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Archives for : December2017

India – Meet the Shashi Kapoor no one knows!

He was Bollywood’s beloved star, the Kapoor who could charm the birds off the trees.

He starred in both commercial and art cinema. He went international before most actors in India even considered looking Westwards.

The demise of the talented Shashi Kapoor marks the end of an era in Bollywood.

A couple of years ago, when his eldest son, Kunal, spoke to Patcy N/Rediff.com about his father, he told her, ‘In the late 1960s, my father did not have any work. He sold his sports car. Mum also started selling things because we didn’t have money.’

In this interview, Kunal Kapoor reveals what Shashi Kapoor was really like.

Shashi Kapoor has been recently honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, but his eldest son Kunal Kapoor feels his father should have been honoured much earlier.

There is so much about Shashi Kapoor, who turned 77 on March 18, that we don’t know. Kunal gives us the insight only a child can.

I did not know how popular my father was because we were not brought up as part of the industry.

We knew he was an actor. Everybody in my mother (the legendary Jennifer Kendal)’s and my father’s family were actors.

We were aware that going to public places with him in Mumbai was a problem.

If we went to the zoo, it would have to be at 6:30 in the morning. And we would have to run away as soon as a crowd gathered.

Dad never worked on Sundays. He spent the whole day with the family. We would have all three meals together. He never invited his friends over on Sunday.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he used to work in many films. He used to do six shifts.

We would sit for breakfast at 7.30 am. No matter what time he came in the previous night, he would be at the breakfast table at 7.30.

Our father was an integral part of our life. He was not strict.

 

‘My parents were in Singapore and Malaysia for a show, but the shows were cancelled and they were broke. They wanted to get married, so Raj Uncle gave them money for their tickets and they came to Mumbai and got married’

Very few fathers in our culture have a close relationship with their children. Fortunately, we had a great one-to-one relationship with him.

I am hands on with my kids; I have washed my son’s bottom. I have changed his nappies… that is the kind of relationship I had with my father.

My father didn’t have such a relationship with his father.

My father would try and schedule his outdoor shootings to coincide with our school holidays so that we would be together. But we were not taken on the sets of the film.

Nowadays, we shoot early in the morning, but in those days, the shooting would start at 9:30 am or 10 am and end by 4 pm, so there was plenty of time to be together.

For five or six years we went to Kashmir every summer during the shooting, but we would do our own thing with our mother.

At home in Mumbai, we would go swimming; you could say we grew up in the Breach Candy club pool (a well-known club in South Mumbai).

We would also go to Juhu beach and spend the whole day there.

***

‘My father joined films after I was born’

Image: Shashi Kapoor with wife Jennifer Kendal. Image kind courtesy Shammi Kapoor’s official Web site http://www.junglee.org.in/

 

My father joined films after I was born (on June 26, 1959). Before that, he mainly did stage plays.

After I was born, he did Chaar Diwari and Dharamputra (1961) which was his first lead role, and Waqt (1964).

It is not true that my maternal grandfather (Geoffrey Kendal) did not want my parents to marry.

My grandfather was concerned about losing his leading lady. My mother played all the lead roles in the Shakespeareana theatre company run by my grandfather.

It would be hard to find better grandparents than my mother’s parents. They were the most amazing people.

Before my parents got married, they both worked with Shakespeareana.

They were in Singapore and Malaysia for a show, but the shows were cancelled and they were broke.

They wanted to get married so Raj (Kapoor) Uncle gave them money for their tickets and they came to Mumbai and got married (in 1958).

My maternal grandfather loved India. He spent half his life in India. You should read Shakespearewala, the book he wrote. You will know how my grandparents travelled the whole of India with their plays.

My grandfather came to India during the war with the army. He fell in love with India and then he came back to India in the 1950s.

My parents were in love with each other; they took care of each other.

My mother died when she was just 50. My dad was 46 then.

Our mother’s death caused us and our father a lot of grief; we had our own way of dealing with it.

***

‘My father had no tantrums, no starry airs, he never misbehaved on the sets’

Image: Shashi Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Prithviraj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor. Photograph: Rediff Archives

 

Raj Uncle was 14 years older than my father, and Shammi Uncle was seven years older.

Dad put on weight at the same age as Raj Uncle and Shammi Uncle did.

My grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor liked acting and he got into the business. So did Raj Uncle, Shammi Uncle and my dad. They did not want to be stars; they just wanted to be actors.

Later, Raj Uncle got interested in making films and turned director. They were not like today’s generation where everyone wants to be a star. They were in love with their profession.

 

‘My father directed only one film, Ajooba. The film was a big party on the sets. Everybody had a blast. I don’t think he was interested in direction. He is an actor’

The early films he did — Dharamputra, Waqt, Householder, Char Diwari, Shakespeare Wallah and Jab Jab Phool Khile — were very interesting films. In the 1950s, people made good films.

The industry changed and the quality of films made in the late 1970s started deteriorating.

Seeing that good films were not being made and the industry was run by loan sharks making commercial potboilers, my father started his own production company, Film Valas. He made Junoon (1978), Kalyug (1980), 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981), Vijeta (1982), Utsav (1984) and Ajooba (1991).

My father was very professional and easy to work with. He had no tantrums, no starry airs, he never misbehaved on the sets, he was punctual and everybody liked working with him.

***

‘There have been many ups and downs, but it never bothered us’

Image: Shashi Kapoor with Jennifer Kendal and their children Kunal, Sanjana and Karan. Image kind courtesy: Shammi Kapoor’s official Web site http://www.junglee.org.in/

 

When my father was launched as a lead actor in Dharamputra, none of the actresses wanted to work with a newcomer.

Nanda was the only actress who agreed to work with him even though she was a star at that time.

My father directed only one film, Ajooba. The film was a big party on the sets. Everybody had a blast.

I don’t think he was interested in direction. He is an actor.

Likewise, he is not a businessman to produce a film. He made great films because he gave his cast and crew whatever they wanted.

In the late ’60s, he did not have any work. We saw a lot of him then.

That was also the time we discovered Goa. He sold his sports car. Mum also started selling things because we didn’t have money.

After Sharmilee (1971), things changed again.

There have been many ups and downs, but it never bothered us.

 

‘When a man is at the end of his life and you give him an award, it doesn’t mean much’

 

My father was one of the earliest actors to do crossover films, with Merchant-Ivory (the successful producer-director team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory).

He did films like Householder and Shakespeare Wallah that are considered classics today.

***

Image: Shashi Kapoor. Photograph: Pradeep Bandekar

 

My father has not been well for some time now. He has a lot of complications. He has dialysis three times a week. He is not well enough to go to Delhi for the Dadasaheb Phalke award ceremony.

My father had a good family, a good life, he made good films, and he doesn’t care about anything now. I think they could have given him this award earlier.

If you give it at an earlier age, it means something. When a man is at the end of his life and you give him an award, it doesn’t mean much.

But then, again, he never cared about awards.

***

‘I didn’t want to make films in the late ’80s and early ’90s because that was the worst time for Hindi cinema’

Image: Shashi Kapoor with Kunal Kapoor. Photograph: Pradeep Bandekar

 

I studied at the Bombay International School. I was never treated differently at school because my father was an actor.

I did not go to college after school. I went to England and joined drama school because I thought I wanted to be an actor.

I slowly realised that I was more interested in filmmaking and the technical process of filmmaking excited me more than acting. I gave up acting and started doing ad films.

I am lucky that I got the opportunity to make exotic ads. I never made soap and toothpaste ads. I shot outdoors or on big sets, they are like mini feature films.

I have done 1,000 of them for Bombay Dyeing, Siyaram, MRF, Bush, Mahindra’s Bolero, Scorpio and Chevrolet cars, to name a few.

I didn’t want to make films in the late ’80s and early ’90s because that was the worst time for Hindi cinema.

But now I think of making films because in the last eight years, films have changed and there is room for every kind of film — like Mary Kom or Detective Bymokesh Bakshy!

***

‘Sanjana should have started Junoon 10 years ago’

Image: Shashi Kapoor with his youngest child Sanjana. Photograph: Pradeep Bandekar

 

My father bought the land and built Prithvi Theatre for plays (in Juhu, north-western Mumbai; it started in 1978). He did it in memory of his father Prithviraj Kapoor.

My father was also producing Junoon and doing six shifts a day, so my mother looked after the theatre completely.

After my mother passed away, I took over. By the 1990s I was getting very busy and slowly I gave my sister Sanjana charge of the theatre. She married (the celebrated crusader for the Tiger Valmik Thapar) and moved to Delhi 10 years ago. I moved from south Mumbai to Juhu.

Sanjana should have started her own thing as all of us in our family have their own identity.

Raj Kapoor had RK Studio and he made films. Shammi Kapoor and Dad were into acting.

Rishi Kapoor Ranbir, Bebo (Kareena Kapoor) are all doing their own thing. I made ad films and my brother (Karan) is into photography.

Sanjana should have started her organisation, Junoon, 10 years ago. Now she is taking art into the community and working with children.

My son Zahan is assisting filmmakers; he is interested in acting and direction.

My daughter Shaira (Zahan and Shaira’s mother Sheena Sippy is a well-known photographer whose father is the man who directed Sholay, Ramesh Sippy) is interested in production design. She has been working with Sonal Sawant (Lakshya). She also worked on Bombay Velvet.

This interview was first published on April 22, 2015.

http://www.rediff.com/movies/report/meet-the-shashi-kapoor-no-one-knows/20150422.htm

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India – Birth Of A New Hindu Nation

It can’t be without reason that the RSS now says a mandir alone will come up at the disputed site. The Sangh has been carving a Hindu India since ’92.
Birth Of A New Hindu Nation
LIBERATED!
Kar sevaks celebrate the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992
PHOTOGRAPH BY D. RAVINDER REDDY

A quarter century has passed since the Babri Masjid demolition. Every year, Hindutva forces celebrate this day as ‘Vijay Diwas’ (Victory Day), as a ritual, but perhaps with a sense of guilt and helplessness—for them, Ram, despite being ‘liberated’, rem­ains homeless all these years. In the changing political context, the silver jubilee year marks a watershed as the RSS gears up for what they offer as a grand metaphor—the return of Ram to Ayodhya—by turning into a reality the ‘Mandir wahin bana­yenge’ slogan, once considered merely rhetorical.

Symbols and rituals are embedded in the Hindu nationalist agenda; hence, the first step in this direction has already been initiated with the symbolic return of Ram to Ayodhya this Diwali by lighting almost two lakh lamps on the banks of Sarayu, creating a great spectacle. Now the Sangh parivar is zealously taking up the next step by fast-tracking the temple construction agenda. Thus, without waiting for the Supreme Court decision, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat recently ann­ounced that a mandir will be constructed, asserting that there will only be a mandir, and no other structure at the disputed site.

With this announcement, the RSS has entered a new phase of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement: construction of a temple as a new symbol of a Hindu India. Bhagwat’s confidence needs to be understood in the context of an all-powerful RSS now being in control of the levers of political power at the Centre and in a majority of the states. The hegemonic rise of the RSS owes greatly to the Ayodhya movement, of which demolition was a symbolic as well as a substantive event.

The Sangh has always shown an instinct for survival when chips are down. Of late, it has a flair for expansion and pursuit for power.
The demolition was not a sudden act, but an outcome of a decade-long mobilisation and agitation under a calibrated strategy by the Sangh-VHP-BJP combine. Though the seed was sown back in 1949 when Ram lalla ‘appeared’ in Babri Masjid on a cold December night, the lord still failed to go beyond the local to capture the nat­ional religious imaginary. The humiliating electoral performance of the BJP in 1984, winning only two seats in Parliament, compelled the RSS to go for a militant religio-political strategy around Ayodhya. The Meenakshipuram conversions of 1981, Shah Bano, the unlocking of the temple doors by the Congress government, all provided ideal fodder for a mammoth pan-Indian Hindu mobilisation, which became the largest mass movement in independent India.

Till then, the ideology of Hindu rashtra was by and large confined to the Sangh cadre. Ayodhya allowed the RSS to spread its worldview among ordinary Hindus by imaginatively projecting Ram not just as a great Hindu god, but also as a symbol of repressed national pride. Thus, Hindu­ism and nationalism were skilfully woven, and this struck a chord with millions who never really related to a vacuous secularism. On the other hand, BJP veteran L.K. Advani’s cogent argume­nts on ‘mino­rity appeasement’ appealed to many.

Left secular historians questioned if Ayodhya was the birthplace of Rama and whether present-­day Ayodhya was the Ayodhya of the Ramayana, thus perhaps putting more wind in the sail of the project. Let alone eng­age it, they failed to even grasp the working of the believing Hindu’s mind: for them, Ayodhya was beyond time and history; faith never looked for evidence. Hard-line secular politicians and Muslim leadership failed to anticipate the upheaval. When Advani talked of relocation of the mosque, it could have been an entry point for talk and bargain; however, the secularists relied entirely on the constitutional/legal solution, fearing any dia­logue would privilege the Sangh parivar. Political and electoral calculations, rather than minority interest, were the guiding principles. Once the RSS gauged the mass support behind its project, it showed no interest in rapprochement as it could reap a political windfall only through a violent assertion.

RSS turned Ram into a symbol of repressed national pride for Hindus, enhancing Advani’s views on minority appeasement.
Historically, the RSS has always shown the right instinct at the right time for its survival, expansion and pursuit of political power. It kept aloof from the freedom struggle, strategically opting to exp­and quietly. During Partition, it endeared itself to Hindu refugees as their ‘saviour’. During the hard days of its ban after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, it conceived the political front, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (1951), and then strategically expanded, opening other affiliates, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (1964). In 1975, it took the bold political decision to challenge the Emergency by joining the JP movement, and soon became a dominant player in the Janata Party and in mainstream politics in 1977, acquiring respectability, legitimacy and political power.

The launch of the Ayodhya agitation in the 1980s was perfectly timed as well. By then, the Sangh network had already become pan-Indian, making inroads into new regions and social groups. And yet, the RSS had remained largely a Brahmin-Bania, upper-caste, middle-class organisation of the cow belt, and it desperately needed to break out of this mould. Ayodhya equipped it with the language and symbolic tools required to penetrate rural and semi-urban India, and flow over the caste barrier: for Ram had a big appeal among backward castes and marginalised groups across regions. Thus, mobilising for the mandir became simultaneously a way of building a new social coa­lition, particularly integrating the Dalits, adivasis and backwards into the Hindu fold, not just in a token way as often alleged, but showing willingness to make them partners in power. Thus, the foundation of a ‘Hindu India’ was laid on a large and diverse social base. The BJP’s strength in Parliament surged; the movement brought it to power in key north Indian states; and the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh made way for the demolition with the tacit approval of the Congress government at the Centre.

Surely, the demolition was insane and barbaric for many, and such violent majoritarian assertion was considered anti-democratic and anti-minority. But the supporters gloated over their victory as though it ended the very symbol of historical Muslim domination and Hindu humiliation. But this ‘victory’ had some long-term negative repercussions. Mob frenzy and violence became a new normal for conflict resolution. There came to be a big question mark on the efficacy of the Indian state in protecting the rule of law and minority rights. The lofty ideal of ‘Hindu tolerance’ was once and for all consigned to history. The demolition and mob violence left a permanent scar on Muslims and scared other minorities. Trust in constitutional governance became a casualty, as Kalyan Singh, despite his affidavit as the CM to protect the masjid, became a wilful partner in demolition.

HUDDLE’S ON

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat with Hindu spiritual leaders

PHOTOGRAPH BY PTI

All this had no adverse impact on the RSS, of course. Rather, the riots and subsequent blasts in Bombay, a violent response to the demolition, further enhanced its credentials in a field marked increasingly by Hindu-Muslim polarisation. Its constituency was further consolidated and the momentum finally enabled the party to form coalition governments in Delhi from 1998 to 2004. Some key players of the movement, including some religious leaders, became lawmakers and ministers; thus, religion got legitimacy in the secular domain. The RSS, despite constraints, exercised a sway over the A.B. Vajpayee government: from cabinet formation and policymaking to key appointments.  The moderate Vajpayee, who chose to express remo­rse after the demolition, put the mandir issue in the backburner due to coalition compulsion; and only the VHP periodically continued with its symbolic rituals at Ayodhya.

In 2002, a train coming from Ayodhya was set on fire at Godhra, killing Gujarati kar sevaks, which led to the most horrific anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat. Gujarati society got Hindutvaised to a great extent and the state has been in the firm grip of Hindutva politics ever since. The majoritarian assertion of December 6, 1992 had a logical link to events in Gujarat a decade later. But Narendra Modi chose not to be confined to the mould of Hindutva icon: adding administrative strings to his bow, and deploying development as a slogan, he graduated to become India’s prime minister with RSS support.

With Modi and Yogi at the helm and the RSS hegemony at its peak, why won’t Bhagwat exude high confidence?
The BJP’s massive electoral success in 2014, and later in the 2017 UP assembly elections, could be partly attributed to the base created during the Ayodhya days. The movement’s inclusive social coalition came in handy, though lying dormant and disillusioned with their temple aspi­rations going unrequited, the Sangh successfully brought them back to the fold, promising to address their concerns. Now Yogi Adityanath, directly engaged with the temple issue, poses as an enabler even as Modi stays largely on the dev­elopment plank. Modi is the new navigator of Advani’s rath; Yogi inherits the legacy of his prede­cessor Mahant Avaidyanth, a key figure in the movement. With two stalwarts at the helm, and RSS hegemony at its peak, why will not Bhagwat exude confidence?

Undoubtedly, the Babri Masjid demolition shook the very secular edifice of the country’s Con­stitution, signalling the onset of a Hindu India. The makeshift temple is the foundation for a majoritarian state. Since December 1992, pillars for a temple  are being quietly chiselled, while the RSS has been carving out the structure of a Hindu India—brick by brick.


(The writer is ICCR chair for the Study of Contemporary India, Leiden University, the Netherlands.)

https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/birth-of-a-new-hindu-nation/299581

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The Newtons of Gadchiroli: tribals rise to power in local body polls

(L to R) Pramila Juru Kudiyami, Sainu Gota, Lalsu Soma Nagoti, and Sukhram Mandavi are united in their struggle against big mining corporations.   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

It’s not often that the tribals of Maharashtra’s Maoist-affected district get to control the political narrative, so this has been an unusual victory

Lalsu Soma Nagoti, Sainu Gota, Sukhram Mandavi and Pramila Juru Kudiyami — four ordinary people who share one common thread. In the strife-torn, neglected and poverty-ridden tribal district of Gadchiroli, they were all candidates in the civic body elections held earlier this year.

This year, when Bollywood gave us Newton, the dark comedy about India’s democratic system, the tribals of Gadchiroli decided to give themselves a crack at democracy when several Gram Sabhas decided to contest the Zila Parishad elections by fielding their own candidates. They were doing this, they said, because they had traditionally been neglected by mainstream political parties. More important, they were doing this to fight what they call the destructive mining agenda of large corporations.

Standing for elections in Gadchiroli is no easy task. In the villages that dot the length and breadth of this insurgency-hit district, uncomfortably close to Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-affected Bastar region, poll candidates, elected sarpanches, and all people with electoral aspirations face three risks: being classified as Maoist sympathisers, being hounded as police informants, or being gunned down. Stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place, the story of the 22 candidates fielded by the Gram Sabhas is one of grit and faith in the democratic system.

Significantly, six of them won, two winning Zila Parishad seats and four, Panchayat Samiti seats. Now, in the Panchayat Samiti of Gadchiroli’s Bhamragad town, the Gram Sabhas have a three-fourth majority, an important victory for the tribals. We spoke to four of the winners.

Lalsu Nagoti

When Bhamragad resident Nagoti was asked to contest elections to the Gadchiroli Zila Parishad by the local Gram Sabhas, it was difficult for the 39-year-old to not think of his father-in-law, Malukupa Bhogami. The Congress leader and Panchayat Samiti chairperson was killed by Maoists during an election campaign in 2002. Nagoti, one of the few lawyers in the area, is not sure why or how Bhogami incurred the wrath of the insurgents. By all accounts, he was popular. “Maybe his efforts to bring government schemes to the people went against him.”

Nagoti couldn’t have forgotten either the fate of Bahadur Shah Alam, a Congress block president and Bhamragad Panchayat Samiti president, who was gunned down by Maoists in 2012 in the town square with three policemen looking on, barely 500 metres from the police camp.

To understand the trepidation Nagoti went through and the courage he showed in agreeing to contest elections, one needs to understand Bhamragad.

Abutting the dense Dandakaranya forest on the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border, the town is on the banks of three rivers, the Indravati, the Pearl Kota, and the Pamul Gautami. Faced with Maoist opposition to any form of government, only four of its 19 Gram Panchayats have elected bodies. The number of sarpanches and village police patils (appointed by the district administration to record crime in the village) who have fallen to Maoist bullets is hard to ignore.

On the other side are the police. For local body representatives such as Nagoti, the police are as big a headache, if somewhat less bloodthirsty. Nagoti’s village, Juvi, is located deep inside the forest. “The police want to know why an educated person like me hasn’t relocated to the city. They suspect me of being a Maoist supporter because the insurgents don’t target me. My house has been searched many times. Once, I was detained in a police camp,” he says.

When he campaigned, for instance, the police were suspicious that his cavalcade of 60-odd motorcycles could move through the area without threats from Maoists. Nagoti says the Maoists could not do much since the people were directly involved, and had to be satisfied issuing statements opposing the elections.

“If educated people like me turn a blind eye to the electoral process, candidates not bothered with tribal issues will get elected. What if someone with a feudal mindset wins? We contested as Gram Sabha representatives, and not for a political party because that could have set us ideological limits.” The Congress did offer him a ticket, he says, which he turned down.

When he campaigned, Nagoti made few public speeches, choosing instead to accompany Gram Sabha members to villages in Maoist-dominated areas as they campaigned for him and powered him to a win by 500 votes.

Nagoti attended the well-known school run by Prakash Amte in Hemalkasa village, before moving to Pune for his graduation from Fergusson College and a law degree from ILS Law College. Educated tribals like him belong here, he says, and have a duty to work for their less fortunate brethren. “A right-wing activist, who runs a so-called anti-Maoist group in Nagpur, openly calls me a ‘white-collar Maoist’,” he says, with an amused look.

Also working in their favour is the battle these candidates are waging against indiscriminate mining. Being elected representatives, they can fight for tribal rights and continue the anti-mining struggle in Surajgad, 40 km from Bhamragad, in the neighbouring tehsil of Etapalli.

“We can’t expect anything better from the rebels, I know, but the attitude of the police forces us to question whether they are here for the people or for big companies. In Surajgad, police stations have been established to protect mining projects,” he says. “I recently issued a statement against the Chief Minister when he came here to inaugurate a mining company’s operations. The government can’t always be right; many of its schemes have affected our people adversely, like distribution of rice under the PDS, which has made dependants of many of us.”

Sainu Gota

Another man who has raised his voice against mining is Sainu Gota. The second representative fielded by the Gram Sabhas after Nagoti, Gota says his agenda will be ‘Jal, Jangal, Zameen (water, forests, land)’.

“We tribals are dependent on nature and forest produce. If forests are destroyed, it means displacement and destruction of our culture. Our gods are displaced,” says Gota.

When the former Congress district president, former Zila Parishad member, and four-time sarpanch of Gatta village, was selected as a candidate for the Zila Parishad elections, his wife Sheela and he were in Nagpur jail. In January this year, Gota had accused security forces of having sexually assaulted two tribal girls from Chhattisgarh in the forests on the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border.

When the police denied it, the Gota couple took the survivors to a lawyer in Nagpur. The police, says Gota, raided the lawyer’s office and booked the couple for “forcibly taking the girl to Nagpur to testify against the police in a fake case”. “It was my decision to contest,” says Gota. “I wanted to see if the people were with me when I was arrested. I got my answer when I won by 700 votes. Sheela, too, was elected to the Panchayat Samiti. I was released on bail a day before campaigning ended.”

Gota’s problems are far from over. His son Shivaji was recently arrested for a murder allegedly committed by Maoists. “My son is still in jail, implicated in a false case,” says Gota. “We cannot move around freely since the police suspect us of being Maoist sympathisers. But we are not scared because we have done nothing wrong; this has happened because of our opposition to the Surajgad mining project. (The government) did not take the consent of the Gram Sabhas, and the police are being used to provide protection for the project.”

Sukhram Mandavi

In Gadchiroli, a Maoist attack on security forces is usually followed by atrocities on villagers in the vicinity of the attack — when they are rounded up and interrogated and many arrested. This year, in the first week of May, Maoists targeted an anti-landmine vehicle, killing one policeman and injuring 19. Interestingly, the first arrest did not happen until a good one-and-a-half months after the attack.

This change in the attitude of the security forces, say locals, is solely due to the newly-elected local body representative, Sukhram Mandavi.

Mandavi, 39, a resident of Kiyar village in Bhamragad block, was a poultry farmer until January when he was selected as a candidate from the Maoist stronghold of Nelgonda. The father of two children who have completed high school, Mandavi began Gram Sabha work in 2015, helping out with meetings and translating documents to Madia language for the villagers.

Neither the Gram Sabhas nor Mandavi faced much trouble from the Maoists, but the police more than made up for it. “The police said our meetings had Maoist support and were reluctant to permit rallies and meetings,” says Mandavi. “We cobbled together a 26-member team to campaign on 13 motorcycles.” His campaign too was based on the Jal, Jangal, Zameen line and he promised to implement the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) and the Forests Rights Act (FRA).

“However,” he says, “political parties projected PESA as pro-Maoist. They were supported by a section of the district administration and the police. But these parties have never even stepped into the interior villages.”

Mandavi crowd-sourced his campaign funds. “Every house donated ₹20 and a cup of rice. We collected ₹40,000, and covered 90 of the 120 villages in Bhamragad block.” Mandavi is now the chairman of the Bhamragad Panchayat Samiti.

Despite being elected as chairman of a powerful local body, he says the Gram Sabhas have to fight with the government for their rights. “The government has given us rights, but they are only on paper. We want actual rights, even to the minerals in our land. The government is granting mining leases to outsider companies. Why can’t we have a say on the mineral ores in our area, if we can have rights over tendu and bamboo? The people here get nothing from the mining,” he says.

Mandavi’s life has changed now, especially with regard to the police, who treat him better, but he continues to face threats. During the campaign, some Maoist pamphlets were found threatening people against voting. “I didn’t get scared, as all the Gram Sabhas were united. Everyone has to die one day. I will also die, but I want to do something for my people and my area before dying, and this election has given me an opportunity to do that,” says Mandavi. Already, since the election, there have been no incidents of security forces manhandling villagers in his area.

After the May bomb blast, the bus service on the Hemalkasa-Kothi road was stopped. The police asked villagers to give in writing that there would be no damage to the bus if the service was restarted. Mandavi retorted by demanding to know what the police was doing when the Maoists planted explosives hardly a few kilometres from the police camp.

“The policemen were talking as if the Maoists inform us before triggering an explosion. We refused to give anything in writing and asked them to resume the bus service,” he says. The service was started in a week.

Pramila Juru Kudiyami

Of all the winning candidates in Gadchiroli, 23-year-old Pramila Juru Kudiyami had the highest victory margin.

Educated up to Class XII, Pramila is now the deputy chairman of Bhamragad Panchayat Samiti. “I never thought I would get elected. But the villagers insisted I contest,” she says.

Pramila’s campaign team was small, but she managed to reach out to every village in her constituency and won by 715 votes. Her father was once the sarpanch of Dhondraj village and is a well-known activist in the area. Pramila followed in her father’s footsteps to become the sarpanch of Dhonraj.

In this area, most young boys or girls think of joining the police or the forest department, but Pramila wanted to enter politics from the start. She wanted the people in her area to become aware of PESA and FRA. She became a bridge between the tribals and the activists, translating the Acts and the documents in the local dialect, and explaining their importance.

When the Gram Sabhas decided to contest the elections, they wanted a local candidate and one with some experience. They picked Pramila because her administrative experience as a sarpanch is expected to come in handy.

Pramila’s election has kindled hopes for women’s empowerment in the area. As local activist Mahesh Raut says, “Hardly any woman from this marginalised community gets a chance to become a public representative.” Being young and educated and without the baggage of any political affiliation, Pramila now figures in the larger plans of the Gram Sabhas, who are eyeing some major roles for her in the future.

Footnote

In the film Newton, the eponymous protagonist, an election officer, insists on conducting fair elections in a remote tribal village despite the apathy of security forces and the fear of Maoist attacks. He succeeds, after a fashion.

In real life, the Humans of Gondwana have a Facebook page where they are celebrating their Gadchiroli victory, possibly the first sign of the changing times.

http://www.thehindu.com/society/the-newtons-of-gadchiroli/article21242406.

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Lest We Forget: The Shocking Pictures Of #BhopalGasTragedy #Bhopal33

On the 33rd anniversary of the world’s worst industrial disaster, two organisations (Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan and Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti) working here among the victims of the Union Carbide gas disaster of 1984 have shared the pictures with Outlook.
Lest We Forget: The Shocking Pictures Of Bhopal Gas Tragedy

On the midnight of December 2-3 in 1984, Bhopal slipped inside into the  grip of deadly cloud of lethal gas leaked from the factory of Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal.

Chaos and panic broke out in the city  and surrounding areas and the first sensations due to the gasses were – suffocation, burning eyes, cough, vomiting  and blur vision.

 

Before the morning, the lethal gas floating from the factory over Bhopal killed thousands and injured lakhs.

This was true, there was no cacophony of birdsong in the wee hours of the next morning.

During that night itself, more than three thousand persons died instantly or were seriously injured after inhaling the poisonous gas leaked from Carbide’s pesticide plant.

According to an initial estimate, approximately 50 thousand people were treated in the first two days in the hospitals in and around the State capital.

Years passed, but the figures of gas victims continued to shot up.

In the year 1987, when the figures of death touched the 21,000 figures, the government abruptly stopped to maintain the ‘death register’.

Campiagners say, nearly 12,000 others have since died from the ill-effects of the lethal gas.

Death register may not be maintianed, but Bhopal is unable to overcome from the tragedy.

On the 33rd anniversary of the world’s worst industrial disaster, two organisations (Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan and Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti) working here among the victims of the Union Carbide gas disaster of 1984 have shared the pictures with Outlook.


https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/lest-we-forget-the-shocking-pictures-of-bhopal-gas-tragedy/305108

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India – Businessman says bank linked his accounts to #Aadhaar without permission #WTFnews

‘Wanted to wait till the Supreme Court verdict on Aadhaar’
Bank says the man himself must have submitted the document, he says cannot recall any such submission

31-year-old businessman from Thane has alleged that his bank linked his Aadhaar ID to his accounts without permission, and that he was “stunned” when he received an SMS last week informing him about the same. Archit Kulkarni, who owns a consultancy firm, said he hadn’t provided his Aadhaar details to ICICI Bank as he wanted to wait till the Supreme Court verdict on pleas challenging the Centre’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory for various services, including banking and telecom, and also for availing benefits of welfare schemes.

While the bank has claimed Kulkarni himself must have submitted the document, he denies having done any such thing. Also, he insists this is not a case of whether he is right or the bank. “As a customer, it is my absolute right to tell the bank to delink my accounts from Aadhaar, especially when I’m ready to face repercussions if any,” he told Mumbai Mirror.

The Supreme Court had said last month that it may consider setting up a constitution bench to hear pleas challenging the move to make Aadhaar mandatory for various services, even as the Centre expressed its willingness to extend up to March 31, 2018, the deadline fixed for linking of Aadhaar.

Ritu Tadaiya from ICICI Bank, who was recently assigned as Kulkarni’s personal banker, said the only way the bank would have such details is when a customer himself provides it. “I’m not sure what has exactly happened in the case you are referring to. I’ll have to check the records. However, the bank will only know a customer’s Aadhaar ID and other such details when he/she provides it,” Tadaiya said.

Kulkarni dismissed Tadaiya’s contention, saying he had a meeting with his personal banker in the last week of November, wherein he was asked to provide his Aadhaar details and he had “flatly refused”. “A week after that meeting, I received an SMS saying the UID number has been successfully linked to my accounts. I put out a tweet addressing the bank and asking them to delink the accounts, but it hasn’t done anything,” he said.

Experts are divided over the matter, with Vishwas Utagi, general secretary of the Maharashtra State Bank Employees Federation saying this amounts to breach of trust, while RTI activist and former Central Information Commissioner contending the bank did no wrong.

“If the consumer has provided information to the bank, and then he/she expects the bank to take permission before utilising such information is stretching it a bit too far. As far as Aadhaar is concerned, there is no breach of privacy but there are problems with its implementation,” Gandhi said.

As a customer, it is my absolute right to tell the bank to delink my accounts from Aadhaar –Thane businessman Archit Kulkarni

Archit Kulkarni

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Maharashtra – Cop writes to IG for funds to pay bribes

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Aurangabad: A head constable serving with the neighbouring Jalna district has caused stir by writing a letter to range Inspector General of police requesting him to sanction separate funds for paying bribe to deputy superintendent of polices reader each month.

The head constable citing harassment, has threatened of taking an extreme step, if a solution is not found to his demand. Moreover, he has even demanded shunting out the reader to Dy SP Sachin Bari.

The letter bearing the stamp of Kadim Jalna police station, has been leaked over social media, leaving the authorities in the state police, red-faced.

Senior police officers in the department are terming the incident as a mischief by HC AS Rajput, as he is yet to complete and finalise probe in several cases he has been investigating.

For over three years, Rajput has been serving at the Nutan Vasahat Chowki of the police station, which is one of the biggest police posts in the town. He was officially transferred from the Chowki about six months back, but after several requests he made with the seniors, he was allowed to continue.

In the letter, a copy of which is with TOI, the head constable has stated that his police chowki has about 10 major hospitals apart from Jalna civil hospital in its jurisdiction. Apart from this, the railway station too falls under his jurisdiction, due to which there are high numbers of Medico Legal Cases and cases of accidental deaths get recorded at the Chowki. Moreover, the area under his Chowki is plagued with incidents of theft, further adding to the number of cases.

Rajput has claimed that so far he has probed 35 cases of accidental deaths and on several occasions has carried out last rites of unidentified bodies by bearing all the expenses.

The letter has stated that as per procedure, after completion of probe, the file has to be sent to deputy superintendent of polices office for getting it sanctioned for filing of chargesheet, final report or closure report. He has claimed that reader to deputy SP Bari has allegedly been asking a sum of Rs 7, 000 to Rs 10, 000 each month and allegedly threatened that if the amount is not paid, he would start finding lacunas in the reports and sent them back.

The letter has claimed that the reader has already started doing this, due to which, the pendency of cases with him has only increased and the seniors are pressurising him for clearing the pendency.

I cannot pay him the money from my salary and so request you to please sanction a special fund for the purpose of paying it to the reader reads the letter. The HC has already threatened of taking an extreme step and ended the letter suggesting that the reader should be shunted out.

The undated letter has gone viral on social networking sites, a day ahead of Aurangabad range IG Milind Bharambe visiting Jalna for carrying out annual inspection. The officer is known for being harsh when it comes to pendency of cases and applications in the police department.

IGP Bharambe told TOI, We did not receive the letter officially. Like everybody else, we too received this letter through social networking application and have ordered preliminary inquiry in to the case.

The officer said that Jalna superintendent of police Ramnath Pokle would be personally carrying an inquiry. Anyone, be it Rajput or the reader, against whom the complaint has been drafted, found guilty, would face action.

The preliminary probe has found that the reader had sent back the cases way back in January 2016 and the HC unable to justify the delay in writing this letter.

Jalna superintendent of police Ramnath Pokle said, We are looking at both sides and are set to place the report in next few days.

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Gujarat – EC plans random counts to check ‘EVM rig’ talks

Gandhinagar: The Election Commission said on Sunday it would conduct random votecounts on electronic voting machines (EVMs) and slips of voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) at one polling station in each of Gujarat’s 182 assembly constituencies.

The announcement came a day after opposition parties alleged that BJP had manipulated EVMs for a landslide victory in mayoral polls in UP. “To maintain faith of the people in the EVM/VVPAT system, we have decided to count all the VVPAT vote slips and match them with the EVM control unit vote data at one polling station in each constituency,” said chief election commissioner A K Joti. “Polling booths will be randomly selected through draws made in the presence of all candidates in a constituency.” Revealing that EC intends to do the same in Himachal Pradesh, the CEC said, “Earlier, in the Goa elections, some candidates raised objections and counting of VVPAT slips was done in four polling stations. It matched EVC control unit data 100%.”

Responding to videos on social media alleging widespread EVM tampering in UP civic elections in favour of BJP, he said, “Local government elections are conducted by state election commissions only. EC did not conduct elections of local bodies in UP. They used M1 type EVMs while we use M2 and advanced version EVMs.’’ Joti further said, “Political parties demanded removal of the clause penalising a voter if his/her complaint regarding wrong recording of vote in VVPAT turns out to be incorrect. The commission will decide this later.’’ Joti and other election commissioners had two-daylong discussion with all district election officers, police officers and top state officials, including the chief secretary and the DGP, and reviewed the preparations for the elections. They also met representatives of political parties and heard their suggestions.

“One political party also demanded installation of jammers outside the booths and not allowing mobile phones. We will examines their suggestions and take the call accordingly,” he added.

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