Nirbhaya: India Failed Her Again

Ram Singh, the master mind and ringleader of the gang of people that raped and disembowelled Nirbhaya and left her to die on the street of Delhi is no more. Ram Singh committed suicide while in judicial custody in Tihar jail. Ram Singh was being tried in fast track court for his crime. Many believe Tihar jail has attack record of not many inmates committing suicide. Yet Ram Singh is no more. Family of Nirbhaya is deprived of satisfaction that their daughters tormentor has got due punishment. I am both sad and angry that Ram Singh is dead. I would have liked to see the judge reading his sentence of Ram Singh. He should have been sentenced to death for his crime on Nirbhaya. It is a shame that our police and jail administrators could not keep Ram Singh away from his suicidal tendency. This shows lack of system, outdated methodology and complete lack of accountability on the part of system. Many people, specially those close to Ram Singh, feel that Ram Singh was murdered. It is easy to understand that Ram Singh could not have hung himself from the ceiling, without his cell mates, all three of them sleeping in the same room, knowledge. Ram Singh was not tall enough to reach the ceiling. Further credence to murder theory comes from the news that a criminal gang had vowed to eliminate Ram Singh and associates on their way to court. Strangely, our police were in the knowledge of the matter, because police had tapped a telephone of a jailed criminal. Incidentally, cell phones are not allowed in prison. However, police in stead of confiscating phone from a jailed crook, kept on eavesdropping on the phone conversation. Although, postmortem has indicated that Ram Singh died due to hanging and not killed first and hung later. However, if there is an aorta of truth in the rumor of Ram Singh being murdered, then it is equally reprihensible and must be investigated. Many believe death of Ram Singh is good riddance. A hate filled monster has left us. However, irrespective of whether Ram Singh committed suicide or he was murdered, both events were equally unacceptable. How come jail authorities could not keep an allegedly suicidal convict alive to face trial? If jail authorities had overheard someone trying to kill Ram Singh, why did they not take precautio? The whole country feels let down by our incompetent managers, that a brutal criminal evaded justice system again. The second most brutal member of the Ram Singh gang has been accepted as juvenile. He will most likely be out in three years. Ram Singh died his own death. Some justice society is giving to Nirbhaya. Shame on us.”>

Narendra Modi and Wharton Economic Forum

Chief minister of Gujarat, Mr Narendra Modi is anticipated to be prime ministerial candidate of BJP led NDA party for the upcoming national general election of the year 2014. Mr. Modi has many achievements to his credit. He has won three consecutive state elections. He has created an atmosphere in the state that is friendly for business. State is surplus in electricity, state has no water scarcity, and state has good infrastructure in terms of road. However, his detractors claim that Mr. Modi is a dictator. He rules like an one man team despite being in a democratic setup. Mr. Modi’s Gujarat is friendly to rich business tycoons but ignores poor people. Business leader from outside India also endorse the view that Modi has created a business friendly Gujarat, that is relatively corruption and red tape free. Many Gujarat’s poor suffer from poverty and mal nutrition. Moreover, many claim Mr Modi presided over killing of muslims during post Godhra riots.

In this backdrop it is important to discuss recent controversy about Wharton India Economic Summit. Students of Wharton business school had invited Mr. Modi to deliver a plenary lecture about Gujarat model of development. However, detractors of Mr. Modi initiated a signature campaign to exert pressure on the organisers of the conferene. Result was organisers withdrew their invitation to Modi, which apparently he had accepted. This incident resulted in withdrawl from the conference of Modi sympathiser, Adani Group, which was sponsoring big money for the event. Several additional speakers also backed out claiming that it is an insult to India, if an elected Chief Minister is ejected from an event after he had accepted the invite.
While Modi detractors are gloating about the incidence, claiming that Modi is not suitable for global meet, he is also not suitable to be prime minister of India. By contrast, Modi’s party is caught in a bind. They are bad mouthing Modi opponents, claiming that the conference is an non issue, absence of Modi was Wharton’s loss. However, Modi supporters are unable to answer, if Wharton is such a non-issue, why did Modi agreed to participate in it. Then there is the issue of freedom of speech. Is the University and organisers gave in to protesters, in the process undermining freedom speech guaranteed by constitution.
In my mind, the issue is more complicated. Firstly, if anyone is to be blamed, it has to be the organisers. These people should have thought about the consequences of inviting Mr. Modi. Once they had extended an invite, and Mr. Modi had accepted, organisers should have stuck to their position. The organisers could have requested Mr. Modi to agree to answer questions by audience. That way, at least,  the organisers could have given everyone a chance to hear both pro Modi and anti Modi views. Secondly, Mr. Modi sympathisers could have used the same technique as Modi opponents and applied reverse pressur on the organisers. 
At the end of the day, Mr. Modi has to live with blot of Gujarat riot. Not only the riot happened during his rule, Mr. Modi did not even said any kind word of solace to the riot victims. This should have been his duty because he was elected by people of Gujarat. At the same time, one cannot ignore Mr. Modi’s administrative skills and vision of growth and development. Mr. Modi is a genuine mass leader. He can sway audience, arouse their hope and ambition through his speech which are mostly extempore. By contrast, most rivals of Modi are not as good an orator, if they have any vision nation does not know. Modi can beat his nearest rival any day. Mr. Modi can win prime minister’s seat, but will he get national acceptance? Will muslims forgive him? May be not, but India needs to decide even if we do not like a person can we vote for him for his ability to give a glimmer of good and honest government and governance? When we see what is in store if we elect some other people, India needs to think hard and decide. 

Rishikesh : Then and Now

I visited Rishikesh for the first time in early seventies. Rishikesh used to be small sleepy town in the foothills of Garhwal Himalayas. Town was small built around railway station. One could come out of town in five to ten minutes. Once outside, one could see free flowing mother Ganges in all her glory. One could see lush green mountains on either side of the river. Many small or large hermitages / monasteries by the river or overlooking the river. On the other side of river was forest covered mountain. My mother told me this is the path legendary pandavas took for their final journey. Looking at the mountain and river flowing through, I fell in love with the Himalayas, the king of mountains. I felt if I could merge with every dust particle, every molecule and be part of Himalayas. I wished I could be a traveller wandering through the mountain all my life. This is the mountain that has a strange vibe. Accumulated over many years of penance by seekers, that gave up ordinary lives in search of real meaning of life. this is the abode of Bholenath and mother Parvati.
Second time I visited Rishikesh was nearly ten years later. I was in final year of college, four of us friends decided to visit Rishikesh. We took a night bus from ISBT and reached Rishikesh early morning. In early eighties of preliberalisation India, Rishikesh appeared to me have not moved much from ten years before. It was still a sleepy, small and peaceful town. May be I am wrong, but did not know any better. After a quick dip in the Ganges at Rishikesh, we walked towards Lashman Jhoola. It was a beautiful and thrilling experience, no responsibility, no worry simply exploration. We stayed in a dharamshala, from the room we had a glimpse of the mountain. Lakshman Jhoola was not very crowded, there were occassional foreigners, but mostly Indians on low budget. There was a transendental meditation centre of Mahesh Yogi near by in the mountains. Next morning, we got up early and started on our trek to Nilkanth, which had a temple of Mahadev. It was to be three hour trek, through mountain that was deeply forested. There was a path used by villagers and locals. Forest cover was dense enough not to allow sunlight to penetrate. As a result the whole trail was cold and that made out hike comfortable. Every other person coming from the opposite side was greeted with Hard hard Mahadev and Jai Nilkanth Mahadev. At the top of the mountain -after which we started descending towards Nilkanth Mahadev temple, was a small dhaba serving tea and pakora. From top of the mountain we could see a grand vista below with flowing mother Ganges. We reached the small village where temple was. There were a few people low by Indian standard, yet quite a few. We offered prayers, sat in meditation and started on our return trek and back to bus station. It was my initiation to a trek in Himalayas, I fervently anticipated many more. King of mountains, nagadhiraj, did not disappoint me. I had my chances to go deep into the mountains, thereafter my destiny decided my course of life.
I had passed through Rishikesh a couple of times, but never really came out of bus station. Last I visited Lakshman Jhoola was in early 2000. Ten years post economic liberalisation, a lot had changed  in Rishikesh.  A massive dam in Tehri had curtailed flow of mother Ganges. Mother was not in her full flow. There were plastic bags on the sandy banks, which earlier used to be washed by fast moving water. A motorable road now connects Lakshman Jhoola to Haridwar bypassing Rishikesh. There were many cars going into Lakshman Jhoola. May be good for local economy. I also heard Nilkanth Mahadev is also connected by motorable road. All these are good for local people, local economy. More devotees can visit Shivji. However, the old charm and mystique of Rishikesh is lost to me. The satisfaction and earnestness of visiting lord Mahadev on foot by an arduous trek is different. I also read people are stealing sand and boulders from the heart of mother Ganges. It depressed me.