Alwar : Towards Bhangarh Fort

There are several places within 100 km of Alwar city that may interest tourist. These include the following:

1. Bhangarh palace
2. Ajabgarh fort
3. Sariska National Park and Tiger Sanctuary
4. Karni Devi Temple

We took of for Bhangarh one morning. Bhangarh is around 80 km for the city of Alwar. In general road condition is very good for nearly 2/3rd of the way. One third of the road is single lane and dotted with pot holes. By car, it takes around 3 hours to reach Bhangarh if driven at normal speed. Drive to Bhangarh was mostly very scenic. Both sides of the road had lush green hills. At times, it would appeared, we were in Uttarakhand or Himachal and not in Rajasthan. A picture of scenic highway is shown below.
On the way to Bhangarh from Alwar

It will be advisable to carry eatables and lot of water because in summer months it can be very hot. Also, there are not many places to eat on the way. Joints in small towns may not be liked by all.

We passed through Sariska National Forest. Around 10 – 11 am in the morning, forest rangers office was all quiet. We were told safaris start in the morning and in the afternoon. That  is the time people gather around the place to collect their entry pass. As we crossed the reserve forest, we did not see many wild life, except monkeys and langoors. Shown below a languor sitting pensively on the highway all by himself.

We moved past the lonely langoor, towards Bhangarh. We reached the gates of Ajabgarh town. Ajabgarh is more like a big village. It is a typical Rajasthani village with old houses with small narrow windows. Beyond the village lies the Ajabgarh fort.

Ajabgarh was founded by Ajab Singh, the son of Chhatr Singh. It is said Ajabgarh fort was a garrison. 

Another view of Ajabgarh fort from Bhangarh side.

Bhangarh was around 30 – 40 min drive from Ajabgarh. This town was established in 1573 during the rule of Raja Bhagwant Das.

Bhangarh has two perimeters. As we entered the first gate, we came across the following map of Bhangarh town put up by ASI.

We walked past the sign post towards the palace complex. The trail was through ruins of stone structures. Historians say these used to be shops. On top of the hill is shown a chhatri. Although significance of the structure was not clear to us.

Path to Palace through Ruins
As we crossed the second gate of Bhangarh town and entered into a big compound. A view of chhatri on top of the hill from palace compound. Palace compound has several different temples – Gopinath Temple, Someshwar Shiva Temple, Mangla Devi Temple and Keshava Raj Temple.

Shown below is Gopinath temple. Bhangarh palace is shown below.
Gopinath Temple
Palace was built as residence of Madho Singh,  younger brother of Emperor Akbar’s General Man Singh I of Amber. Madho Singh was father of Chhatr Singh.
Bhangarh Palace

It is believed that Bhangarh palace and town are haunted. Rumor has it royal family was cursed by an ascetic and/or a tantric. As a result the whole family was destroyed. Some others claim royal family was destroyed by invading army. Whatever, may the cause, locals believe the palace complex and old Bhangarh town are inhabited by ghosts. ASI has put up a signboard by the main gate stating : “Entering the borders of Bhangarh before sunrise and after sunset is strictly prohibited.” The reason for this may be that there can be wild animals and it could be unsafe because there is no artificial lighting.

Tags: Ajabgarh, Alwar, ASI, Bhangarh, Chhatr Singh, Chhatri, Gopinath Temple, Keshava Raj, Madho Singh,  Man Singh I, Mangla Devi, Sariska Tiger Reserve, Someshwar Temple


Whose Life Is It Anyway

Aruna Shanbhag passed away. Raped, and left to die by wrapping an iron chain around her neck, by a ward boy, Aruna remained in coma from 1973 till her last breath. All through, nurses of KEM hospital, Mumbai had taken care of her. Many said, even supreme court observed, better than any loving family member could. Nurses, her colleagues, had opposed mercy killing of Aruna. 

Aruna had finally left her body. Was she lucky that she had her colleagues who took care of her? She could have been in a much worse state in a normal home. Or was Aruna unlucky to be trapped in a body that did not respond to her commands. Was Aruna aware of her predicament? Her colleagues would say that Aruna was with them. She would enjoy certain food, enjoy bhajans and respond to sound. But she could not talk. She could not see. Was she happy with her life? No body knows. Now that she had been finally released from her body, may God have mercy on her soul. May she live more peacefully in a different world. God bless her.

Aruna Shanbhag case brings to forefront, do we have right to take our lives? Many religions believe it is ultimately god that gives and takes life, so who are we humans to decide. Practioners of medicine will always believe that till the last breath, every patient is potentially curable. Legal experts would argue that the provision of voluntary death may be misused by people who are more materialistic by nature. Many wealthy but ageing and/or ailing people will be eliminated to fulfil selfish desire.

A few developed democracies in the world allow euthanasia or painless death for terminally ill patients. Even today, in certain religions, ascetics chose when to end their lives by slowly withdrawing food. In traditional Hindu dharma, “banaprastha ashrama” used to be one of the four stations of lives. In “banaprastha ashrama“, after citizens have completed their duties and responsibilities in society, they would move to forest to lead the life of an ascetic and wait to end their lives.  In modern day, citizens who are undergoing suffering and pain due to intractable ailments, why should they not be allowed to end their misery? 

Tags: Aruna Shanbhag, Banaprastha Ashrama, Euthanasia, KEM Hospital, Nurse, Rape, Right to Death, Supreme Court

All Police Men not Crooks , All Citizens not Saints

Every once in a while we encounter events in our lives that shake us out of our comfort zone. Because, instead of the other person, this could have been anyone of us. One such incidence was a video that shows a traffic police constable hitting with a stone a lady commuter on a two wheeler. The whole incidence was happening right infront of young children of the woman. 

The video clip had gone viral.  

  • Police commissioner of Delhi had ordered summary dismissal of the constable from service and a criminal case was initiated against the constable. 

  • Delhi high court had taken up the case as a public interest litigation on a priority basis. 

  • Chief Minister of Delhi had met the woman and assured her of all assistance in meeting her hospital expenses. 

  • Media houses had picked up the story. Media house debated the story how indisciplined, poorly trained our police officers are. How poorly police treats common citizens while becoming totally obsequious infront of politicians etc. All requests by police spokes people on the program to wait for enquiry report to come out fell in deaf ear.

As the investigation progressed a lot of things started to unravel, as follows:

According to the version told by the woman commuter, policeman was demanding a bribe on the pretext that she had jumped a red light. As she refused, police officer broke the tail light of lady’s two wheeler. She in retaliation, hit police man’s bike with a stone. Enraged constable threw a stone at the lady. Delhi high court, however, observed that the woman was changing her version as she gave interview to different channels. 

An audio clip has emerged where the police officer is heard asking for papers and not bribe, the case has taken a spin. Police record showed it is the constable who phoned PCR van about a misbehaving woman. Woman made her call later.

 The same people that were baying for blood of police, are now saying, albeit, in a muted voice that police constable should not have been fired without proper enquiry. 

  • Whatever, may be the reason a policeman in uniform cannot beat up a citizen in broad day light, more so if the citizen is a woman. I think, police and general public should get the following messages:

  • The practice of TV channels taking up cudgel on behalf general public is commendable. 

  • Channels would be better adviced not to act as judge and jury to proclaim someone guilty in the absence of complete information. 

  • TV channels should insist on speedy investigation and report release rather than taking up the role of judge and jury.

  • It is high time we wait for an enquiry to be over before we take drastic action against a government servant. 

  • There should be more technology like camera and voice recorder fitted to police constables. This may record exact events when police stop a citizen violating rule of law

  • Police should work in pairs, one man and one woman. In communally sensitive area one member should be from minority community.

At the end of the day, police must behave with citizens, similarly citizens have to obey rule of law. Not all citizens on the street are saints, nor every policeman is a devil incarnate. Both come from the same society. 

Times of India, May 14, 2015 : In Constable’s Audio Recording He Does Not Come Off As Culprit

Tag: Chief Minister, Citizen, Constable, Commissioner, Delhi Police,  High Court, , Media House, Traffic Violation, Woman, 

Around Alwar II

Alwar is a living city, may not be in present shape and form, for many centuries. There are many places to visit within town and slightly away from the town. These do not include Sariska Tiger Reserve or Bhangarh Fort or Siliserh Lake. Within the city, the following places a visitor can go. These include the,  1. Moti Doongri, 2. Palace Complex, 3. City Museum, 4. Moosie Maharani Ki Chatri, 5. Bala Quila (permission needed to go up the fort), 6. Company Bag, 7. Kalakand Factory, 8. Karni Mata Temple, 9. Hanuman Temple and 10. Vijay Mandir Palace (it was closed for visitors).

Vijay Mandir Palace is on the outskirts of the town as one come in from Behror on National Highway 8. The palace, we were shown picture of at circuit house, was built by the lake. Appearance of the palace was like a ship docking at the harbour. We could not see the palace, because there was some family issue and the property was closed for visitors.

On our way back from Siliserh Lake, we visited Moti Doongri, situated on top of a small hill. It was evening time. Many citizens had come there for spending their evening with families. The palace was renovated by Sawai Man Singh II. We were told that Moti Doongri used to be a palace where parties were organised for the royals. The fort was built in the style of Scottish castle. 
Moti Doongri Palace
Moti Doongri Palace

Moti Doongri Palace
The ciy palace houses the city museum. Moosie Maharani ki Chatri was also slightly beyond the city palace complex. One can enter the palace complex through a gate shown below. Present day Alwar collectors office is located in the complex. The place is full of lawyers, police and all sorts of people some are complainants and others accused. 

Gate of Collectorate
Once inside the gate, one can get an unobstructed view of the Bala Qila. To me this was the most interesting historical site in Alwar. Apparently, emperor Jahangir had spent time in the fort, after Akbar had banished him. The fort is on top of a big hill overlooking the town. To go up the fort, one needs permission of district collector or police superintendent. Anyway, we did not go up because neither did we have permission not were we fit enough for the climb. 
A View of Bala Qila from Collectorate
Bala Qila on Top of the Hill
Tags: Alwar, Bala Qila, Bhangarh Fort, Collectorate, City Museum, Company Bag, Hanuman Temple, Kalakand Factory, Karni Mata Temple, Moosi Maharaji Ki Chatri, Moti Doongri, Sariska Tiger Reserve, Sawai Man Singh II, Vijay Mandir Palace,

A Mirror to Reality That is India

Salman Khan got convicted then got bail. He did not have to go to jail. I get the point that many poor people do not get bail this fast. They languish in jail. So Salman Khan who was convicted of killing a man did not have to spend time in jail. But Salman did not get acquitted. Court will hear him again. 

It is a fair point many other less privileged do not hope for such luck.  Rich can certainly afford high end lawyers, that most others do not have access to, who take many contingency measures and prepare for battles in anticipation. I do not think nothing wrong in Salman getting bail, that is the legal system of the land. In stead of making a debate on rich vs. poor, why not debate availability of high quality lawyers and speedy justice for everyone. Come to think of it, best law students either opt for corporate law or are lapped by big firms. Very few want to fight cases for government, where resources are limited, salary is modest at best.

Many came out in support of Salman Khan. Some suggested if a dog sleeps on street, he dies a dog’s death. It was insensitive statement even at best of time. Here a poor man died. A few others got disabled permanently to do any work. If they were fortunate enough to hire a room even in slums of Dharavi, would they sleep on pavement? It is the ugly reality of India. Our villages are not livable, there is no employment opportunity there, so people migrate to cities in search of work to our overcrowded cities and sleep on the street. Police should stop them, but police is confused about where these people would go. So police take bribe and let poor people to their fate. It is time to make villages liveable, create more cities so that people can find meaningful employment close to their home.

At the same time I am angry at other side of the story. Channels are running story full time in the name of poor and justice. Behind the charade is money and TRP. In one channel an anchor was angry and agitated that bollywood actors visiting Salman Khan. There may be some degree of psychofancy, but is that not there in all relationship? We cosy up to powerful in bad times to show that we stand by them. That apart, it is not unfair to expect everyone should  shun Salman at his time in life when he is very down. That is when one needs family and friends. I think self righteous indignation is nauseating. 

Finally, Salman is guilty. He is convicted. He has done some good things and some bad things. He even deposited money for victims, it did not get disbursed for 13 years. He may be a brash arrogant youth, he has tried to change. May be he did. May be he did not. He will have to answer to higher court on earth or in heaven. Let the man live. 

Rest of India, instead of being preachy, should work
i. to make speedy justice available every Indian, 
ii. speedy disbursement of compensation money to victims of accidents. All victims of Salman Khan case are jobless and penniless. They do not care about Salman Khan’s jail. They want money and/or job.
iii. Make road accidents prohibitively expensive. Not only victims have to be compensated and rehabilitated for their lives, there should be jail term for violating road safety and endangering public life. Present government has majority in parliament. They can change the law if convinced.
Tags: Bail, Bollywood, Compensation, Conviction, Court, Dharavi, Hit and Run, Job,  Judge, Lawyer, Pavement, Police, Psychofancy, Salman Khan, 

Justice At last, Really!

After nearly 13 years judgement was pronounced on Salman Khan hit and run case. Salman Khan was convicted and sentence to five years rigorous imprisonment. Salman Khan’s lawyers got interim bail from high court, so that Salman will not be arrested for at least for two more days. Already 13 years have passed between incidence and judgement. By all indication, Salman Khan will certainly go to higher court. Another 13 to 20 years in high court! Again, if unacceptable verdict is delivered, Salman will go to Supreme Court. May be case will be settled in next 30 years. Salman will be seventy plus by then. Some justice, indeed!

I like Salman Khan. He has done a lot of good things. No dating Katrina Kaif is not included. He has worked for poor and deprived. His charity has also probably taken care of family of accident victims. Does this absolve Salman of an act committed under influence of alcohol? Although, Salmans lawyers have presented a driver of the family to take the blame. Some well wishers also claim 200 crore of business relying on Salman Khan.

Point is can a human life be equated in terms of money? No matter how poor how penniless.  Also can society condone an act because we like a person? We may pray for Salman Khan. But Salman Khan must own up and face the judgement. I am reminded of a poetry by Rabindranath Tagore, where Gandhari urges blind king Dhirtarashtra to punish Duryodhana for his transgression against Draupadi and Pandavas. King said “Duryodhana is my son, how can I punish him”. Then Gandhari replied, “Your majesty, best judgement is when a person  delivering punishment also cries in agony with the person being punished“. Let us all cry for Salman Khan and his family and pray Salman serves his punishment.

Finally, do we even know the names of people died and injured?  One person died, several others injured severely enough not to be able to do manual work anymore. These people have not got any compensation for past 13 years, unlikely they will get anything till the case lasts. A few poor but working people literally made jobless and paupers in one mistake done by a drunk super rich film actor. What about these people? Who is thinking about these people and their suffering? These are poor people, not good looking, sleep on the pavement and do manual labor. Think about them, shed a few tears for them also. It reminds me of the song from Pyaasa,

Jaalo tho jalaa tho, phook daalo yeh duniya, 
tumahare hai, tumhi sambhalo yeh duniya
Tags: Accident, Court Verdict, Dhitrashtra, Draupadi, Duryodhana, Gandhari, Hit and Run Case, Imprisonment, Justice, Katrina Kaif, Pandava, Rabindranath Tagore, Salman Khan, 

Nirbhaya Reviisited

After Nirbhaya a young girl was thrown out of a moving bus. She died. As a replica of Nirbhaya story, here also the bus picked up the girl and her mother, so that driver, conductor and their assistants can have some fun. With the grace of God, this girl was not raped or disembowelled. But God in India can only do so much. By the time God could take his attention away from other crisis and come to her rescue, girl had lost her life after being thrown out of the moving vehicle. God could only save her mother, who was also pushed out.

Now to the matter of accountability. The bus belonged to Badal family. The family rules Punjab.  Shri Sukhbir Badal, who happens to own the bus company “Orbit Aviation Ltd.”, is deputy chief minister of Punjab. Ms. Harsimrat Kaur, wife of Sukhbir Singh Badal, also a director in the company, is a minister in central government. If these people cannot run a Transport Company properly, how can they run the state and central ministry?

It has come to light that Shri Sukhbir Badal has ordered the buses of the company to be taken of the road. He has also asked his employees in the bus company to go for orientation course. Questions emerge, 

  • Are these measures not too little too late? 
  • Why were these rapists and murderers given permission to run a bus? 
  • Why their antecedents not checked? 
  • Why did the bus not have CC TV camera installed? 
  • Why did the bus have tinted glass windows and curtains? 

Probably all these would not have still saved the girl from predators, at least there would be some mechanism to instil fear of law that some one is watching.

Mr. Badal and Ms. Badal have condemned the incident. They have said law will take its own course. But will it? With Mr. Sukhbir Badal as deputy chief minister of Punjab, how can justice be delivered to the family of dead girl? 

  • Report has emerged that police have arrested wrong people as driver and conductor. Whereas, original accused were young people, police have arrested two relatively old people. Who are these people, police is trying to protect?
  • While bus was empty, police have accumulated 45 people as travelling by bus.  All these people will likely provide evidence that the girl was mentally unstable and jumped on her own.
  • Mother of the girl, who was also pushed out of the bus, was not even called for identification of accused. 
  • Father of the girl has alleged that he was asked to sign blank documents by police.

If all these do not suggest an attempt by police to bolster the case in favour of the accused, then what is it? This attempt will continue as long as Mr. Sukhbir Badal stays as deputy chief minister of Punjab. Several political parties, congress and AAP, have asked for resignation of Mr. Badal. I think, in all fairness, Mr. Badal should quit his post for the following reasons :

  • People who swear to uphold law of the land at the time of swearing in ceremony, should not get away by flouting rule of law in such brazen manner. 

  • Higher the position, higher should be responsibility and higher should the quantum of punishment. Mr. Sukhbir Badal must quit.

  • How can Mr. Badal run the state of Punjab, when he cannot run his transport company properly? 

The death of the girl was not an accident, it was pure hooliganism by members of Mr. Badal’s staff. He must take moral responsibility and quit. In any other civilised country police should be already looking for him. In India we have not taken any lesson after horrible assault on Nirbahaya. We only get upset when male mindset is exposed by a foreigner by interviewing the rapist. God save us.

1. @htTweets: Moga bus horror: Victim’s distraught mother insists police have caught wrong people

Tags:  AAP, Congress Party, Conductor, Deputy Chief Minister, Driver, God, Harsimrat Kaur, Helper, Hooliganism, Justice, Molestation, Murder, Nirbhaya, Orbit Aviation, Police, Rape, Sukhbir Singh Badal,