in contravention of interim orders of the Supreme Court, and on misinterpretation of another Supreme Court order cannot be construed as due process of law.

The trouble is that till the time the DoT circular is quashed by an appropriate high court or the Supreme Court, the telecom operators are bound to follow it. The circular will therefore need to be challenged before court.

Let’s see who picks up the gauntlet.

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Why I’m not celebrating Modi’s birthday (and you shouldn’t too)

A hard look at where world’s largest democracy and its liberal values stand today.


Today is India‘s Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s 67th birthday. His government is celebrating the day as “Seva Divas”. Celebrities, brand ambassadors, and dignitaries have been roped in to spread the message of “swachh bharat” to contribute for the construction of toilets and the upkeep of public places.

Despite it being a Sunday, UP government has asked children to come to school to celebrate the day. On his birthday, besides the usual photo-op with his mother, Modi decided to dedicate the Sardar Sarovar Dam as his gift to the nation. It is another matter that this gift has brought immense misery to many ordinary citizens living in the Narmada Valley, who are being evacuated without being rehabilitated.

However, the most worrisome part of this celebration is taking place in Modi’s home state Gujarat, where BJP youth wing workers are urging ordinary citizens to pledge that they will not criticise the government “that is formed of the people, by the people and for the people”.

This clearly shows that dissent against Modi government has become dangerous in Indian democracy.

Modi’s centralised style of leadership and his commitment to the ideals of “Hindu Rashtra” have reduced the scope of dissent and deliberation in the country. Indian democracy is using coercive powers to suppress any dissent at the grass-roots level under the pretext of national security.

Narendra Modi has carefully cultivated a “strong man” image by using the rhetoric of democracy and displaying closeness to the masses.

The world is currently experiencing a rise in the number of demagogues. Narendra Modi adds to the global list of so-called strong men: Vladimir Putin of Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Prayut Chan-o-Cha in Thailand and Donald Trump in the US. They are charming, charismatic and cunning and, at the same time, extremely self-absorbed and possess a huge lust for power. They play with people’s fears, create scapegoats and offer easy solutions.

sardar-sarovar-690_091717035809.jpgTo sell himself as a messiah to Indian voters, Modi seized upon the growing despair among the people and their need to centralise powerful political authority to solve their problems. Photo: PTI

India under Narendra Modi, instead of focusing on internal peace and stability and economic development, is busy fostering and highlighting foreign enemies. There is no hesitation to curtail the political freedom and civil liberties of masses and to regularly project minority communities as internal enemies. India is presently witnessing unprecedented control of the media and blatant manipulation of public opinion. Those in the media who do not blindly toe the government line and dare to criticise it pay a heavy price, as seems to have been the case in Gauri Lankesh’s murder.

Modi got a massive electoral mandate in 2014 at a time when ordinary citizens in India were fed up with endless political bickering and wanted an end to the coalition-era corruption under the Congress.

A large number of Indians had begun to believe that the basic fault lay with themselves, their lack of discipline, their selfishness and lack of commitment to the country’s progress and development. To sell himself as a messiah to Indian voters, Modi seized upon the growing despair among the people and their need to centralise powerful political authority to solve their problems.

In a country that has grown weary of its corrupt partisan politicians, the cacophonic media and exploding protest movements, a substantial section of the society still appreciates the “strong man” approach to governance that the Modi regime seems to exemplify. But the consequences of silencing all dissent and criticism have proved too costly for India.

PM Modi’s abrupt whimsical decision on November 8, 2016 to invalidate 86 percent of cash in circulation in the country caused immense hardship and terrible pain to millions of Indians, especially the poorer sections of the society. More than 100 people died while standing for days in front of banks to get their own money. This “strong man” decision has nowhere eradicated the country’s corruption or terror problems, nor has it turned India to a cashless society.

Rather, it has eaten up two percent of the country’s economic growth.

Similarly, at a time India’s railways infrastructure is facing serious crisis and train accidents have become a routine affair, Modi has made a grand political spectacle of starting a short route bullet train project from Ahmedabad to Mumbai. This project is being undertaken with a massive loan of Rs 88,000 crore from Japan.

Indian Railways is almost bankrupt. Moreover, 800 people have died in around 450 accidents between 2013 and 2017 due to poor maintenance of rail lines. Unfortunately for the country, no one in Modi’s Cabinet or party is bold enough to give him an honest and critical view of where the country is headed under his leadership.

At present, with massive majority in the Parliament and the total control of his party, there is almost no constraint on Narendra Modi’s authoritarian style decision-making. No one in his party or government has the power to hold him accountable for his flawed policies. He has appointed friends and cronies to important offices and these handpicked, politically rootless insiders have strong incentives to remain loyal to and uncritical of him.

Like any country, India’s history does not follow a straightforward path. Nowhere is there an easy road towards freedom. In spite of the odds, for seven decades, India has been hanging on to a fiercely democratic structure and liberal values. No doubt the threat of authoritarianism had remained persistent all along, but under Narendra Modi, it is resurging. To appropriate power, he has unabashedly promoted Hindu nationalism over secular democratic values, curtailing individual freedom in the name of state security and used majoritarian emotion to ignore reason.

India under Modi’s regime is sliding further and further down from its path towards democratic consolidation. Modi is gradually eliminating opposing forces in the political system, the judiciary, the media and even the business houses. As this is a gradual process not a spectacular coup – much like the boiling frog – the civil society does not rise up to agitate and the international community does not forcefully oppose it.

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सरदार सरोवर बांध आज भी दुखी हे #Poem

सरदार सरोवर बांध,

जो सीमेंट, लोहे, रेती … से बना होन के बावजूद भी,

बहुत दुखी है ।

सरदार सरोवर बांधने देखा,

उपर की तरफ लोग डूब से परेशान है,

नीचे की तरफ ‘नर्मदा मैया’ मर रही है,

बांध के दोनों ही तरफ,
कुदरत और इन्सानो की
तबाही ही तबाही है ।

और उसके ही नाम पर,

बांध पर खड़े हो कर,

प्रधानमंत्री “उत्सव” मनाने में मशगूल है ।

वोट का जुगाड़ करने में लगे हुवे है ।

सरदार सरोवर बांध का दिल,

उसे यह कहने को मजबूर है,


है सरदार सरोवर बांध,


यहाँ से हट जा,

नहीं तो,


तूझे भी माफ् नही करेगा ।

By Rohit Prajapati

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India – Female Genital Cutting ( FGC) reported in Kerala #Vaw #WTFnews

Furore about Female Genital Cutting in Kerala: Impact of Sahiyo’s investigation

by Aysha Mahmood

On August 14, 2017, Sahiyo published a preliminary investigative report pointing to evidence that Female Genital Cutting (FGC) – a practice so far associated only with the Bohras in India – is also being practiced in Kozhikode, Kerala. The report was published in both English (here) and Malayalam (here) and it was followed by a furore within the media and social media circles of Kerala.

Sahiyo’s report was picked up by all the prominent media houses in the state. Mathrubhoomi, a major Malayalam newspaper, conducted a follow-up undercover investigation at the same FGC clinic that Sahiyo had visited, and confirmed the Sahiyo report. Mathrubhumi’s report of August 27 also provided some additional information about the way that clinic has been performing and propagating Female Genital Cutting:

  • The doctors at the clinic mentioned the presence of a middleman named Ansari who brings women to them for FGC.

  • Mathrubhumi claims to have communicated with some people online who offered to take them to clinics that conduct FGC and also offered contacts of traditional “Ossathis” or cutters.

Considering Mathrubhumi is one of the two leading newspapers in Kerala, what followed was an uproar, to put it mildly.

Prominent religious leaders came out denouncing FGC and made statements against the practice.

The health minister of Kerala, KK Shailaja, has ordered the District Medical Officer and Health Department Director of Kozhikode (Calicut) for a probe into the matter, and has asked them to submit a report at the earliest. The minister has stated that any clinic or doctor found practicing FGC will immediately be punished.

On August 27, the Youth League of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) marched to the Kozhikode clinic in question with slogans and placards, and in the presence of the media, proceeded to close the clinic. The clinic is now dysfunctional.

Kerala IMA statement
Kerala IMA’s press statement condemning FGC

On August 28, the Kerala branch of the Indian Medical Association also issued a press release taking a strong stance against FGC. The Association described the practice as “unscientific and against medical ethics”.

The Kozhikode police is also investigating the matter. The city police commissioner has said that it is possible to file a criminal case against the perpetrators of FGC if its victims are ready to do so.

In general, all the major political and religious institutions in Kerala have condemned the act and promised support to put an end to such a practice.

The former state minister for social welfare, Dr. MK Muneer of the IUML party, has said, “It is very shocking news to hear that something we only thought existed among African tribes, exists also in Kerala. Strict action should be taken against such activities.”

A Malayali student, Shani SS, wrote about her personal experience of having undergone FGC, becoming perhaps the first woman from Kerala to publicly share her story of being cut. Her story was published in Mathrubhumi, and mentioned not only her own FGC but also that of her mother, several years ago.

Responses on social media

Malayalam social media has been buzzing with debates on FGC and the reports in Sahiyo and Mathrubhumi, but people’s reactions have been a mixed bag.

The main reaction has largely been disbelief and the usual conspiracy theories of “This is paid news to defame Muslims”, or “because we have not heard of this ever in our lives, it does not exist”. For some, the reaction has been, “to each his own”.

But there is also a comparatively large group of people of social media who have openly supported FGC and are doling out religious texts and Fatwas.

Most of these people are religious scholars from the Shafi sect of Islam and are quite influential in the interior pockets of Kerala. Some of them have openly attacked the religious leaders who spoke against FGC in the media. One of the prominent faces of Kerala politics and its religious front, Sayyid Munavvar Ali Shihab Thangal (the son of IUML’s former president) was forced to take down his Facebook status that spoke against FGC. Supporters of the practice made fun of his “ignorance of Islamic texts and foregoing his religion for admiration from the ignorant”.

Another small-time religious scholar and moulavi, Maniyoor Abdul Kadir Al Kassimi, has been circulating a Fatwa with a Hadith and details on why circumcision is equally compulsory for men and women. This has been found doing rounds on Whatsapp and Facebook and some blogs.

The same emotion can be seen reflected in many Facebook posts and comments by Muslim scholars and moulavis from the same sect and community. These have been liked and shared by many people. It is a reason to be concerned that there is at least some level of acceptance and support for FGC amongst a considerable number of followers.

Not surprisingly, almost all the voices defending FGC on Malayalam social media are those of men. Women’s voices are nowhere to be heard.

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Music- The resilient art of dissent



These past few days, I have been on a Faiz Ahmed Faiz poetry trip. It all started after a few friends posted the legendary Pakistani poet’s work on Facebook following the Gauri Lankesh murder. “We need someone like Faiz,” said one comment. And the song regularly posted was his iconic and revolutionary Hum dekhenge, rendered by the brilliant Iqbal Bano.

Personally, I have experienced Faiz’s poetry only through song. I can’t read Urdu. Having grown up in a different cultural environment, I still find it difficult to understand half of what he tried to convey. Yet, he’s been an all-time idol.

Interestingly, there was this song I heard back in 1983 as a 20-year-old. I loved it immensely but it took me three years to figure it was written by Faiz. The meaning came later but Mehdi Hassan’s ‘Gulon mein rang bhare’remains a favourite even today.

The actual Faiz journey began in 1986 when a friend played the melodious Nayyara Noor. Songs like ‘Hum ke thehre ajnabi’, Tum mere paas raho and ‘Intesaab’ just grabbed me with their power. It went on. Bano’s ‘Hum dekhenge’and Dasht-e-tanhai. Akhtar’s ‘Aaye kuchh abr’ and Donon jahaan teri mohabbat mein haar ke’.

Farida Khanum’s ‘Yaad-e-ghazaal-e-chashma’. Noor Jehan‘s ‘Mujhse pehli si mohabbat’ and ‘Tum aaye ho na shab-e-intezaar guzari hai’.

The list continued. Ghulam Ali, Abida Parveen, Pankaj Udhas, Zehra Nigah, Radhika Chopra. Besides the songs, so did the quest for their meanings.

Faiz used a lot of high-flown Urdu terms and metaphors with multiple interpretations. He would strike at governments, talk about global development or write eulogies on romantic minds. That was his oeuvre, style and genius. For some years, I found translations in books but today you get practically everything online. It’s still a journey and my attempt at a personal thesis.

Faiz was Faiz. But to come back to the point, why were so many remembering him after the Lankesh incident? Probably because both were symbols of freedom and expression. Protest has always been a form of writing, and Bob Dylan was the supreme Western songwriter in this genre. His songs were posted too.

Here I come to the personal angle. I am not a poet and I know it. I am a nobody. But after listening to so much Faiz and a bit of Dylan for a few days, I made my first attempt at writing verse. Understandably, it’s an amateur debut. It’s titled, ‘So What If I Think Freely?’.

My mind has a heart, my tongue has a soul;

My voice comes through my navel, my art is my only goal

I paint through my eyes, I dance through my brain;

Write poetry through my ears, nothing ever goes in vain

I feel I am extremely creative, it’s just a gift and blessing;

I shoot films with my arms, no matter what the cast is dressing

And then I am abruptly stopped, disbelievers call me a stink;

Don’t blame their brains at all, but I have the freedom to think

Oh if I live in another world, devoid of hatred and greed;

All of us artistes can unite, and be proud of our common creed

Well, amateur or otherwise, it was simply inspired by music and poetry of protest.

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Adani group, Reliance ADAG, Essar accused of cheating in Rs 290 billion scam

Notes, Money, Currency

Image used for representational purpose

A public-interest litigation petition has been filed in the Delhi High Court against the multinational business conglomerate Adani group, Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group and other energy and mining companies, including Essar, demanding a probe into allegations of over-invoicing of coal mined from Indonesia and power equipment imported into the country between 2011 and 2015. The companies have also been accused of siphoning off the excess funds into offshore accounts.

According to a report by The Guardian, the writ alleges that Adani Group, Reliance ADAG, Essar, and several others inflated the price of power equipment and coal “in order to cheat the people and to siphon off funds from public companies”.

The alleged scam which is estimated at around Rs 290 billion involves 40 companies who have been accused of increasing the price of coal mined from Indonesia using front organisations.

The report throws light on the alleged price inflation that might have benefitted the companies as they could transfer their money into overseas accounts without paying tax. This might have also led to the higher power prices in India, as the cost of equipment and coal would certainly affect the power tariffs, resulting in the end consumer having to pay a hiked up price for electricity supply.

The PIL filed by noted advocate and social activist Prashant Bhushan accuses the firms of “cheating the shareholders and the tax authorities, in addition to cheating the consumers”.

The lawsuit also criticised the decision of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence to drop proceedings against the Adani group over a Rs 39 billion fraud case in an adjudication order dated August 22.

The Adani Group is currently awaiting judgment on a Rs 15 billion scam in which the firm has been accused of overpricing electricity equipment for two power projects in Maharashtra.

In 2014, DRI had issued a show-cause notice to a few firms of the Adani Group alleging overvaluation of imported power equipment and “siphoning off of money abroad”, The Indian Express newspaper had reported.

An excerpt from the notice reads:  “The goods (power generation and transmission equipment) are being shipped directly to India by the original equipment manufacturers (based in China and South Korea), (and) the documents are routed through an intermediary entity (M/S Electrogen Infra FZE, UAE) created in Dubai. The actual invoice value of the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) is remitted to the supplier while the inflated extra amount is sent to accounts held in subsidiary/holding company established by Adani Group in Mauritius.”

The petition, which also accuses the DRI, will be reviewed by the court. With the case slowly starting to grab eyeballs, as much of the media had not reported about it, the Congress party has also called for a detailed probe into the allegations.

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Dalit wronged at Japanese Honda factory awaits justice

Image result for Japanese firm Honda Motorcycle AHMEDABAD

IANS  |  Ahmedabad L

When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and wife were on their way to Sabarmati Ashram, Himanshu Sitapara, all of 25, was getting getting police phone calls and visits from police to ensure he remained at home in Viramgam in district. So was Kirit Rathod of Navsarjan which works for and with 

It took three days for Himanshu to file an FIR alleging abuses by a senior HR Department staffer over his Dalit identity after he was denied a job in the Japanese firm Motorcycle and Scooter India Pvt Ltd in Vithalapur village, 22 km from his hometown Viramgam.

Himanshu, backed by Rathod and other Dalits, want the officer at the Vithalapur plant arrested and action against a police sub-inspector who was reluctant to take his complaint on September 9 and for two more days.

They had threatened that if action was not taken, the from the region would show black flags against Prime Minister Abe.

Himanshu said: “I want action. For me, more important than the abuses on my caste which I am accustomed to is the loss of my job. I provided all the documents and everything but I was driven out because I could not pay the bribe (the HR officer) was demanding.

“I can’t move out and so also Kiritbhai. We want to express our protest before the Japanese Prime Minister, but the police are ensuring we don’t. There is pressure on our people that we had it if we try anything.”

Hired for his ITI diploma in welding and cutting, Himanshu got the job at the plant as a technical assistant but was asked to pay Rs 5,000 to the HR officer.

“When I told him I didn’t have that kind of money, he started abusing me… He used Gujarati expletives… He drove me out and asked me to find a sweeper’s job somewhere which, according to him, suited me better.”

The police have started investigations under a Deputy Superintendent of Police in the Scheduled Castes/Schedules Tribes cell and invoked the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and Section 504 of the Indian Penal Code.


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UP- Dalit-Muslim couple seek security

On August 26, Rehman had written to the DM and sent copies of the letter to the CM, national and state human rights commissions, Gorakhpur Zone IG, Basti Range DIG and the Siddharth Nagar SP.

|A DALIT couple from Siddharth Nagar district, who had embraced Islam about two months ago, has sought security from the government, alleging that “anti-social elements” and “communal parties” are harassing and threatening them. After conversion, Ramdhani (30), a tailor, has become Abdul Rehman and his wife Gudiya has taken the name of Ayesha. Around a month ago, Rehman, along with Ayesha and their 10-year-old daughter, had shifted to Muslim-dominated Piprahwa — around five kilometres from his native Aligarhwa village in Kapilwastu.

Acting on Rehman’s complaint, Siddharth Nagar District Magistrate Kunal Silku has ordered the police to probe the allegations and also provide security to the couple. “An inquiry has been initiated following the district magistrate’s directive. Ramdhani alias Rehman, in his complaint, has not named anyone or provided any specific details about the persons or the organisations involved in harassing or threatening them. The decision to provide them security will be taken on the basis of the inquiry report,” said Sadar police Circle Officer Dileep Kumar Singh.

On August 26, Rehman had written to the DM and sent copies of the letter to the CM, national and state human rights commissions, Gorakhpur Zone IG, Basti Range DIG and the Siddharth Nagar SP. The letter stated that Rehman and his wife had embraced Islam, as they were influenced by the religion and there was no threat or pressure on them to convert.

Anti-social elements and some communal parties have been hurling abuses and issuing life threats to them since after, they have alleged. “We have been hiding, fearing life threats and could hardly go to our home… We seek security and anti-social elements and communal parties would be responsible if something untoward happens to us,” Rehman wrote.

Kapilwastu police SHO Gopal Swaroop Bajpai, who is probing the matter, said: “The statements of the complainant, his wife and his relatives, including his father, have been recorded. Ramdhani had worked in Mumbai for three years and returned home an year ago. Around two months ago, he disclosed that he and his wife have embraced Islam.” The family could not be reached for comments.

Dalit-Muslim couple seek security

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Urdu Translation of Om Prakash Valmiki’s memoir ‘ Joothan’

Against all odds

Om Prakash Valmiki’s memoir displays palpable anger since he can’t help getting worked up while writing about his past

“During a wedding, when the guests and the baratis, those who had accompanied the bridegroom as members of his party, were eating their meals, the chuhras would sit outside with huge baskets. After the bridegroom’s party had eaten, the dirty pattals, or leaf plates, were put in the chuhras’ baskets, which they took home, to save the joothan that was sticking to them.”

Against all odds

Om Prakash Valmiki wrote poetry and fiction but it was his memoir Joothan which made him one of the top notch Hindi writers of the modern era. It became his magnum opus and is regarded as a classic today.

Born in a village of Muzzafarnagar Uttar Pradesh in a Dalit family in 1950, he had to face unbearable poverty along with so much else. His was a life that was nothing but humiliation, caste discrimination and persecution at the behest of so-called ‘Upper Castes’ who treated Dalits in a bestial manner to say the least. It was believed that Dalits didn’t have any purpose in life apart from serving others. Their status in the village was much worse than the animals.  And yet, Valmiki braved all this and studied hard and was later smitten by the literary bug.

He published three collections each of poetry and short stories during his literary journey. He began jotting down his life story at the behest of one of his friends. Once he started, there was no looking back. Joothan was published in 1997 and created a furore as it unmasked the horrible face of caste ridden society of India. No wonder then that it was translated into Punjabi, English, Malayalam, Tamil and few other languages of India. Shiraz Hassan, a journalist, blogger and a photographer rolled into one, has translated it from Hindi to Urdu.

Valmiki experienced an inner urge to express himself and it was this urge that resulted in poetry, fiction and also theatre as he was an active member of many interactive theatre groups.

Valmiki’s memoir does not follow a linear path as he narrates episodes from different parts of his life. There is palpable anger in the narrative since he can’t help getting worked up removing the lid from his past. Even the reader feels emotional as Valmiki shares shards about being bullied by boys from influential families who would refer to him as ‘choora’ or ‘chamar’.

Valmiki writes that the ‘Upper Caste’ villagers were furious about him attending school. They would harass and ridicule him and even in school there was no escape from the humiliation and misery. Teachers would cane him on the slightest excuse to show him that that the school was no place for him. They wanted him to believe that he was only meant for lowly menial jobs like his forefathers had been. These daily insults left him shattered but through sheer resilience, and with the support of his parents and close relatives, he faced everything and went on studying.

op valmiki

Money was a rarity for him as his parents were field-workers who were paid in grain instead of money. His mother and sister-in-law helped him purchase books by selling their jewellery. Valmiki began college but since he couldn’t support his studies any more he joined an ordnance factory as a junior apprentice.

Valmiki experienced an inner urge to express himself and it was this urge that resulted in poetry, fiction and also theatre as he was an active member of many interactive theatre groups. But despite the fact that it had been years since leaving his village, school and college, the caste stigma attached with his community never left him. He narrates that even liberal and secular people changed their attitude towards him after learning about his Dalit background. Many of his friends suggested that he should hide his caste background but he didn’t. Over the years, he became stoic and continued to introduce himself come what may. Even when he was writing his memoir, a few people advised him to not talk about his caste, but he was adamant. He believed his memoir will give a befitting reply to those people who brazenly state: “hamaray yahan aisa ni hota”[Such things don’t happen in our society].

The translation is up to the mark as the translator has captured the essence of the original text. At times the author appears too aggressive and loud but after finishing the book the reader will agree that he was justified in doing so. Ajmal Kamal, the head of Aaj Karachi, deserves kudos for publishing this important memoir into Urdu.

Translator: Shiraz Hassan
Publisher: Aaj Karachi
Year: 2017
Pages: 169
Price: Rs 160

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New Zealand’s Internet Party to discuss UID/Aadhaar at Anti-Spy Bill Event today

Internet Party’s 6th #AntiSpyBill Event To Highlight Dangers Of Mass Biometric Collection Programs 
The show will be broadcast at and also on the ‘Internet Party’ Facebook page. Tweets will be on #AntiSpyBill
The official Twitter accounts are @InternetPartyNZ an @antispybill
Please log on to the Zoom (guests *and* observers) at 7.30pm Sunday NZST (UTC+12).
Show time is 8pm Sunday NZST (UTC+12). The panel will end between 9.30pm-9.45pm Sunday NZST. Panelists can then either log out or stay on to participate in the bill drafting, it is your choice. 
(7.30pm NZST appears to be 1pm Sunday New Delhi time but please check this yourself to be sure!)
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This evening two brave Indian activists and academics – Dr Gopal Krishna and Dr Usha Ramanathan – will join the Internet Party’s 6th consecutive #AntiSpyBill event to share their firsthand knowledge of gross intrusions of privacy being imposed en masse upon the world’s second most populous nation.
Known as Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometrics system, implemented by the Indian government in conjunction with major corporations like telecommunications companies and banks, was engineered by for-profit international contracting companies connected to Western spy agencies. Internet Party Leader Suzie Dawson will MC the event and says: “Do you want to be fingerprinted when you buy a SIM card? No? What about to open a bank account? Well, neither do people in India. But its happening there and if we don’t help stop it, this phenomenon will likely spread around the globe.”
The Internet Party is again inviting the public to join the roundtable event, which will continue the world-first effort to draft crowdsourced legislation to regulate governmental spying. The initiative seeks to counter the damage to democratic and human rights inflicted upon New Zealanders by a string of draconian spying laws passed between 2013 and 2016. These laws have retroactively legalised previously illegal targeting of New Zealanders, including warrantless spying and covertly filming them inside their homes, Orwell-style – a practice referred to in law as “domestic visual surveillance”.
Internet Party Leader Suzie Dawson said “New Zealand spies and their international counterparts have engaged in some of the most egregious conduct imaginable. The laws passed under urgency in recent years have only furthered the sense of invulnerability of these spies. They also violate international law. We must show that where our lawmakers fail to do so, the public are willing to step up and address these issues themselves.” The event will be simulcast live on the official Internet Party Facebook page and YouTube channel. Anyone can Join the Internet Party to help #UpdateNZ – and the world!
Media enquiries: please contact [email protected] or add your email address to our mailing list at Authorised by J. Booth, 40 Hartford Crescent, Upper Hutt, Aotearoa 5018, New Zealand.

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