Peace Nobel 2014 : What Religion Has To Do With It?

In a proud moment for India and all Indians, Nobel committee declared Mr. Kailash Satyarthi as co-recipient of Nobel Peace Prize for the year 2014. In our post independence past, several people of Indian origin have won the nobel prize. Most of them had left India and became citizen of other country. For example, Prof. Har Gobind Khorana, Prof. Subrahmanyan Chandra Sekher and Prof. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan were American and/or British citizens. Prof. Amartya Sen was an Indian citizen who worked mostly abroad. Mother Teresa worked in India but she was born in Albania. Mr Satyarthi is the only Indian who was born in India and have won the prize for working in India. A great day for India.
Mr.Kailash Satyarthi is a child rights activist. Satyarthi gave up his career as an electrical engineer. He created Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or Save the Childhood Movement to eliminate child trafficking and child labor in India. His work spanned over three decades and resulted in rescue of many children, according to estimate around 80000 children, engaged as bonded labor.
Mr. Satyarthi shared his prize with Ms. Malala Yousafzai. Malala is a seventeen year old girl. Fifteen year old Malala Yousafzai defied Taliban diktat banning girls from attending school. She was shot in the head by a Taliban. Seriously injured Malala was moved to the United Kingdom for treatment. She has been residing in U.K. and completing her studies. In all the interviews of Malala I have the privilege of hearing, she came out to be exceptionally mature and courageous individual for her age. Which seventeen year can say she has no hatered for the Talib who shot her. Even she had a gun in her hand, she would not shoot her assailant. Malala has numerous prizes, she has addressed many august gatherings and works actively for women’s right to education.
The Nobel committee in their announcement stated :
“Nobel committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.” – Nobel Jury
I am disappointed at the attempt of Nobel committee to hyphenate  Hindu and Muslim and India with Pakistan. It is important to note the following:
·      India has many muslims. Many have occupied important position in society. No way does Kailash Sayarthi’s work discriminate between Hindu and Muslim children. It is unwarranted to preach about Hindu Muslim working together.

·      Malala is courageous girl. She lives in UK. Pakistani nationalists and fundamentalists consider her to be a western prop that has been setup to denigrate Pakistan. So her Nobel will unlikely to foster a zeal between two nations to work towards eradicating extremism and promotion of education between India and Pakistan.

·      India Pakistan problem is not a Hindu Muslim problem. Hindus and muslims work and live together in India. The root cause of problem between India and Pakistan is injured ego of Pakistani army generals. People of India and Pakistan cannot work together for a common cause unless Pakistani Army gives its blessing. Pakistani army does not want  peace because peace will deprive them of their raison d’etre. Repeated road block to peace process between two nations is a testimony to that effet.

I think instead of confining works of two outstanding individuals to national boundaries and religious identities, committee should have argued about more universal appeal to the causes both Satyarthi and Malala espoused.

Tags: Bachpan Bachao Andolan, Child Right, Education, Hindu, India, Kailash Satyarthi, Malala Yousoufzai, Muslim, Nobel Peace Prize, Pakistan


Nocturnal Adventure

“Hey! Interested to see a jatra?” Biswanath asked.
Jatrais a kind of theatre, where curtain is never drawn and one act moves seamlessly into another. Unlike in theatre, audience surround the stage from three sides. One side is kept open for entry and exit of actors. Jatra used to be very common in West Bengal. In rural Bengal troupes from city would come during festive seasons.  Public could view their performance free of cost. One just have to show up. Jatrawould start late in the evening and will go on till early hours.  Audience will finish their daily duties. Have their evening meal and settle in for the performance.
Boarding school where he was studying, arranged for jatra as part of cultural program. None, however, was on the agenda in coming future. So he asked perplexed, “What are you talking about? There is no jatragoing to be staged here.”
“Not here you idiot! Outside, in the haat ground.”In a rural Bengal village, community market place is known has haat.
“You must be joking! How are we going to go out? It is a week night. We have to be up by 4 am in the morning. You are the lead singer for morning prayers?” He fired back a volley of questions. 
“Leave the details to me. You tell me are you coming or not?” Biswanath asked firmly.
“What if we are recognized? What if “buro” comes to know. He will cane us. He may even rusticate us.” He asked again, with a lot of apprehension. Students used to refer hostel warden as “buro” or old man among themselves.
“Nothing will happen. Nobody will know. I have done it before. We shall go out and come back in time to attend morning prayers.” Biswanath said confidendtly. “You decide if you want to come or not. Either way, do not go blabbering about to others”.
“What is the play?” he asked still not decided.

“It is Baar Bodhu, based on a novel by Kalkoot” answered Biswanath.
In a missionary boarding school, jatra played annually were mostly of historical or religious orientation. There used to be no female actor in the team. Males used to act out female roles. So the temptation and attraction of seeing a famous play based on social setting, that too free of cost, was enormous. Besides, professional male and females actors would assume characters in the novel. Though it involved great risk, it also gave a feeling of exhilaration. So with a mixture of trepidation and excitement, he agreed to join Biswanath.
Those days hostel was not surrounded by high wall with guards at the gates. People were simple and trusting. On the D-day, they covered themselves in wrapper, tip-toed out of their room, climbed down a rain water pipe, negotiated a shallow canal and hit the main highway en route to village haat. There was a strange sense of excitement in the pit of stomach. A mixed feeling where thrill of flouting regulations got entangled with fear of being rusticated, if caught. They sat in the midst of rural crowd totally covered in their wrapper. Still, the city boys stood apart and a few villagers even asked “you are not from around here, are you?”

He did not really enjoy the jatra. He was afraid of being recognized or being caught. When jatra ended around 2 AM in the morning, he was relieved to be heading back. Finally, he came back to his hostel room and fell asleep. A sleep of a relieved boy, exhausted from mental tension. Looking back, it appears that there was every chance of being caught. Some friends could have ratted, superintendent could have take a surprise round, some locals could have reported. Fortunately, nothing happened, and he thanked his fortune.

Tags: Adventure, Boarding School, Haat, Jatra, Warden

Enough Participation, Time to Win Medals

Every year on annual sports day in school, while giving away prizes to winners of sporting events, our Head Master would say “winning or losing is not important, it is participation that counts.” It seems as a nation we have taken this motto quite seriously. Year on year we have send huge contingent of athletes and equally large number of administrators to different sporting events, namely Olympics, Asian Games, different world championship events. Given the size of our contingent, given the population of our country, we hardly win any medal.
In London Olympic games, we won a total of six medals none of which were gold. In recently concluded Asian Games at Incheon Korea, our tally included eleven gold medals. We were happy that India has figured among top ten nations in medals tally. However, compared to leaders of the pack China with more than 150 gold medals, South Korea with 75 plus gold medals and Japan with 46 plus gold medals, we were way behind. It must be remembered that other power house nations like Australia, Great Britain, United States, Germany, Russia were not even part of Asian Games. Competition in Rio Olympic games will include all nations of the globe and is expected to be very tough.
An encouraging observation from London Olympic games that was also repeated in Asian Games was that in certain sports India is becoming more consistent than others. These include Archery, Badminton, Boxing, Shooting, Tennis, Wrestling. If we plan properly for 2016 Rio Olympics, we may hope to increase our medals tally from six medals in London Olympic games to may be fifteen in Rio Olympic games. Some of these may even be gold medals. For example, we may hope to bag a gold medal in wrestling and boxing. Add into  the tally a few gold medals, on a better day, from shooting and archery. However, for such result to happen, we must train our athletes rigorously, make them mentally tough so that they can win competition against toughest opponents. I am not discouraging athletes from other disciplines. May be we should still participate in as many disciplines as we want, chance of getting a medal in track and field, swimming and gymnastics will remain a dream in 2016. The gap between us and the competition is too wide.

I think green shoot of success in certain sports discipline is emerging. We must nurture them and built upon them success for other sports. May be some day we shall come out of the participant mindset and believe that we can also win in the world stage.

Tags: Archery, Asian Games, Australia, Badminton, Boxing, China, Germany, Gold Medal, Great Britain, Gymnastics, Incheon, Japan, London, Medals Tally, Olympic Games, Rio, Russia, Shooting, South Korea, Swimming, Track and Field, Tennis, United States

Misplaced Sense of Entitlement

British occupation of India ended in 1947. Since then, a new bunch of colonisers have tried to rule us by occupying seats of power. These new rulers are our political leaders.  Most politicians have gotten used to demanding special privilege in all spheres of life. This perk is paid for by tax paying citizens of India. Yet, it is the average citizen who is most inconvenienced by privilege wielding politicians.
Politicians hold up road traffic when they pass in their red beaconed motorcade. They hold up and delay flights by not arriving on time for their travel. The common citizen is delayed from reaching their appointment or destination on time. Many netas travel with a posse of security guards paid for by our tax money. Originally, security was allocated to thwart any threat perception to neta when he discharges his duty. Of late, security has become a symbol of importance for politicians. They get, Z, Z-plus categories of security cover. Black cat commandos who are supposed to protect us from terrorists and other internal or external aggression, protect our leaders. Many of these leaders may have criminal cases pending against them.
Our neta has come to think that public property is for them to lay claim on. Many netas occupy bungalow, a prime property in privileged part of capital. They loathe to vacate this property when not in power. They forget that the property was allocated to them to facilitate their job as law maker, and not as a symbol of power. At the time of vacating their bungalows, netas demand government to convert their bungalow into a memorial in the name of the party leader.
This practice started with congress party. Teen Murty Bhawan was official residence was Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, first prime minister of India. Teen Murty Bhawan was converted to a memorial of Pandit Nehru. Several such memorials were created for leaders like Mr. Lal Bhadur Shastri, Babu Rajendra Pradad, Babu Jag Jivan Ram, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Mr. Kanshi Ram etc. All these memorials occupy prime locations in central Delhi. The practice of memorial politics has become so entrenched, that husband of Phoolan Devi demanded that her official residence be converted to a memorial. Phoolan Devi was a bandit before being elected as member of parliament. She was assassinated while she was in office,
Latest politician to put his hat in the ring demanding a memorial commemorating his father is Ajit Singh. After he lost last election, Ajit Singh was asked to vacate his official residence. Ajit Singh was residing in this bungalow for close to 38 years.  Previous governments were either lax in their implementation of rules or they depended on support of Ajit Singh’s party, so they did not insist on Ajit Singh vacating the place. Present government does not need his support, besides several elected member of parliament did not have a place to stay. So Ajit Singh was asked to move out. After several notices and disconnecting water supply, Ajit Singh decided to vacate the bungalow. At the same time, he mobilised his supporters to demand that his official residence be made a memorial of Chaudhury Charan Singh. So brazen were Ajit Singh’s supporters that they decided to disrupt water supply to Delhi. It must be recalled that Ajit Singh was a minister in UPAII government. He never demanded memorial status to his bungalow. Rather he was more interested in naming Lucknow airport in the name of his father.  

I think government should not give in to demand of rank opportunistic leaders and must come down heavily on anarchists.Then and only then the sense of entitlement of our netas will abate.

Tags: Ajit Singh, Bungalow, Citizen, Charan Singh, Commando, Entitlement, Jag Jivan Ram, Jawaharl Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Kanshi Ram,  Lal Bahadur Shastri, Memorial, Perk, Phoolan Devi, Politician, Privilege, Rajendra Prasad, Security, Tax Payer