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Mainstream, VOL LV No 43 New Delhi October 14, 2017

Ironies have Begun to Hit as Never Before!

Saturday 14 October 2017, by Humra Quraishi


We are talking of bullet trains when even our slow moving trains have begun derailing. This year hundreds were killed in train accidents, not to overlook the latest tragedy at Mumbai’s Elphinstone station where dozens were trampled and injured on the connecting foot bridge... Horrifying are the conditions on the railway platforms where stench overtakes the rest of the bandobast, in terms of the strays loitering around. And cutting through crowds when one manages to enter the compartment there is every chance of getting nibbled by rats. Last year whilst travelling by the Rajdhani to Kanpur, I was taken aback to see the compartment-wallahs covering their feet with sheets and shirts! Before I could react one of them neared, only to utter, ‘There’s a rat running around, cover your feet or put them on the seat before it bites you!’ And one cannot overlook all those snatching and stabbing incidents taking place right inside our regular running trains. Are we, as a people, prepared for bullet trains?

We are talking of smart cities when those traditionally structured ones are getting sub-merged and flooded. Whoever could have ever imagined that cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Srinagar or even the suburbs of New Delhi would get flooded to such an extent that homes would get washed away and boats and swimsuits become the need of the hour. To be ruthlessly honest, the minute I hear the word ‘smart city’ I feel somewhat un-nerved as it relays that all the structural wonders of yesteryears would get going, to be replaced by the bogus. Contractors and the related characters in the nexus, will stand out with bulging pockets as smart cities will come up! Only to be replaced by smarter cities, where the survivors would stand crying out, ‘For God’s sake leave us un -smart. We are Indians, don’t want to be Americanised... We have our own ways of living and surviving!’

All those speeches of our development seem so hollow, as undeveloped we stand. It wouldn’t be amiss to say that never before, perhaps not even in the dark ages, there’d been such horrifying sexual attacks on our boys and girls. Perversions of the worst kind are on, as developed we claim to be! Development is not about some make-believe graphs or about exaggerated claims but about the human form going about un-intruded, in every possible sense of the term...development is when the young can look forward to a better tomorrow and not sit in fear of getting lathicharged in colleges and universities. What took place right on the campus of the Banaras Hindu University was nothing but anarchy and those signs of a failing and crumbling and rotting system. Well, how can the system behave sane when murky politics has managed to seep in into every possible sphere!

Mind you, one can pick up a thousand brooms and swish-swash dust from here to there but till the political mahaul is not cleansed, nothing is going to work out. Try talking to 80-year olds who have seen those ‘good old days’ and they sit horrified at what all is taking the very system is going haywire! We call ourselves a secular lot but today’s rulers are wrecking even that notion! Hit and lynched are not just human forms but even monumental structures are not spared. The latest coming from the Uttar Pradesh sarkar are the heaps of questions raised on the very origin and upkeep of the Taj Mahal! The world famous wonder, which earns the State exchequer crores, is also not spared by the Yogi Government of the day! Why? Probably because it was built by a Mughal emperor!

One can announce economic and relief packages for the affected areas but where’s the trickle-down effect? Do these benefit the people or are they only for effect? Why aren’t the recommendations made by the various committees moving, towards the masses? This brings me to ask: why were the recommendations made by the Yashwant Sinha-led delegation to the Kashmir Valley not implemented?

Yashwant Sinha visited the Valley in the autumn of 2016 and then again in 2017, along with members of a civil society organisation—Concerned Citizens Group (CCG). This group had met the Hurriyat leaders and they had also come up with recommendations to dilute the crisis but nothing came out. In fact, confirmed sources had stated that Yashwant Sinha had sought time with the top political brass in New Delhi to discuss ‘the Kashmir crisis’ but wasn’t even given an appointment. Not surprisingly, earlier this week Yashwant Sinha hit out rather too openly, coming up with the prevailing harsh reality that the political rulers in the Valley and in New Delhi refuse to accept. To quote Sinha—‘I am looking at the alienation of the masses of people in Jammu and Kashmir. That is something which bothers me the most. We have lost the people emotionally...You just have to visit the Valley to realise that they have lost faith in us.’

Aren’t we to be blamed for that loss of faith of the Kashmiris? Do we even bother to find out what’s taking place on the ground? In fact, this brings me to write the latest news reports more than indicate that the hapless Kashmiri shawl weaver, Farooq Ahmad Dar, who was tied to a military jeep and used as human shield during the by-polls in Srinagar on April 9, was telling the truth—he is no terrorist but a law-abiding citizen. The police investigation report confirms that Dar was speaking the truth: that is, he had cast his vote at a polling booth in his native village before he was picked up by the Army and tied to their vehicle to be used as a ‘human shield... kept under wrongful confinement’.

We didn’t even bother to hear him out, even when he was crying out: ‘I’m no stone-pelter, nor a terrorist or militant. I went to cast my vote yet they tied me to their jeep and didn’t trust me, didn’t believe me!’

Tell me, shouldn’t we apologise to this man if not hug or clasp him or compensate! The Mehbooba Mufti Government is yet to act on the State Human Rights Commission’s recommendation that Dar be paid Rs 10 lakhs as compensation. Why this delay?

I could write volumes on the ironies of the day but realities of space and also the deadline stand out, coming in the way!

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