Ancient writings, Musings, Remembering

Silica Politics

With the Delhi assembly elections having gone off peacefully and exit polls predicting the return of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, I see a glimmer of hope for India – that we might yet see the rise and growth of a national-level political party that actually works for ALL people, and does not survive by pitting religion against religion as the BJP and Congress do; caste against caste as the Samajwadis, RJD et al. do;  or generally everyone against everyone else as the CPI(M), CPI et al. do. 

A hope that leads me to wield the cerebral shovel and excavate the following article from the ancient sand-beds of memory: it was published in Indian Express over 20 years ago. 

Building sand castles

[Indian Express, 30 November 1998]

The counting of votes is on, and the first results are already trickling in. Across the nation psephologists pontificate, analysts arrive at bewilderingly diverse conclusions from identical data, and assorted academics, political observers and journalists join in severely criticizing the electorate for not behaving according to their predictions.

And, an ancient, battered lorry rolls up a dusty track leading to the dry river-bed, lurching with a snort of relief to a halt amidst huge banks of sand. Three men  stand in the empty hold of the lorry, shovels in hand. The driver backs the vehicle till it ploughs into one of the sand dunes; and then two of the men leap onto the hillock and proceed to scoop mounds of the grey-white material into the hold. The third man – he cannot be a day older than 16 – stands in the hold and spreads the fine sand as evenly as possible about the pitted wooden floor. The driver, meanwhile, twiddles with a knob on the dash-board, muttering imprecations, till a dreadful cacophony erupts from the dusty loudspeaker above his grizzled head. He has found the local radio station.

The three men toil away, sweat gleaming on their arms and bare torsos. Now the young man in the hold is practically level with his senior colleagues on the sand dune. Presently, he leaps off to join them in flinging the mica-flecked sand into the hold. A scrawny brown dog wanders up to the lorry, flops down in its  shade and falls asleep. On the radio, now the hourly news-bulletin cuts into the music. Electoral excitement is at fever-pitch; all eyes are upon an epic battle between two possible chief ministerial candidates: one a political novice with a clean reputation, the other a seasoned old bandicoot. The music resumes, the driver climbs out, collapses on the sand and dozes. The afternoon sun beats down upon the labourers’ gleaming bodies.

At length the job is done. The labourers pause at an unspoken signal, fling their shovels down, wipe their streaming brows and flop down on the sand next to the driver. Soon they must depart for the great construction lots on the western outskirts of the City; but there is still time to stretch one’s aching limbs awhile, perhaps even smoke a companionable beedi.

The flies drone, the sun sinks lower. The young labourer sits up and listens intently to the news broadcast. And then he turns to the driver. “So, Kaka, will we now have a new ruler?” he inquires. The driver removes the beedi from his mouth, hacks and spits at the sleeping dog but misses it by several inches. “It won’t make a difference to you, will it?” he remarks. The others chuckle, but the youngster is persistent.

“In our jhuggi,” he begins hesitantly, “they say things will soon change for the better. They say that we will all soon have pucca houses…”

Arre gadhe!” the driver exclaims exasperatedly. “Don’t you see that this is all a natak? Look”, he continues in a kindlier tone, “the fate of poor people is akin to that of the river: doomed to follow the same path forever, crushing the rocks into sand and sinking ever lower. And just as politicians come to us poor people for their votes, so too men come to the river to haul away the sand; they mix the sand with lime and cement and make buildings and bungalows so that the rich among them may live in comfort.”

He pauses, his rheumy eyes far away. “Yet in time the desert winds will blow, hot as a sigri, and the great walls and roofs of the rich will crack and fissure. And then the rains will beat upon their edifices, and this happens again and again, year after year, till slowly but surely the sands are washed away into the gutters and drains, to find their way eventually back to the river. And then again the minds of the rich will turn to the river, and upon a monsoon the river will breach its banks, and when it recedes there the sand will be again…”

Presently, the men board the lorry and it roars off in a cloud of dust. The dog gazes mournfully at the receding lorry, and then wanders off. A stray breeze brings the faint voice of the news-broadcaster, announcing that the seasoned old bandicoot has won.

 

 

General ravings, Musings

Shaheen Bagh: a Pilot Project for Mass Murder

This is about the ongoing anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh, New Delhi.

I visited Shaheen Bagh on Friday the 31st January 2020 between 10:00 and 14:30. I wanted to find out, for myself, whether the anti-CAA protest going on here is indeed ‘spontaneous’ as claimed by Left-leaning media and their cohorts; or whether it is ‘manufactured’ as claimed by the Right-leaning media and their cohorts.

What I learned and experienced confirms my worst fears about what’s going on in Shaheen Bagh and where it will lead us—fears that I summarized in this photo (apologies: I might have already  posted this to some of you on 31st January via WhatsApp and Instagram).

Shaheen Bagh - The Morning After

 I firmly believe the Shaheen Bagh protest is as spontaneous as a forest fire started by ‘tourists’ who first doused the helpless trees with petrol, then set the trees  ablaze starting with the young ones … and now visit the fire every evening during Prime Time TV hours with fresh supplies of petrol and other inflammatory materials to make sure the fires don’t die out.   

I expected to find a sea of protesters, singing and chanting slogans of Peace, Harmony, Patriotism, Insaaniyat. I found barely 70 to 80 people in all. About a dozen women were in their tent, near the makeshift stage; the men stood around outside in little clusters, tense, conversing in low murmurs. Barring a couple of Mentors and one Minder who stood out by their suspicious glances towards me, their confident, persuasive tones and carefully careless attire, all were locals. My few conversations with the local men were short, their nods were brief, smiles strained. They were courteous, I wandered around and took a few photos unhindered. But there was fear in their eyes, in the air. The fear  fear that took me back to Bombay, 1992, when men turned into monsters and the stench of blood and burning human hair and death hung over Dharavi and Mahim and Jogeshwari…

I joined one group; they were anxiously discussing the young Muslim man who had been shot at by another, a Hindu,  outside the Jamia Millia the previous day. “It might happen here!” was their refrain.  A Mentor reassured them that it wouldn’t; urged them  to remain courageous and continue their ‘andolan‘.

Aside of the Mentors and Minder, there was only one other non-local like me: a middle-aged bearded man wandering around with a camera. Where are the crowds, the speeches and shows? he asked a little plaintively. The Minder, who was built like a mini-truck, was gruff: “Sham ko ao…tabhi log aate hain.”

Come in the evening: that’s when the crowds are here.

Shaheen Bagh is designed for Prime Time.

I reiterate what I voiced in an earlier post: that each and every political group in India—Left or Right, AAP or non-existent Centre—is yearning for large-scale communal violence to divide the masses along Hindu vs. Muslim lines. Because the Ayodhya issue that has sustained all of them for over 30 years has finally been resolved honourably by the Supreme Court, much to their chagrin; henceforth, Babri Masjid and Ram Janmabhoomi can no longer be flogged by them for votes.

And so, all political parties are doing their best—and their worst—to create a new long-term issue for Hindu vs. Muslim polarization. They all hope to gain by sparking off communal violence in Shaheen Bagh. And they are being aided and abetted in their efforts by their respective captive media and ‘intellectuals’.

I firmly believe the locals of Shaheen Bagh and of nearby Abu Fazal Enclave – the majority of them hapless working class Muslims —have been terrorized by Evil Teachers into believing that because of CAA it is only a matter of time before they, and all other Muslims in India, will be identified as ‘illegals’, carted off to detention camps by the police, and then ‘deported’ – if not murdered by RSS-led Hindu mobs.

I now know for sure who these Evil Visiting Teachers of Shaheen Bagh are, too.  I think you too won’t find it hard to identify them even without visiting Shaheen Bagh – some of the posters are a dead giveaway (see below).

No words can convey my rage and sadness at what is being done at  Shaheen Bagh…at the venality of those who have made its impoverished people scapegoats in a Pilot Project for scaling up to nation-wide violence.

The Shaheen Bagh Project is already showing signs of success. Anti-CAA has already morphed into anti-NRC, anti-NPR, anti-Census. Young women and men undertaking routine social indicator surveys in rural areas – Bengal and U.P come to mind – have been severely assaulted because of the Project’s most effective and toxic CAA Awareness Programs.

The Right to Citizenship has already morphed into the Right as a Citizen to Remain Anonymous and Invisible – without of course surrendering any Rights to receive state largess due to caste, religion, and so forth.

The first guns have emerged. The protests against the Shaheen Bagh protests are getting more edgy…even as Delhi’s Assembly elections are days away.

The secondary fires from Shaheen Bagh now spread across India – even as Assam, the only state where the presence of about 2 million Bangladeshis is not disputed by any but the chronically insane, remains tense but calm.

Thereby hangs a tale.

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The outer barriers – easily crossed, just one police gypsy with a few bored constables who didn’t bother me

Inside barriers looking out
Inside the inner barrier, looking out
Waiting for Prime Time
Waiting for Prime Time?
Venue 1
Nearing the venue – women’s tent on right

Venue 2

Revolution or revulsion

Case against EVMs - by Bhagat Singh in Detention Camp
Bhagat Singh, in Detention Camp, makes case against EVMs and for manual ballot!

Posters - 2

 

Posters - 1

Power point on CAA
Power Point on CAA: please do follow the flowchart paths carefully! Which brilliant minds stitched  together so many half-truths and plain lies with such skill?

Posters - 3

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One of two noisome canals you cross to reach Shaheen Bagh from the Metro Station

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