Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An Open letter to Mr Advani from a Hindu voter in Gandhi Nagar

An open letter to Shri L.K.Advani Member of Parliament, Gandhinagar.
Mr R.B.Sreekumar IPS [He was an Officer of Gujarat Police during Gujarat Riots of 2002].

Why should Hindus vote for BJP ?

Most Respected Shri L.K.Advani,

Sir,I am a voter in Gandhinagar Loksabha constituency . I am a Hindu by birth and practitioner of the tenets of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion, popularly called –Hinduism, in my own humble way ,in personal life.

The conceptual and philosophical framework of Hinduism is enshrined in three fold treatises- Prasthanathrayam- namely, Brahmasutras, Upanishads and the Bhagvad Gita.

Equal adoration to all varieties of divinity and paths towards them and recognition of the right to salvation/liberation to all living beings , including plants and animals are deemed to be the most ennobling and elevating feature of Hinduism. Ill will towards even non –believers is also not permitted , not to speak of people professing non-Hindu faiths.

Any deviation or aberration by any individual or group of persons or an organisation of Hindus ,away from the four walls of these ideals make them unacceptable and condemnable for real Hindus. Applying this yardstick , BJP supported by its sister bodies in the Sangh Parivar would be quite undeserving for getting votes from Hindus , who are intrinsically practising quintessence of Hindu ontological ideals.

In the history of Hinduism there were only two most demoralisingly deplorable instances of sacrilegious crimes, which would make any self respecting and committed Hindu to bury his head in shame. The first was demolition of a worship centre, ( building for prayer ) Babri Masjid of Ayodhya in December 1992. The second was the anti-minority genocide in which over 2000 , mostly innocents were brutally killed. Both these Satanic acts were the handiwork of miscreants , owing allegiance to BJP, going by the presence of well known BJP leaders on the scene of these crimes.

The Bhagvad Gita is quite explicit about one's approach to any form of worship. In three slokas the relevant principles are unambiguously laid down.

In Chapter 4 Sloka 11 , Lord Krishna proclaims , " In whatever way men identify with Me, in the same way do I carry out their desires; men pursue My path ,in all ways "

Again in Chapter 6-30 , the Lord preaches , " He who sees Me everywhere and sees all in Me, he never becomes lost to Me , nor do I become lost to him"

Finally in Chapter 7-21 , the Lord promulgates , " Whatever form any devotee with faith wishes to worship , I make that faith of his steady."

The brigands who razed the 16th century mosque in Ayodhya to the ground actually acted against the letter, spirit and ethos of the above stipulations by Lord Krishna that is why those great Hindus , who lived and enriched my religion from 1529 A.D. , the year of construction of Babri Masjid to 1992, the year of demolition, did not care to move even their little finger against this monument, during their lifetime. We have a galaxy of Hindu giants , who left laudable foot prints on the sands of time , in this period, from Goswami Tulsidas to Mahatma Gandhi.

Can we consider the marauders and their leaders , who knocked down the masjid, by insulting even the pious name of Lord Shiva( those rogues shouted Jai Shiv Shankar, during demolition and the word meaning of Shankar is ' One who blesses everybody with peace, Sham Karoti Iti Shamkaram)', as greater champions and 'brave sons of Hinduism ' than those model Hindus like Mahatma Gandhi, whose life and deeds brought greatness and glory to the Sanatana Dharma.?

Honourable Advaniji , if there is scriptural justification for the liquidation of Babri Masjid, kindly convey it to all Hindus , so that they will not have any hesitation to vote for BJP.

In case the BJP views the bulldozing of the Babri Masjid as an unHindu act , why no legal or organisational penal action to punish those destroyers of the centre of worship- Kshetradwamshas, as prescribed for Aathathais(criminals) in the dharmashastras was taken so far ? Since no such move is visible from BJP it will be quite impossible for a Hindu voter to accept BJP as a party which adheres to the principles and practice of the scriptural ideals of Hinduism .

The story is similar in case of anti-minority genocide in Gujarat, in which over 2000 innocents lost their lives. Never in the history of Hindu Rajas, in the pre-histotic or historic times, the ruler did allow a set of his subjects (prajas) to freely kill another group- not even by notorious evil souls like Nahusha, Tarakasura, Ravana, Kamsa or Duryodhana. The word Raja etymologically meant to be a person who brings reconciliation and peace among the subjects – Prajanam Ranjanath Raja ( Brahmanda Purana ) . If there was an underworld active in the minority community, why Police was not used to neutralise them on 27-2-2002 , the day of the gruesome Godhra carnage, and subsequent days. Police records confirm that practically no anti-social headstrong criminals from the minority community were killed ,during the 2002 riots by the mobs, largely constituted by BJP supporters.

In case BJP was not backing the protracted pogrom in 2002 ,why no action against the perpetrators of heinous crimes , either at organisational level or through Criminal Justice System ( CJS ). Instead whenever accused in riot cases were released on bail, BJP arranged receptions to them on the pattern of commendation extended to our freedom fighters during the struggle for independence.

Can you kindly intimate your voters in Gandhinagar the slokas and suktas from Hindu holy books, in approval of the prolonged atrocities on the defenceless people and subsequent and currently on-going subversion of CJS, which prompted the apex court to characterise Gujarat State govt. officials as ' modern Neros '.

Kamandakia Nitisara, a well accepted authority on Hindu polity, in Chapter 5 Shlokas 82-83 , cautions the administrators/ Rajas to protect the citizens from the favourites of the King and his own greed . " The subjects require protection against wicked officers of the King, thieves , enemies of the King, royal favourites ( such as the Queens, Princes etc. ) and more than all, against the greed of the King himself. The king should secure the people against these fears.

Further, the Shanti Parva of Mahabharata ( 59-106/107) exhorts the ruler " You should take a pledge that by thought , word and deed, you will rule the world believing that creation is the very incarnation of the Creator". The question asked by the devout Hindus is thus , Were the minorities in Gujarat in 2002, who were victimised by the mobs, inferior creations ?

Sir, you may kindly clarify as to whether above components of Raj Dharma as per the real Hindutva of the Hindu religion were actualised by the Gujarat State Govt. functionaries from the highest to the lowest, during and after 2002 riots.

With due respect to your long innings in Indian politics , I appeal to you to kindly provide convincing clarifications to my aforesaid plebeian queries so that faith of Hindus in BJP's commitment to fundamental Hindu ideals can be restored.

Respectful regards,R. B. Sreekumar .

from the blog
Mr R.B.Sreekumar IPS was an Officer of Gujarat Police during Gujarat Riots of 2002.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Times of India's attempt to bash human rights activists

The Saffron blogs are celebrating the Times of India's report on how Teesta Setalvad allegedly tried to spice up Gujarat carnage incidents. Here is the first few lines of the report that was published in TOI.
The Special Investigation Team responsible for the arrests of those accused in Gujarat riots has severely censured NGOs and social activist Teesta Setalvad who campaigned for the riot victims. In a significant development, the SIT led by former CBI director R K Raghavan told the Supreme Court on Monday that the celebrated rights activist cooked up macabre tales of wanton killings.for the riot victims.

After reading the above paragraph what will you infer? You will obviously believe that the SIT team told in the Supreme Court on Monday, April 13 2009, that the human right activists including Teesta Setalvad cooked up stories on riot incidents.
What is the truth?
The report of Special investigation team set up by Supreme court was actually submitted on March 2 2009 and not on April 13, 2009. It has been kept confidential ever since.Nobody from SIT was submitting anything on April 13 in the Supreme Court.
What actually happened was the Counsel for Gujarat Government Mr Rohatgi read from a written note submitted by the Gujarat Government to the Supreme Court,claiming that SIT report has found that the allegations made by NGOs like Citizens for Justice and Peace are false.In response Justice Pasayat said “we don’t want to go into the allegations. Justice must prevail. Truth can be arrived at only if there is such an atmosphere".
While the Supreme Court observed that there was no room for allegations and counter allegations at this late stage, the Times of India coverage has brazenly flouted this observation by reporting the totally baseless allegations against social activist Teesta Setalvad and the organisation she represents Citizen for Justice and Peace on the basis of the Gujarat government’s note circulated in the Court. This is all the more reprehensible because Teesta Setalvad and Citizen for Justice and Peace have neither been given a copy of the SIT report nor has their response been sought in the matter.
The very fact that the Supreme Court had to set up the SIT to correct the miscarriage of justice due to the tardy investigation by the state of Gujarat was highlighted in the court’s observation that but for the SIT investigation many more accused, who were freshly added, would not have been brought to book. It was the untiring efforts of Teesta Setalvad and the CJP and the National Human Rights Commission that persuaded the Supreme Court to set up the SIT and on the basis of its findings further arrests have been made of persons who held top jobs in Police and in the Modi ministry in Gujarat.
Why did Times of India report such allegation by Gujarat Government as truth?
What is the importance of the timing of the report?

All opinion polls about the current Parliament elections in India suggest that the BJP led NDA will not win enough seats to attain power in Centre. Most polls suggest that the stigma of Gujarat riots still haunts the BJP, especially among urban middle class and upper class voters.Times of India report may be a last ditch attempt by a compliant and unethical media to help BJP garner some more Parliament seats to help its agenda of Hindutvaisation of India. That's why such a report appeared in Times of India, 2 days before the beginning of month long polling.
edited to add..
Read rebuttal of CJP here and the TOI reporter's reply here. TOI reporter do not have an explanation for the way he distorted and made a false impression on the readers that SIT said such things on April 13 2009 in the Supreme Court.

We need the SIT report to be made public by the Court so that we can study it and come to a conclusion. Most probably the report will have some remarks against the CJP,but also more severe reprimand for the Gujarat Government. By quoting some selected parts supposed to be from the SIT report the Gujarat Government betrayed the trust of confidentiality of the Supreme Court for some narrow political gains.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

South African General Elections

The Indian Premier League[IPL],the much hyped Cricket league of India was shifted out of India amid controversy recently.The primary reason that forced the shift was the inability of the State Governments to provide enough security to this mega sporting event when the World's largest democracy is conducting its 'mother of all General elections' in April/May 2009.

Interestingly the IPL was shifted to South Africa were a General election is scheduled to be held next week,April 22.South Africa with a smaller electorate and a more urbanised population may not need that much security for its election which is to be held on a single day.This post is not about IPL but about this interesting election in South Africa.

South Africa always fascinated me.Mahatma Gandhi's early political carrier and his account of apartheid helped me to know more about that country.Also in my student days the World wide struggle against the hated apartheid regime was at its peak.I did join in some token anti-apartheid programs in my College.Then many[including me] never thought the Racist regime could be dislodged easily.

Though it was not easy,the smooth transition of power from the whites to the hands of the native Blacks followed by the election of Nelson Mandela as the South African President was a happy memory to be cherished for a life time.
When I got an opportunity to visit Cape Town recently for a medical conference,I grabbed it with both hands. Register to Vote posters were there all over in Cape Town then. The signs of Affirmative Action was to be seen in notice boards of Hospital I visited.[Affirmative action is a type of reservation for Black Africans in jobs so that skewed racial numbers in employment could be reversed].

At that time African National Congress had just split.African National Congress [like the Indian National Congress here] is considered the main political force in the freedom struggle and enjoys huge popularity, getting 69% vote in last General election.The split based on both ideological and personality reasons was somewhat similar to various splits in Indian National Congress. I can foresee more and more such splits in ANC, like that happened in India.

The National Assembly consists of 400 members elected by proportional representation with a closed list approach. Two hundred members are elected from national party lists, the other 200 are elected from provincial party lists in each of the nine provinces. The voter do not vote for a candidate but for a party.The party gets certain number of seats as per the percentage of votes polled.The party has pre-decided on who will receive the votes for the political parties in the elections, that is, the candidates positioned highest on this list tend to always get a seat in the parliament while the candidates positioned very low on the closed list will not.

To know more about the issues and politics of South Africa I am publishing here an article by Zukiswa Wanner, a well known writer of South Africa.This is published in her blog and she had kindly given me the consent to post it here.

South African Elections 2009
by Zukiswa Wanner

There are those who will say that they do not vote because they have become jaded and politicians are liars, and I say that’s their democratic right but that’s not me. Given that many developing nations had the blood and guts of their people spilt to get the power to vote, I am not about to so casually dismiss that right. Moreover if it is indeed true that most politicians are liars, in a country where the national election only happens once every five years, the minute or so that I have in the voting booth is the only time I have to be truly free and ‘be the change I want to see.’ This year, I find myself in a bit of a quandary though. South Africa goes to its fourth democratic elections on the 22nd of April, and for the first time ever I am still musing over who to vote for at this late stage. In keeping with the 2010 spirit, I bring you, my finalists.
African National Congress (ANC):-

The party with a tradition of great marketing strategies that they successfully made one of its members, Nelson Mandela, an international icon. The winner of the last three elections, the ANC, yet again goes into the elections as the leading member of the tripartite alliance which includes the largest workers union Congress of South African Trade Unions and one of the few truly active communist parties in the world where communism is all but dead, South African Communist Party. As in the past three elections, the ANC looks set to clean this election too, what is unclear is whether they will get the two thirds majority they so desire and that will allow the legislature to rubber stamp every suggestion that comes from the executive as was the case after the 2004 elections. Part of the problem is the captain of this team, former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma. JZ, as he is affectionately known by team mates and fans of this team, won the Polokwane League in his party against a team led by former party president, Thabo Mbeki (he of the health Minister who was a strong advocate of beetroot and garlic for HIV/AIDS sufferers as opposed to ARTs). At the time of winning the league, there were corruption charges looming over his head but many in his Polokwane team believed the charges came because of foul play on the part of Thabo. After Polokwane, a judicial referee, Judge Nicholson, stated that there indeed was a foul by Thabo which led to Thabo being red-carded and announcing his resignation on a Sunday, a day before he was to have given his final address to the United Nations. When Thabo resigned as president of the nation, some voters also resigned their loyalty to the ANC. One can only assume that those disgruntled non-card carrying ANC voters had voted for the man and not the party. Meanwhile, the acting head of the National Prosecuting Authority just dropped all charges against JZ last week resulting in a collective sigh of relief from Team ANC supporters and much anger from other team supporters. Faced with disillusioned members who broke away to form a new party, the ANC’s campaign strategy has been to discredit the opposition and play up its triumphs in the 15 years under Mbeki (and yes. Mandela may have been President the first five but the country knows that his deputy was running the country) and promise more and better. With a budget believed to be the largest in this election, the ANC has managed to do what they do best – market with some great television ads. There is one with a young man talking of how he is unemployed but will still vote ANC because he feels he has better chances under them. They have also been doing door-to-door campaigns, toyi-toying at my local store during weekends, and streets are full of posters asking me to ‘VOTE ANC, TOGETHER WE CAN DO MORE’. I admit to not having seen their manifesto because the campaigners have not come to my door and the marchers at the shops have just given me some credit-card sized card telling me about my ANC home. A friend and keen supporter promised to bring one to my door within forty eight hours. That was 72 hours ago. It seems delivery may not just be a problem of the executive but may be a problem with the rank and file members too.

Democratic Alliance (DA):-

Team DA goes to this election led by Captain Helen Zille and being the official opposition. Zille, who is currently mayor of that country called Cape Town, came to power after the resignation of the very divisive Tony Leon. Where Leon seemed to enjoy being a member of the loyal opposition, Zille will actually agree with the majority party on certain issues. It does not hurt that she is fluent in the second most spoken local language and the language most spoken in the Western Cape Province, isiXhosa. According to punters, Zille and her DA look set to take the Western Cape province on April 22, and not just the city of Cape Town. This will mean that for the first time since 1994, that province will be under a non-ANC premier. DA’s campaign posters talk of ‘one nation’. I suspect that this may be because, in spite of Zille, many people still believe that DA is a party catering for ‘white interests’. It does not help that one of their more contentious election promises has been the scrapping of affirmative action. Like the ANC, I have seen the DA posters and the adverts on television. The television adverts are beaten hands down by the ANC’s more people oriented approach. I have also not seen or read the DA election manifesto. There are those who will argue that if I am interested, I can download the manifestos but the point is, they want my vote don’t they? It should be up to them to bring it to me. Right now, I rule. I matter….I know I will cease being important on the 23rd but at the moment…hmmm. According to a recent Markinor survey, the DA might soon be unseated from the position of official opposition by new kid on the block, COPE.

Congress of the People (COPE):-

After the forced resignation of Thabo Mbeki, some incensed members of the ANC left to form the breakaway COPE. Among many amateur political analysts, it is believed that he is the architect behind the party. I do not know but I would certainly kill to be a fly in the voting booth to see which party Mbeki will put his X on. Among some Mbeki loyalists who have joined COPE are his former vice-president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the man who served the ANC divorce papers and COPE president Terror Lekota, former Gauteng premier and now COPE vice president Mbhazima Shilowa and businessman Saki Macozoma among others. Although COPE made a lot of noise and much waves when they first broke away, the money has not been flowing into their coffers as much as they hoped and this has debilitated their campaign. Earlier in the year there was much talk of dissent in the party when the party president failed to convince the national executive of COPE that he should be presidential candidate… too much taint from the ANC and some alleged tarnish from the arms deal. This has resulted in election posters that could be confusing to the average person with the face of both Terror and COPE’s chosen presidential candidate, the former political activist and Methodist Bishop, Mvume Dandala. The posters that I have seen do not have a slogan p- perhaps they could not agree on that either?
I also do not know what COPE stands for apart from Mbeki. It is believed that after this election they may become the official opposition. Their largest support base seems to come from the black middle class who are traditional ANC voters but may be disillusioned by Jacob Zuma’s leadership.

These three are not the only teams on the political landscape of course. There are others, more famous for one key individual, often the leader. I can honestly say of the parties below, I do not know any other members of the executive apart from their leaders.
From United Democratic Movement (UDM) led by Bantu Holomisa, one is told that ‘now is the time for all South Africans,’ it is unclear it is time for all of us to do what. Bantu will probably carry some votes in the Eastern Cape. His was the first billboard I saw so there may be some really good funders somewhere.
Chief Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has traditionally been a serious contender in the province of Kwazulu Natal province but this year it is believed the party may lose some votes to the ANC since ANC President Jacob Zuma hails from that province.
Patricia De Lille’s Independent Democrats (ID) will likely take some votes in the Western Cape and Northern Cape but the possibility of carrying a lot of those votes are minimal.
African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) led by Reverend Kenneth Meshoe is worrisome not for the votes it will carry but for what it stands for. The party is loud on morality and strongly anti-gay and pro death sentence.
Freedom Front Plus (FF+) led by Dr. Mulder is proudly Afrikaans and campaign promises are based restoration of Afrikaans rights which may work for some but which ensures they leave out a large chunk of the population as potential voters.
The Africanists like Azania People’s Organisation, Pan-Africanist Congress and others would have made more of an impact if they went to the elections with a united front. As it is, they shall continue just pulling a representative or two for parliament and therefore voting for them appears to be a waste of votes.

So? Any suggestions from out there in cyber world on whom I should vote for? Please deliver manifestos with a timeline of expected delivery dates to convince me.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Indian Parliament Elections-- Please Vote

In 3 days time the World's largest democracy will start going to the polls to elect a new Parliament. It will be held in 5 phases starting on April 16. Polling will take place on April 16,23,30 May 7 and 13. Elections will be held in all 5 phases in Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh while Bihar will have 4 phase elections.Maharashtra and West Bengal will have elections in 3 phases.Counting of all the votes polled will be on May 16.

About 714000000 voters are eligible for voting.Polling will be held in 828804 polling stations using 1368430 electronic voting machines.The statistics about the number of Parties,the number of Candidates etc are yet to come in. That will also threw up mind boggling numbers. Indian Parliament elections is certainly the mother of all elections in the World.

Elections will be held for 543 seats of Lok Sabha,the lower house of Indian Parliament.

The Lok Sabha can have up to 552 members as envisaged in the Constitution of India (Article 81). It has a term of 5 years but it may be dissolved earlier by the President in the event of no party getting a majority. To be eligible for membership of Lok Sabha, a person must be a citizen of India and must not be less than 25 years of age. Up to 530 members can be elected from the states, up to 20 members from the Union territories and no more than two members can be nominated by the President of India.

As of now, the Lok Sabha has 545 members, 530 members from the states, 13 members from the Union territories and two nominated members representing the Anglo Indian community.

Certain number of seats are reserved for the historically socially discriminated communities included under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.After the recent delimitation of constituencies the number of seats reserved for Scheduled castes have increased from 79 to 84 and those reserved for Scheduled tribes have increased from 41 to 45. The number of un reserved seats is now 414 out of 543.
There are 7 National Political Parties and more than 50 State political parties. The candidate getting maximum number of valid votes in each constituency wins that Parliament seat.In the last Lok sabha 38 political parties were able to win seats.

The Indian National Congress lead United Progressive Alliance[UPA] and the Bharatiya Janata Party lead National Democratic Alliance[NDA] are the main opposing political groupings. A third front under the leadership of the Left Parties are also expected to win few seats.
All the opinion polls have predicted a hung Parliament with neither Fronts coming near the magic number of 272 seats. UPA may have a slight edge over NDA in numbers,but post poll alliances will determine who will be the Prime Minister.

Elections in India always used to fascinate me. The first election I remember was the one in 1977. Until then I believed[as an 8 yr old child] that Indira Gandhi will be the Prime Minister till her death.
Those days elections took place in only one or two phases and the counting will start immediately. Then we had the old paper ballot system with manual counting. We used to get the result after about 16 to 48 hours of counting. The counting used to continue through out the night.

In 1977 we had only All India Radio [AIR] as a news source for election results. AIR was under strict control of Government especially during the dictatorial emergency regime. So it had no credibility. Everybody was interested to know the fate of Congress under Indira Gandhi. All wanted her voted out.But AIR was not coming out with results.
So my father took me to a local newspaper office where there was public announcement of lead positions in various constituencies.A large number of people were gathered on the road in front of the office to hear the announcements. Each announcement was greeted with clapping or booing.
In that election the ruling Congress Party was swept out of power by the Janata Party wave.Indira Gandhi herself lost to Raj Narayan at Rae Bareily. That was the first time Indian National Congress,the Party of India's freedom struggle was dethroned by the power of ballot. Looking back we realise that Indian democracy attained maturity in 1977 by peacefully pushing out of power a dictatorial regime under Indira Gandhi.

What ever be its limitations and drawbacks, Indian experiment with democracy in a large, mainly poor and illiterate, multi-lingual,multi-religious and multi-ethnic country can be considered as a big success.

I have never wasted an opportunity to vote,whether it is municipal,State or National elections.This year also,on April 16th I will be a proud participant in this important exercise in the World's largest democracy.Hope each one of you will do the same.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Communalism and Indian Politics

During the recent G 20 summit,US President Obama said that India and Pakistan's greatest enemy should be poverty, not each other.
So rightly said, but will we listen?
The battle for ballot has started in India for the Parliamentary elections. Main point discussed among political parties are hate speeches. The debate in the media is who is more communal than other. One party is trying to raise fear among majority while the other party is trying to cash in on the fear of minorities and backward classes.
Why communalism plays such a prominent role in Indian politics?
The most important division in India is between the rich and the poor. Mumbai is the prime example with small number of people with large wealth and large number of people with almost nothing live side by side. This is an explosive situation. People will start asking questions and may even revolt. What to do?
The religion, region and to some extend caste come to the rescue of the rich. So the Ram mandir, Maratha pride and Islamism are invented to prevent unity of the poor. The poor Muslim labourer is lynched by a mob for 'preventing' the building of Ram Mandir. The poor train passengers are killed by Islamist bombs as a revenge. The Bihari coolie is be-headed by poor and unemployed Marathi youth for Maratha pride.
The rich laugh all the way to the bank.
Who ever wins it is a win-win situation for them.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Was forced to run naked,but now trying to run for Parliament.

A victim of circumstance, she has emerged as a symbol of hope and pride.

This is the story of Laxmi Orang, an Adivasi girl from Assam.
Stripped naked and brutally assaulted by a violent mob in broad daylight, she had to run for her life in Guwahati on November 24, 2007. The barbaric incident, captured graphically on TV, which shocked the nation, took place when this young adivasi girl travelled 258 km from her village to the State capital for the first time to take part in a rally by the All- Adivasi Students’ Association of Assam (AASAA) to demand Scheduled Tribe status for the adivasis of Assam.

Traumatised by the brutal and barbaric attack, she disappeared into the fleeing crowd after a middle- aged local resident came to her rescue and took off his own shirt to help the girl cover herself. However, with her family rallying behind her, Laxmi Orang emerged from the ordeal a stronger and more determined woman.

Ms. Orang subsequently turned down jobs offered by the Assam government twice after the shameful incident in the central Beltola locality of the capital city.
She declined to accept ex-gratia of Rs. one lakh offered to her by the state government as compensation. The gutsy woman even refused to open official mail sent to her.
Ms. Orang, who has three educated unemployed brothers at home at Japowbari Orang Basti near Biswanath Chariali in Sonitpur district, declined the government offers at a cost, because it was a time when she desperately needed a job.

Today Laxmi has overcome the trauma and has plunged into politics - she has filed her papers to be a candidate for the April 23 parliamentary elections from Tezpur. She is the nominee of the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF), a party led by perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal.

Prior to the Beltola incident, Ms. Orang was a daily wage labourer making Rs. 40 a day, who dreamt of saving up enough money to do a vocational course in knitting and tailoring. Poverty had forced her to discontinue schooling after studying up to Class X; her plight was such that she had to share a single kerosene lamp with her three brothers to study at night.
“I never dreamt of joining politics. But the incident at Beltola has prompted me to embark on this mission. I will devote my full energy to taking forward the struggle of my community for scheduled tribe status and the uplift of all poor and downtrodden people in my constituency. I will not rest till my mission is accomplished.”
Pitted against Congress heavyweight and sitting MP Mani Kumar Subba, who is seeking a fourth consecutive term, Ms. Orang is now busy reaching out to voters.
From morning till night, she and her core campaign team — father Deba Orang and brothers Raju, Rajen and Ramen — go door to door explaining to voters why Ms. Orang deserves to represent them in Delhi. The response, they say, is overwhelming.

“Everybody knows about my case is a true reflection of the injustice and apathy towards the marginalised sections of society,” Laxmi said even as she hopped out of a car to address a small roadside meeting. “I want to represent and do something positive for the people of Assam, especially for women from marginalised communities who are still looked down upon,” she said with a glint in her eyes.

She may have a problem, though. Going by the voters’ list, she is 18, and you have to be 25 to contest. Her nomination paper says the school dropout is 25, but the AUDF is taking no chances - Laxmi’s father Deba Orang also filed his nomination as a substitute AUDF candidate in case Laxmi’s papers are rejected.

“Winning or losing is part of the game...but I want to fight for justice and according ST status to my community, besides all other communities who are facing neglect,” Laxmi said. Even if Laxmi’s candidature is accepted, her electoral debut is not going to be easy.
Let us salute her courage and determination to fight back after such a horrific and traumatic experience.
Edited on 10 th April 2009; The nomination of Laxmi Orang was rejected as she was found to be under age
compiled from The Hindu and

Friday, April 3, 2009

State of Nation's Health Care system.

Another Parliament election is coming. As everyone is discussing the hate speeches,vote for note scams,dissolving alliances and about the umpteen number of leaders running for the Prime Minister's post,let us not forget the real issues facing the Indian electorate. Today with the help of this article in The Frontline let me make you aware of the issues in the health sector.

What is the state of the nation’s health?

The findings of the third National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3), a household survey carried out during 2005-06, should put the political class to shame. The country was then witnessing an 8-9 per cent economic growth and the government may think that India is a world power in the making, but these findings tell the real story of where all that growth is headed.

Let me highlight some of the points in this article.

1. Infant and Child mortality rates although falling slowly is unacceptably high.Our mortality rates corresponds to the average of least developed countries.

2.Immunisation coverage is only 44% and is actually falling in some areas

3.Pulse Polio Programme is still not a success and is adversely affecting the Universal Immunisation Programme

4.Closure of vaccine making public sector Companies on flimsy grounds resulted in severe vaccine shortage.

5.Under nutrition in Children in rural areas is much worse than in sub saharan Africa.

6.Percentage of anemic women[pregnant or non pregnant,which is more than fifty percentage] actually showed an increase from 1998 to 2005

7.More than half of child births take place with out a qualified health worker in attendance.

8.More than 600000 children die due to diarrhoea every year,an easily preventable death.

9.There is a short fall of trained health care personals in Health Centres by 20 to 40%.

10.India has the most privatised health care system in the World with every one paying for the health care from their pocket.60 to 70% of patients go to private hospitals.Only about 5 % have insurance.

11. Public health expenditure as a proportion of total health expenditure is lowest in India.

These are only few of the problem areas.There are many more areas especially the ever increasing burden of non-communicable diseases like Diabetes,Heart Attacks,Stroke,Chronic lung disease,Chronic Kidney diseases etc.

Access to quality health care is a basic human right and should be viewed as a fundamental right of every citizen. A healthy nation is a prerequisite for social and economic development. Mere economic growth measured in gross financial terms, as is evident, does not ensure that. To make the public health care system work requires determined political leadership, adequate investment and appropriate policy instruments rooted in ground realities.

Therefore, in the run-up to the general election, from the perspective of the electorate, people’s health should be accorded top priority along with education and food security. Public health must be brought to the top of the political agenda, which, unfortunately, has not been in evidence in the past 60 years of independence.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Which is the biggest threat for Indian Elections?

Which is the biggest threat for Indian General elections to be held in April/May 2009?
a.Jihadi militants from across the border
b.Insurgents from the North East
c.LTTE from Srilanka
d.None of the above

The answer according to Indian Election Commission is d, none of the above.
The biggest threat for smooth and peaceful polling is the left wing extremist Maoist/Naxalite movement in the heart of India. But most of the Indians seemed to be blissfully unaware of the threat.Or are they trying to wish away the reality?

The naxal movement has been one of the biggest threats to the general elections for quite some time now. The threat is spread right from the Nepal border to Tamil Nadu. According to a Union home ministry assessment, Maoist or Naxalite violence is of serious concern in 12 of India's biggest states.
These States include Andhra Pradesh,Bihar,Chattisgarh,Jharkhand,Orissa,Maharashtra,Madhya Pradesh,West Bengal,Uttar Pradesh,TamilNadu,Karnataka and Kerala.

Who are these Naxalites?

Naxalites are Communist groups wanting to over throw the current set up of governance by a violent revolution of the working class and peasants.
The term comes from Naxalbari, a small village in West Bengal, where a section of Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) led by Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal led a violent uprising in 1967, trying to develop a "revolutionary opposition" in opposition to the CPI(M) leadership.

During the 1970s the movement was fragmented into several disputing factions. By 1980 it was estimated that around 30 Naxalite groups were active, with a combined membership of 30 000. A 2004 home ministry estimate puts numbers at that time as "9,300 hardcore underground cadre… [holding] around 6,500 regular weapons beside a large number of unlicensed country-made arms. More recent figures claim that the guerrillas control an estimated one fifth of India's forests, as well as being active in 160 of the country's 604 administrative districts. Now it is believed that 50,000 Naxals are currently involved in the growing insurgency.

Today some groups have become legal organisations participating in parliamentary elections, such as Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation. Others, such as Communist Party of India (Maoist) and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Janashakti are engaged in armed guerrilla struggles. The Communist Party of India (Maoist) was founded on September 21, 2004, through the merger of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People's War and the Maoist Communist Centre of India.

Recently I happened to read an informative book on Maoists. The book titled "Red Sun" written by Sudeep Chakravarti is an extensive documentation of the Naxalite movement in India.The author, travelling deep inside the Maoist territory brings you a first hand chilling account of the threat and the weak and faltering response of the Government. He is also is trying to explain the reason for the successes of Maoists. Here are some excerpts:

There is little debate that the spread of Maoist influence is at its core the consequence of bad Governance or plain non-Governance and crushing exploitation in the World's next superpower........ According to National Sample Survey Organisation about 250 million people in India,which constitutes a third of rural population lives on less than Rs 12 a day......
Close to half the Children here[ India] are malnourished or stunted.... Three quarters of Indians do not have access to safe drinking water or sanitation.........

For much of middle-class India,Maoism today is something vaguely alarming,to do with shifting lines on the Country's map that they see every once in a while in the mainstream media. To me these are as significant as the LOC on India's western border with Pakistan and the northern borders with China.These lines within India mark the of ideologies of the 'oppressor' and the 'oppressed': they mark the lives lost to landmines,crude bombs,gun battles and 'encounters'.They are connected lines of conflict across which police and paramilitary forces battle daily against hands of the desperately disaffected.

The danger lies in increasing the degree of denial.By all accounts,half a billion people[500000000] will remain a long way away from the country's high growth party in the foreseeable future. They won't like it one bit,and many- even a modest one percent of this amounts to 5 million people-could do anything to crash the party,to destroy the frame work,if they cannot join in the merrymaking.There is already enough ill will and resentment about for generations.......

In the neighbouring Nepal Maoists won......showing what armed revolution triggered by decades of neglect,nepotism and corruption can achieve.It was a classic case of privileging violence;nobody listens in this part of the world until a fire is lit......

There is no indication of Maoism wrapping up,because the key triggers for Maoism-- massively skewed development,massive corruption and great social and ethnic discrimination--shows no signs of wrapping up either.
Of course,it doesn't have to be this way--if central and state Governments do as they should,if India's prejudiced millions do as they should,and do the right thing.If they don't,if a country desperately seeking superpower status is blinded by unrealistic ambition and social sores,the Maoists and others like them will be there to show the way.

The Maoists are patriots,by their own admission.
India's Maoists do not want a separate country.They already have one.Its just not the way they would like it----yet.