Tipu Sultan: Diverse Narratives

From couple of years around 10th November, BJP has been undertaking the smearing campaign against Tipu Sultan. Incidentally from last 3 years Government of Karnataka has been celebrating the anniversary of Tipu. As such he is the only King, who laid down his life while fighting against the British. This year around as November 10 approached, Mr. Anantkumar, the Union Minister and a major BJP leader from Karnataka, turned down the invitation of Karnataka Government to be part of the Tipu anniversary celebration. His argument was that Tipu was a mass murderer, wretched fanatic and rapist. At places there were protests organized by BJP.

Certain sections of the society also consider him a tyrant who engaged in forced conversions. He is also accused of promoting Persian at the cost of Kannada. It is also alleged that his letters to his Generals, claimed to be in British possession now, show that he believed that kafirs should be decimated. There is no dearth of such periodic controversies being raked up around his name. What is being propagated on the basis of some flimsy sources is that he destroyed hundreds of temples and killed thousands of Brahmins!

Incidentally just a month ago, Ramnath Kovind, the President of India, who has a RSS background, was on a different trip. He praised Tipu by saying that “Tipu Sultan died a heroic death fighting the British. He was also a pioneer in the development and use of Mysore rockets in warfare.”Many BJP spokespersons, uncomfortable with this statement, undermined the President by saying that false inputs were provided to Rashtrapati Bhavan by Karnataka Government.

As such there are diverse attitude towards Tipu from within RSS-BJP stable itself. In 2010, B.S. Yeddyurappa, the BJP leader adorned Tipu’s headgear and held a mock sword, on the eve of elections. In 1970 RSS had published a book praising Tipu, calling him patriotic, this book was part of “Bharat Bharati” series.

On the other side noted Kannada playwright Girish Karnad is all praise for Tipu to the extent that he supported the demand to name Bangaluru airport in his name. Karnad has also been stating that had Tipu been Hindu, he would have been accorded the same status in Karnataka, which Shivaji has in Maharashtra.

One recalls that Tipu has been made popular through the 60 episode serial based on Bhagwan Gidwani’s script, the ‘Sword of Tipu Sultan’, which also focuses on the fight of Tipu against East India Company. Tipu had corresponded with the Marathas and Nizam of Hyderabad to dissociate themselves from the British forces, the intrusion of which he saw particularly harmful for this region. This policy of his led to various battles against British. It was in the fourth Anglo Mysore war of 1799 battle that he lost his life. He has been immortalized in the popular memory of Karnataka people through folk songs. This is very much akin to iconization of Shivaji in popular memory in Maharashtra.

Why did Tipu use Persian as the Court language? It is important to recognize that Persian was the court language in the sub-continent at that time. Even Shivaji of Maharashtra was using Persian in his correspondence and had had Maulana Hyder Ali as his Chief Secretary, for doing this. Tipu was not a religious fanatic as he is being projected by them today. Tipu’s policies were not driven by religion. In fact, in his letter to Shankaracharya of Kamkoti Peetham, he refers to the Acharya as Jagatguru (World Teacher). He also donated rich offerings to his shrine.

When the Maratha army of Patwardhan plundered the Sringeri monastery, Tipu Sultan respectfully restored the monastery to its glory. During his reign, ten-day Dushehara celebrations were an integral part of the social life of Mysore. Sarfaraz Shaikh in his book ‘Sultan-E-Khudad’ has reproduced the ‘Manifesto of Tipu Sultan’. In it, he declares that he would not discriminate on religious grounds and would protect his empire until his last breath.

There is a charge that he persecuted certain communities. It is true. The reason for this persecution was purely political not religious. About these persecutions historian Kate Brittlebank comments, “This was not a religious policy but one of chastisement”. The communities targeted by him were seen as disloyal to the state. The communities he targeted did not just belong to Hindu stream he also acted against some Muslim communities like the Mahdavis. The reason was that these communities were in support of British and were employed as horsemen in the East India Company’s armies. Another historian Susan Bayly says that his attacking Hindus and Christians outside his state is to be seen on political grounds as he at the same time had developed close relations with these communities within Mysore.

As such the alleged letters in possession of British, where he is supposed to have talked of killing Kafirs and converting them, needs to be seen rationally, their genuineness apart. We have to see the person in his totality. When he has Purnaiyya, a Hindu Brahmin, as his Chief Advisor, when he is all respectful to Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamkotipeetham, it is unlikely that he could have been on a murderous spree of Hindus. British have been harsh against Tipu on purpose as he was the one to oppose the advance of British in India and wrote to Marathas and Nizam that we should settle things among ourselves and keep British out. Due to this he was singled out by British; who vehemently demonized their opponents. There is a need to have a balanced picture of this warrior king, who took on the might of British and could foresee that British are a different power, different cup of tea so to say, to be shunned at all the cost. In that sense, he is the pioneer in Anti-British resistance on this soil

The vacillations of communalists, from praising him to presenting him as an evil character are motivated attempts to uphold their communal ideology, nothing else!

Ram Puniyani

Celebrity Chef Izzat Husain’s ingenuity set to leave your senses spellbound with the launch of Spellbound Restaurant at Gardens Galleria – Noida

Not just Noida but whole of NCR has never tasted anything like this! Food connoisseurs and eating buffs take note to make the first possible visit to Gardens Galleria Mall in Sector 38A Noida. Such occasions come seldom in life when the lords of senses come to tickle and ignite each of your sensory bud so as to leave you spellbound by the entire gamut of enticing charm that you are set to encounter at Spellbound – the new eatery joint that has taken the entire NCR by storm in a short while since its launch.

Spellbound at Gardens Galleria is undoubtedly the new address for food connoisseurs in the Capital. With the celebrity chef Izzat Husain there to delight your taste buds, together with the soothing yet happening ambience that reflects the rich taste of promoters Sagar Sharma and former model and Miss Delhi Ramnik Pantal, rest assured that all your senses will feel the excitement of being to Spellbound. Ramnik had since long been a model, TV anchor and host and has been a familiar entity in Delhi’s Page-3 circles for the last two decades.

Celebrity chef Izzat Husain getting ready to entice customers with his food delights

Truly a sensual delight but neither at too much cost to pocket nor a great burden on your bowel system that many a well-known chefs in Delhi make you undergo because of their reckless use of spices and oil, which resultingly give the same taste to whatever different dishes they cook. But Izzat Husain’s food is different… delightfully different.  So much so that you can distinguish the various ingredients that he puts into his food merely by putting the food on your tongue. Each herb and spice that he puts appear to whisper gently in unequivocal tone that it too is there. If Shahi Zafrani Sheermal is served, rest assured that taste of zafran (saffron) will linger on in your mouth distinctly for a while. Even when you are trying his paratha with unique blend of herbs, garlic, olive and ginger or are savouring his trademark ‘Izzat ki Roti’ that Mirza – the F&B manager – wants you to break with your own fingers because only then will you realize how soft the roti is despite the fact that it is not easy to keep the roti soft if multi-grains are used. Izzat Husain has designed variety of breads at Spellbound because he knows the food buffs in the Capital prefer to have bread over rice. This however does not mean the biryani is not far better than all that you get to eat in Delhi restaurants in the name of biryani.

Breathtaking charm of interiors at Spellbound

Mirza, the F&B Manager who has the distinction of being part of the exquisite kitchen of the Palace of His Excellency King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and who boasts of serving distinguished guests ranging from Barack Obama, Narendra Modi and Tayyip Erdogan, gets spellbound by the exquisite taste that Izzat Husain’s ingenuity develops, day after day. It is due to this that he calls the food at Spellbound as royal… in fact everything in Spellbound reminds him of the royalty he was associated with while in the royal kitchen of the King of Saudi Arabia.

Yogesh Meena – the young chef who supports Izzat Husain – has the distinction of working in the Hilton at Istanbul and at the Taj at Udaipur. Here at Spellbound, he is shocked to see how Izzat Husain can make cooking look so simple and easy and yet comes out with spell-binding tastes… that too without use of water or curd. Says Meena: “I have never seen Mr. Husain taste any food. He knows if the salt is less or more merely by looking at the food.” He further says that Izzat Husain’s “process of cooking is quite different…earlier we used to toll hard but couldn’t bring the taste, Mr Husain appears to do simple things but come out with finger-licking dishes.”

(From left to right): Celebrity chef Izzat Husain, Mirza and writer

But why did this trainer of trainers – the celebrity chef who till now had restricted himself to training the chefs of 5-star hotels and big food chains – got associated with a restaurant in Noida. Says Izzat Husain: “Till now my services were restricted to five-star hotels. First time, I have come out of 5-star hotels so that my food reaches out of 5-star environment. We are going to give an altogether new variety and taste to Delhi NCR – a food that is mouth-watering delicious but also digestive…. Food that is not just appealing for the senses but for appetite as well.”

Adds Sagar Sharma: “People who are coming here are loving the food as well as the ambience in which they sit to eat. They are showing it by not just respecting the chef, but even respecting the food. Entire National Capital Region was till now lacking in an ambience where the whole family could go and sit in a relaxing environment, listen to the soothing music playing in the background, in an equally soothing ambience, and eat food that they had perhaps never tasted before.”

Murg Kalapari, Murg Neza and Malai Tikka entice one and all

Sharma further says he wanted to build a place where all five senses get spellbound. He has taken extra care on each and everything within the premises so as to give such a spell-binding ambience. He has ensured that good music plays in the background. And with Izzat Husain as the master chef, he has ensured that all five senses are taken care of.

To begin with, focus is on developing corporate clients and reaching out to those families who already possess refined taste-buds and who wish to feel pampered by the special service that is the hallmark of Spellbound, while savouring Izzat Husain’s delicacies. Sharma informs there are special packages for the corporates, which not only give value-for-money but an experience of a lifetime.

(From left to right): Sagar Sharma, Yogesh Meena and Izzat Husain

Murg Kalapari is so soft that it appears to melt in the mouth. Made without use of curd and with Izzat Husain’s secret marination techniques, it is worth a try. By the name Malai Tikka, it would appear you have eaten it so many times in life before. But if you believe in us you can bet with anyone even without trying it that Izzat Husain’s Malai Tikka would be different, something that you would not get to eat in the whole of NCR. Murg Neza boti kabab too has an unbeatable taste. And if you are fed up of eating almost the same tasting dal makhani in restaurant after restaurant, Dal Shahzadi is Izzat Husain’s new creation; one that appears as royal in taste as it could be.

Another exquisite Izzat Husain creation is Chuqandar Paneer, which is truly out of the world in taste. Ponder for a while: how many restaurants in Delhi would risk offering you something which is a mix of chuqander and paneer. Salute to Izzat Husain’s ingenuity that even a dish made of chuqander comes out so tasty that you would love to add it in your main menu. Likewise, how many chefs would offer Qabuli Gosht – an amalgamation of goat meat with qabuli chana! Truly splendid in taste is Badami Qorma as well.

Biryani too is exquisite creation by Izzat Husain

Not just starters and the main course, a visit for dining purposes at Spellbound should also include savouring the tasteful and healthy variety of mocktails and also the desserts – all with the signature blend and taste provided by the chef of chefs, Izzat Husain. Just as Malai Tikka is far different from the dish by the same name that you get all over North India, the Badam ka Halwa too is different… and innovative… where each spoonful will make you realize the taste and feel of Badams (Almonds) till it goes down your neck and to your stomach.

Captivating taste, aroma and colour of mocktail entice one and all

As the photo-journalist Zaki accompanying this writer perfectly summed it up: “Each dish has a perfect, distinct taste… taste which lingers for a long while even when the food has gone down your throat. Taste of one dish does not mix with the taste of other… all appear distinct, unique … and all delicacies together create the perfect blend, that words would fail to describe but will give the feel that would remain for a long-time after you have had to your heart-full (rather stomach full) and yet with another unique quality of Izzat Husain – that his foods are a complete medicine and are never harsh on your stomach even if you eat to your full.

By Aziz Haider; Photos by Md. Zaki Haider




Child artiste Shabih of Ahlcon International rocked the stage amidst professional performance by theatre groups in Komal & VK Pahuja Theatre Festival

Shabih of Ahlcon International School on stage in a memorable performance

It was splendid mono-acting performance by a 9-year old student from Ahlcon International School on the theme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-publicized ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ Abhiyan that received standing ovation from the audience at 4th Komal & V. K. Pahuja Theatre Performance held at Delhi’s hub of activity India International Centre yesterday. Shabih performed as a guest artiste in the day-long theatre festival attended by various prominent theatre groups including Anvaratt Theatre Group of Indore, UPTA Group of Meerut, Rahul Thapliyal’s group, Theatron Theatre Group, Soch Theatre Group, Shanjha Sapna Group and Nepathya – the theatre society of PGDAV College, University of Delhi.

Child artist Shabih (in centre) along with (from left) Sangeeta Sahni of Ahlcon International School, Supriya Pahuja of Komal & VK Pahuja Foundation, Monika Sawhney of Ahlcon International School and mother Tanveer Fatima

The event now an annual fixture of the city was organised by Dr. Supriya Pahuja and Meenakshi Pahuja in loving memory of their parents Komal & VK Pahuja. Inaugurated by Dinesh Ahlawat, the Festival saw presence of prominent personalities including Sheila Dikshit (former Chief Minister of Delhi), Prof. Kiran Walia (former Minister in Delhi Govt), Prof. Dinesh Singh (former Vice Chancellor – Delhi University), among others. Rajesh Dua and Sanjay Dhoundiyal were given Life Time Achievement Award. Komal & VK Pahuja Foundation is known for promoting cultural, sports and theatre activities. The event was anchored by Sandeep Mishra in his inimitable style, who introduces himself as the spokesperson of Dera Sacha Sauda in Delhi. He was ably supported by Ms. Lata.

The day-long Komal & VK Pahuja Theatre was judged by an eminent panel of jury which included renowned actor and director Dr Bikram Kesharee Mohanty, Manuv Mehra and Rakhi Chauhan Mehta. On stake were three awards for Best Production and an award each for Best Director and Best Actor. In the end, the Best Director Award was won by Nitesh Upadhyay for play Yeh Ishq Ishq (Anvaratt Theater Group).

Anvaratt Theater Group of Indore performed a play Ye Ishq Ishq, directed by Nitesh Upadhyay. This was followed by Kali Raat Ka Humsafer by UPTA Meerut, directed by Bharat Bhushan. Also a heart-rending performance was Panchlight by Theatron Theater Group. Rahul Thapliyal directed Mera Wajood (A Compulsion) enthralled the audience next.  Directed by Parminder Singh, it showed the plight of sex workers and how the society puts the blame on the female while the males who patronizes the profession and frequent red light areas escape the blame. Parichaya, directed by Rajiv Kohli and assisted by Pranav Shekhar of Soch Theater Group was a beautiful display of acting talent by artists who mesmerized the audience through depicting the pathos of parents who educate their children only to lose them later in their old age, owing to the charm of a better life abroad or developing personal careers in distant lands. Ashish Modi and Rani Sonkar through their  wonderful display of acting talent kept tickling the emotions of the audience amidst good acting display by Manoj Aryan and Arsh Khan. And none could escape from laughing whenever Sahil Arora entered the stage in his splendid comic act as a house servant.

A very excellent display of acting talent was also visible in the enactment of Othello by Nepathya – theatre society of PGDAV College (University of Delhi), which was followed by Chitthee by Shanjha Sapna, directed by Ishwar Shunya.

A scene from Panchlight by Thetron Theater Group

Amidst all this excellent rendering of theatre skills by trained professionals, child artiste Shabih showed that despite being of tender age and an amateur, she has got the talent to perform and win accolades while performing in the company of such talented professionals from various theatre groups. She showed the plight of a young girl, whose wish to go to school remain unfulfilled as circumstances forced her to work as a housemaid. For nearly seven minutes of her on-stage mono-acting performance Shabih managed to stir the emotions of many in the audience through projecting the emotions of the girl child and her resolve to study amidst circumstances that do not allow her to do so. This performance could serve as a great promotion for the already-publicized Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyan, which is one of the flagship social welfare campaigns by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Shabih Fatima, trained by her teacher Monika Sawhney and promoted for this stage by Sangeeta Sahni, is under the tutelage of Ashok K. Pandey – Principal of Ahlcon International School. Ahlcon International School is one of the foremost schools in East Delhi, which is known for promoting art, culture and sporting talent among the kids beside their overall educational development and grooming the students for their future lives.


Empowering and employing rural Jharkhand

Junaid Kamal Ahmad, the Director of the World Bank in India, might not have even thought that his visit to tribal-dominated Jharkhand could present before his eyes live examples of rural women empowerment and self-employment, courtesy the innovative planning and executional approach of the State government. That he visited various tribal districts in the State and was all praise for the efforts is now an oft-quoted news.

Jharkhand might arguably be the most backward region of the entire Indian sub-continent but the way Raghubar Das’s government, through its various programs, including the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society, has embarked on a mission to empower rural women and enhance the prospects of their livelihood while still staying in the villages, is not only praiseworthy but could also serve as an example to be followed.

Describing the efforts, Bishnu Parida – the CEO of Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Council (JSLPS) – says: “Under rural department, through JSLPS, we are implementing various schemes which are aimed at reducing or eliminating rural poverty and at the same time empowering rural women to take up gainful livelihood activities. The main program we are implementing is the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) and through this we are promoting community institutions of poor, for the poor. And through these community livelihood missions, we are targeting rural households all across Jharkhand.”

Elaborating further, Parida says: “We are building their capacities, we are training them to take up gainful livelihood activities and also linking them to financial institutions, mostly banks, to avail credit, which is prerequisite for any economic activity. “

The programs are actually people led programs and the Government has gone a step ahead by even eliminating the NGOs and middle-men from the execution process. The community members are being directly trained with an aim to create a cadre of trained community professionals, who will eventually handhold their neighbours and household members.

Tells Parida: “In the initial phase we have our own professional team who are placed at cluster level, block level and district level, but subsequently we are also grooming and nurturing these community institutions through trained community professionals, and be it social mobilization, financial inclusion or even livelihood promotion, all these activities are being taken care of by the cadres only.” These community professionals have been provided quality technical inputs and then they are disseminating and sharing the knowledge with community members.

Giving further details, Program Manager with the Society Kumar Vikash says that the women self-help groups so created have been given the name Sakhi Mandal. A group of ten to fifteen women from the same socio-economic background, and from the same village, are grouped to form a Sakhi Mandal. While some funding is done by the society, and their micro credit plan analysed, they are passed on to banks so as to meet their credit needs.

Various cadres are being promoted, all of whom have their own success stories. One such cadre is PashuSakhi which seeks to promote livestock (goat/sheep/pig/poultry) rearing as a source of livelihood for rural poor especially women. PashuSakhi is a practicing goat farmer from the community (mostly an SHG member) who is promoted as para veterinary worker in the villages to give services to the goat rearing farmers from within their villagesfor better upkeep of their livestock. This has helped in reducing the goat mortality rate in villages where PashuSakhis are in operation. Till now access to on time, low cost, door-step livestock health care, first aid and knowledge has been a key constraint in livestock production, which has adversely affected poor people’s livelihoods.

Another innovative enterprise by Sakhi Mandals is the Ajeevika Didi’s Café. Through Ajeevika Didi’s café, JSLPS aims at creating a brand for restaurants, dhabas and catering in the form of an enterprise run by women entrepreneurs of Sakhi Mandals, thereby not only creating a chain of quality eateries all across Jharkhand, but at the same time also involving a team of women entrepreneurs from each village, cluster, block or district, to create high income business models.

Four to five Ajeevika Didi Cafes have already started operations while more are coming up. The Chief Secretary has recently issued instructions to all districts to push this innovative strategy on priority.

Ajeevika Didi’s café would be a community owned and managed brand aimed at providing livelihood to women entrepreneurs in Jharkhand. It will be a for-profit venture. Through these cafes, the people can also avail traditional, home-made, and healthy food away from their homes.

TabletDidi is another innovative program based on Narendra Modi’s Digital India program. Consequently, the women of rural India who did not even know how to use mobile phones are working on Tablets today to seek information, are also keeping accounts of others and even playing games and seeking knowledge through the Internet. Interestingly, there are more than 700 women in Jharkhand today who are working as TabletDidi, many of whom didn’t know till sometime back the difference between this electronic Tablet and the medicinal tablet that we consume upon falling ill.

Ajivika Krishak Mitra too are out there telling the poor villagers the latest techniques related to farming and training them in their use. Consequent to these efforts, several rural women have become self-employed and taken themselves out of poverty. Whereas they were unable to make the ends meet despite farming and working as petty labours, many of them are now sending their children to private schools.

Empowerment is the key to poverty alleviation and Jharkhand has realised it far earlier than most Indian states. This empowerment is happening through community institutions in the form of Self Help Groups (SHGs). Through nurturing and strengthening these community institutions and providing them with relevant training through professionals, it is possible to make a significant impact on the rural community.

Seeds of the good work have already been sown and the buds in the shape of results have already started showing!

Aziz Haider

(Article exclusively done for Outlook Magazine)

Getting intimate with life-giving oceans

It was in 1998 when the Centre for Marine Living Resources & Ecology (CMLRE) was established directly under Ministry of Earth Sciences (MOES) by upgrading the erstwhile Sagar Sampada Cell with exclusive facilities for implementing Marine Living Resources (MLR) Programme. Since then, CMLRE has been organizing, co-ordinating and promoting ocean development activities in the country which inter-alia include mapping of the living resources, preparing inventory of commercially exploitable living marine resources, their optimum utilization through ecosystem management and R&D in basic sciences on Marine Living Resources and Ecology.

Coming forward from that modest beginning about 20 years back, it became apparent that CMLRE has scaled a long journey towards progress and development when Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the Union Minister, in the presence of Dr. M. Sudhakar (Director CMLRE) and senior scientist N. Saravanane, stressed the need to develop CMLRE as a national centre to coordinate all spheres relating to the sector and to develop further the country’s ecosystem-based management strategies relating to the seas,during his visit to the CMLRE institute at Kakanad, Kochi.

Dr.M. Sudhakarwho has years of experience with the CMLRE says it is the only institute in India that is dealing with marine living resources in the deep waters. Elaborating on the major role played by CMLRE, he says: “CMLRE being the national centre established exclusively to address the marine living resources of our country has already made several focussed studies to assess the ecosystem processes, preserve and harness living resources. Our understanding has improved on these aspects to a large extent though still there are many unresolved issues, the prominent being (i) Is coastal pollution really significant and affecting marine living resources; (ii) what factors influence the marine fish distribution and their stocks; (iii) their breeding and recruitment grounds; (iv) effect of adverse environmental conditions like during El-Nino years of sea warming and ocean acidification; (v) wealth and records of bio-diversity in our Indian seas; (vi) unconventional fishery resources of deep-sea and its connection to coastal ecosystem, etc. Several concerted efforts have been planned based on our understanding of the seas, mainly by switching to the Ecosystem approach based studies. Towards this, in the first instance, CMLRE has taken-up two intensive projects during 2017-20: (a) Marine Ecosystem Dynamics of Eastern Arabian Sea (MEDAS), a mega multi-disciplinary ecosystem approach based time-series study involving multi-institutional expertise; and (b) Resource Exploration and Inventorization Scheme (REIS), both aimed to address major issues outlined above.”

CMLRE’s active engagements in deep seas can be understood by its various collaborations with several international activities viz. (i) Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS); (ii) Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR); (iii) Belmont Forum – Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services; (iv) Convention on Biological Diversity and (v) Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) – a new legal instrument proposed under United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS). Through these collaborations and negotiations combined with in-house focused research, India stands to showcase its strengths in assessing and sustainably harvesting our marine biological resources for future needs.

“As part of its marine biodiversity program, we try to identify the various species that are available in the Indian waters and we are now working on deep sea fisheries and distant water fisheries,” tells Dr.Sudhakar adding that CMLRE has also identified 5 species of ornamental fishes, which are in great demand abroad, and has developed the technology to breed them and multiply them.

Exploration and exploitation of Antarctic marine resources too is of paramount importance, particularly when 26 countries including India, that too from far off countries like Norway, have taken quota allocation in the Antarctic region for research and exploration. While countries like Norway are looking at Antarctic for its food alternative requirements, Dr. Sudhakar says “we will have to see how viable it is for our country and its requirements.” However, it is clear that CMLRE will require a lot of support from Govt of India if it is to carry forth its deep sea mission and work on distant water fishing and deep water fishing. The CMLRE director agrees that he is getting the desired support from the Government.

Somasunder, working as Adviser with Ministry informs that the Government of India is now planning for sustainable development which mainly covers life below the water. The UN has lately come up with a charter specifying special goals for oceans and India is a signatory to it. In a conference held recently to address the sustainable development goals mainly conservation, preservation and sustainability of ocean resources particularly in terms of pollution and its impact, the UN put forth national as well as global indicators. These are as follows: (i) Prevent, reduce, minimize pollution; (ii) Preserve, conserve and sustainable use of marine resources; (iii) enhance the scientific capability; and, (iv) Implement the UN framed laws to harness resources in sustainable manner.

Entire activities that are conductedpresently can be divided into four broad segments: living resources, non-living resources, ocean observation and infrastructure expertise, says Dr.Sudhakar. As part of its work on non-living resources, water currents are being used to meet energy and fresh water requirements. There are three plants working which produce 1 lakh liters of fresh water every day. Work is going on to commence 4 more plants in 4 different islands of Lakshadweep. Besides, a plant is going to come up soon which will generate energy from water and the same energy will be used to operate a desalination plant.

Elaborating further on this, Dr. Purnima Jalihal, the Project Coordinator with National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) says: “We work with ocean energy forms which are waves, tidal (marine) current and thermal radiant. We have developed the first wave-powered navigational BUOY which will be useful for ports in our country. Also for the first time, we have developed a hydro-kinetic turbine which runs using the water velocity (marine current). Additionally, we have developed an Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) which uses the difference in surface temperature of water and the temperature at depth to generate power. Power is used to generate steam which is again condensed using colder water from the deep sea and thus absolutely fresh drinking water is obtained. This technology has gone a long way in solving the fresh water requirements in three islands in the Lakshadweep.”

Dr.Jalihal further informs that NIOT is working to scale up the technology for use on islands with larger population. “NIOT has already been able to successfully show offshore one million litre per day desalination plant. This plant, to be powered by OTEC will be put up at Kaviratti. A two million litre per day plant design is now ready at Tuticorn Thermal Power Plant station which we have scaled up for use by the industry on commercial basis.”

Oceans possess a lot of non-living resources as well, and technological advances have made it possible to harness these resources. Wakdiker, the Program Head with the Ministry informs that a great deal of activity is concentrated on deep sea resources in saline, international waters. India was the first country which has been awarded an area of one lakh sixty thousand square km in the international waters of Central Indian Ocean for exploration of polymetallic nodules. The nodules are potato-like structures which are found at the sea-bed, about 4 to 6 km below the water surface. Tells Wakdiker, “We had the contract with International Sea Bed Authority, which is a UN body, and which looks at the governance of such areas in the deep seas.” Incidentally, Dr.Sudhakar is an elected member of the Legal & Technical Commission for Internal Sea Bed Authority.

The polymetallic nodules, available on the sea-bed in the form of potato-like structures, contain copper, nickel and cobalt, apart from manganese. However, it has still not been possible to develop the technology to extract the minerals from these nodules. China and Korea, besides India, are the three countries in the process of developing the technology for extraction of metals. It is envisaged that India will be able to develop first pilot demonstration mining by 2021. In this regards, lot of efforts have been made by scientists from NIOT.

NIOT is also working on another program for exploration of polymetallic sulphides. Consequent to India’s explorations in the Indian Ocean, a contract has been awarded last year to National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research (NCAOR) to carry out further research in this field.

Informing further about NCAOR’s areas of work, Ravichandran says his organization is responsible for carrying forth scientific research in the Southern and Northern Poles besides the Central Pole, consisting of the Himalayan belt. Additionally, NCAOR is trying to study monsoon and also trying to map the entire Exclusive Economic Zone around India, a mammoth task considering the size of our country.

“In the polar areas, we are monitoring various parameters, looking at both and non-living,” says Ravichandran. NCAOR is running a station continuously, and analyses data collected from the stations in various poles in its labs on continuous basis. Elaborates Ravichandran, “We are the only organization working from North to South Poles. Scientists from all streams are working with us.” NCAOR also conducts various missions to the Antarctic on regular basis, in which scientists with expertise in various streams take part.

NIOT along with INCOIS is also doing its bit by providing advisory to the fishermen. Informing further on how it locates the potential fishing ground using the satellite data and tell the fishermen where to go for fishing, Shenoi, Director with INCOIS and NIOT says the data related to surface temperature and chlorophyll content in the ocean, till about 50 km from the shore are provided to the farmers which help them locate when and where to go in their search for more fishes. Today more than 4 lakh active fishermen out of the total estimated figure of about 10 lakh traditional fishermen in India use these services.

Elaborates Shenoi: “Fishermen wish to know how safe it is for them to go out fishing. We started providing them information called Ocean Page Forecast, where we provide forecast on wave, ocean current, ocean temperature and other related indices. Update is provided daily for the next 5 days. Normally small fishermen go out fishing for 2-3 days. These forecasts help them decide whether it is safe for them to go out.”

Third activity that is carried out is the Tsunami early warning system. Tells Shenoi: “We have the Indian Tsunami Early Warning System and UNESCO has designated us as regional Tsunami Service Provider. This means we have to provide Tsunami services for all the countries in the Indian Ocean whenever earthquake of magnitude more than 6.5 occurs. This information is provided to 22 other countries, besides India.”

In addition, now climate change issues are assuming greater importance. “This year we have started new activity for modelling from the point of view of climate change in relation to the Indian Ocean, which is warming up faster than all other oceans. We have constructed a global model and downsized it for the Indian Ocean region. Another new activity being taken up is to study Indian Ocean from the point of view of increased pollution levels as well as study the bio-geochemistry of water around India.”

All this would not have been possible without the high-tech Fishery Oceanography Research Vessel (FORV) SagarSampada with CMLRE besides two other smaller vessels. SagarSampada, now 33 years old, has served tirelessly to the needs of our country and continues to do the same even today, albeit with lesser efficiency. Dr.Sudhakar tells that “the process for the replacement of FORV has already been initiated and after lots of discussion and consultations, its technical specifications have been finalized. The new FORV with ultra-modern infrastructure will be the only deep-sea fishery vessel of the country after FORV SagarSampada and will hopefully serve as the backbone for further marine biological studies, very much on the lines of the services provided in the past by the now ageing SagarSampada.” Therefore, it is a matter of time when a state-of-the-art vessel will carry the Indian flag and torn past the waters of the Ocean in its attempt to get intimate with life-giving oceans.

Aziz Haider

Karnataka: Fulfilling promise of a transparent, responsible and people-friendly government

Siddaramaiah got elected as Chief Minister of the State of Karnataka on 13th May 2013. People of the State had shown great confidence in Siddaramaiah’s promise of a transparent, responsible and people-friendly government by giving the Indian National Congress a thumping absolute majority in the Legislative Assembly election. There was no doubt whatsoever that it was Siddaramaiah who had led the party in the State to victory, and electing him as the Chief Minister was a natural corollary to it.

More than four years have elapsed during which the Chief Minister has carried out several measures to stand up to the people’s choice. The recent launch of Pratibimba – a comprehensive web-based platform – was meant to showcase the government’s performance and achievements to the citizens and show to them to what extent the Chief Minister has stood up on path to fulling the promises of a transparent, responsible and people-friendly government.

Elaborating on the idea behind Pratimba, the Chief Minister himself had said at the time of its launch: “Pratibimba will help people across the state and the country to get a detailed information regarding the steps taken by us in fulfilling our promise of transparent, responsible and people friendly government.”

As LK Atheeq, the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister describes it, “Pratibimba, which means reflection, has been developed as the Chief Minister’s dash board, and will serve as a tool to improve efficiency in governance and allow citizens to track government’s progress.”

Further, Atheeq said: “’Pratibimba’ is a reflection of the growth story and development of the State, and the dash board will reflect the works of all the departments across flagship schemes, key programmes and projects undertaken in the State.”

Summing up, the Chief Minister had said: “This (Pratibimba) will be reflection of how much we have walked the talk by showcasing the efforts made by us in meeting people’s aspiration with our achievements.”

Walked the talk, he surely has! And with such deftness that there seems to be no incumbency factor working; his core supporters even hint that his vote base might have only increased during the last four years. Undoubtedly, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah today is the biggest sore throat for the chief opposition party eyeing an easy cakewalk when the State goes to polls sometime in mid-2018. It speaks of his work and how he has gone ahead on path to fulfil his vision of a progressive and developing Karnataka, and his efforts aimed at creating a system of reporting, tracking and measuring various departmental performance on programmes, projects and promises made, so as to enable departments to become more transparent, accountable and efficient.

A vocal champion of Kannada and its heritage, Siddaramaiah seems to know what clicks and what doesn’t, when it comes to politics. The dynamic CM is not the one who minces his words, when it comes to issues of national importance. He came down heavily on the demonetization drive, stating that black money constituted hardly 0.002% of the country’s economy.  Only recently, CM Siddaramaiah has put the ball back in the court of PM Narendra Modi by demanding loan waiver for farmers. Earlier, the State government had issued an order to waive loans worth Rs. 8,163 crore taken by over 22 lakh farmers from cooperative banks in the State. Likewise, the Karnataka government has constituted a nine-member committee to submit a report on the possibility of designing a separate flag for the state.

The Chief Minister is also known for his socialist, secular and people-friendly outlook. This was reflected in his staunch stand in support of holding ‘Kambala’ – a traditional annual buffalo race – holding of which was stayed by the Karnataka High Court’s division bench, on a petition challenging it in view of orders passed by the Supreme Court on jallikattu. Siddaramaiah had given his full support to people’s stir in support of Kambala. On an occasion, he had said: “We are in favour of Kambala, we are for Kambala. We pressurize the Union government to take a stand in favour of this (Kambala), similar to the way it favoured jallikattu in Tamil Nadu.”

Siddaramaiah also tried to take maximum benefit of both by-election wins in Mysuru-Chamarajangar districts of Karnataka earlier this year, which were portrayed as wins because of personal charisma of the Chief Minister. Needless to say, it was a big respite for the Congress which bucked the nation-wide trend seemed going in the other direction.

In another reflection (pratibimba) of his people-friendly policy, Siddaramaiah government recently regularized housing by STs and backward castes on private land. In an unprecedented move, the scheduled tribes and micro backward castes, who have been deprived of housing rights so far, a law was passed unopposed in the State Assembly granting ownership of houses to agriculture labourers living in over 300 unrecorded habitations on private land.

With this, an estimated two lakh people living in Lambanithandas, Gollarahattis, Vaddarahattis, Kurubarahattis, Nayakarahattis, Majaregramas, Haadis, Doddis, Palyas, Camp and Colony, all belonging to the poorest segment of society will come under the revenue department’s purview. It also fulfils in part the Congress’ 2013 manifesto promise of converting unrecorded hamlets into revenue villages, underlining the party’s image as the flagbearer of the poor, ahead of the state assembly polls in April-May 2018.

Talking about it, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said: “This is a major revolutionary decision taken after the famous ‘land to the tiller’ legislation was passed four decades ago. Whoever is residing in hamlets will henceforth become the owners of the houses in which they are staying. These are people who have been oppressed for years. Today they are liberated.”

The State’s budget for this year had been nothing short of remarkable. Another unprecedented move in the State was the announcement for ‘Namma Canteen’ (our canteen) where breakfast will be given for Rs. 5, lunch and dinner for Rs. 10 each. Such canteens will initially be started at one centre each in each of the 192 wards in Bengaluru.

The Chief Minister also announced setting up of Saviruchi mobile canteens in all 30 districts through the Stree Shakti self-help groups, a mid-day meal scheme for 12 lakh pregnant women, milk supply to over a crore school and anganwadi children five days a week and eggs to the malnutrition-hit anganwadi children twice a week.

The school children, who were earlier getting milk three days a week under Ksheera Bhagya scheme, will now be getting milk five days a week. The caring Chief Minister wants that milk is given seven days a week in future.

The CM claims that the midday meal scheme and Ksheera Bhgya have helped contain malnutrition among children and improved attendance in schools. Similarly, the Anna Bhagya scheme has helped prevent migration of people in search of jobs, he says.

Karnataka is the second largest milk producing state in India and the State government is committed to encourage dairying as an allied activity of agriculture. Currently, the State produces around 72 lakh liters of milk per day and the target is to increase it to 100 lakh liters in two years. In a bid to encourage farmers to take up dairy farming, the Government has enhanced the incentive on one litre of milk from Rs. 2 to Rs. 5 and it is spending Rs. 3.5 crore everyday on this count. The Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) which is now procuring 2.20 lakh liters of milk per day plans to increase the procurement to 5 lakh liters per day, in the light of CM’s special focus on the area and his promise of providing necessary financial assistance.

In a statement that will be quoted again and again in the times to come, particularly because of the great vision that it envisages, the Chief Minister said: “Darkness will not cast on the future of the land where women and children are the focus of development.”

It was amidst much thumping among the treasury benches that the Chief Minister announced laptops for 1.5 lakh students entering government and aided medical, engineering and degree colleges, and even louder cheers greeted his announcement of 49 new taluk, and also increased free rice under the flagship Anna Bhagya scheme from 5 to 7 kgs.

The most telling part in his budget was the scheme under which he announced to give LPG connections to two lakh families belonging to SC/ST and below poverty line in collaboration with the food and civil supplies department, mirroring the Ujjwala scheme and applying it more specifically to the Dalits and the poor.

The Chief Minister also announced special privileges for various tribal communities. “Assistance will be provided for the development of Jenukuruba, Koraga, Soliga, Kadukuruba, Erava, Gowdalu, Hasaluru, Iruliga, Siddi, Malekudiya, HakkiPikki, Thoda, Meda and other tribal communities and for taking up self-employment. For this, a grant of Rs 200 crore will be provided,” he said.

He also allocated Rs 100 crore for the development of tribes such as Budbudke, Gondhali, Helava, Pichakuntla, Jogi, Golla, Shikkalgar, Haavugara, and other nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes.

The CM also said: “A proposal will be sent to the Government of India under the provisions of Schedule V in the Constitution, seeking approval for constitution of Karnataka Tribal Advisory Council to give guidance and advice to the state government in formulating and implementing development plans for Scheduled Tribes.”

Other than allocations for Muslims and Christians, he has also earmarked Rs 10 lakh for Gurdwaras and Rs 5 crore for a cultural centre “to protect the culture and tradition of Sikh community” at Bidar on the occasion of 350th birth anniversary Guru Gobind Singh.

In an attempt to keep pace with fast moving states in the field of industrialization and technological growth, the Chief Minister is of opinion that Karnataka has an investor-friendly policy. “We continue to remain the No. 1 in the IT sector and Bengaluru remains the Silicon Valley and knowledge capital of the country because of that. Following our Global Investors Meet in 2016, investment inflow is much higher. In the last three months, we have surpassed even Gujarat in investments inflow. You will be surprised that we have a special impetus for industrialists from the scheduled castes and also women entrepreneurs. They are very happy with our initiatives.”

The State claims that during the last 4 years when Siddarmaiah has been the Chief Minister, 6,000 MW has been added in power generation. Special emphasis has been laid on the skilling of youth. Two lakh youth underwent skill development in 2016-17 while the targets for this year are to train 5 lakh youths. A separate department for skill development has been formed and the State’s efforts have resulted in the creation of about 2 lakh jobs (new jobs plus the filling of existing vacancies) in the government sector in the last 4 years.

The various steps of the Chief Minister suggest that he is aiming at the holistic development of the State.  As the CM said on an occasion: “Our goal remains the same – the last man/woman in society, the vulnerable sections and the farmers should benefit the most. We are accountable to the people of Karnataka as it is they who have voted us to form the government, and this is one of the ways of showing our accountability.”

Aziz Haider

(Article Exclusively done for Outlook Magazine)

Jharkhand: Bringing smile to farmers’ face

The efforts of the Jharkhand government to take development and benefits directly to the farmers have not missed anyone’s eyes. Not even the eyes of Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi!

The initiative of Jharkhand Government, under the leadership of Chief Minister Raghubar Das, to usher in a single window facility for farmers, has drawn the praise of Shri Narendra Modi, who saw it as an attempt by the Jharkhand government to bring smiles on the face of the State farmers. Speaking at a function in Jamshedpur, the Prime Minister said: “Everyone has talked and heard about the single window (facility) for industries, but your CM has come up with the novel concept of (creating a) single window for solving all the woes of farmers. You people are lucky to have government ready to fight and die for farmers.”

Needless to say, taking cue from Jharkhand’s initiative, several other states in the country have tried to follow this unique concept.

There remains no doubt whatsoever that the efforts of Chief Minister Raghubar Das for Jharkhand farmers are unprecedented. Referring to these efforts, Puja Singhal, Secretary in the Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Cooperative Department of the State says that in the last two and a half years, under the guidance and leadership of Chief Minister Raghubar Das, her department has taken several initiatives. She further says that in the next two years, her Department is preparing several new interventions for the benefit of State’s farmers. Speaking on the single window scheme of Chief Minister, she says: “The scheme launched by our Hon’ble Chief Minister about one and a half years back was a unique initiative in the country and I think we are the only state in the country having such a scheme.”

Chief Minister RaghubarDas’ efforts, aimed at providing farmers with crucial information on government schemes, weather, pricing of agricultural products, soil health cards, seeds, fertilisers, crop insurance and loans, complements the Prime Minister’s push for the KisanSuvidha App, a farmer-specific mobile application and eNAM, a national electronic marketing platform for agriculture products. The KisanSuvidha App is a mobile application that provides weather forecasts for the next five days, besides information on process of agricultural products at 50 nearby mandis (agri-markets); diseases likely to affect crops; advice from agricultural experts; technologies; and dealers in agricultural equipment. Any farmer can download it for free.

Under the Single Window scheme, the agriculture department has started providing all kinds of information related to agriculture under one roof. The executional and financial targets of implementation of this scheme have been given to the districts. In many districts, grand information buildings have been constructed where officers and experts of agriculture, cattle, animal husbandry, fishery, land conversion, agriculture science centre, etc. sit twice a week and solve all the problems of the farmers.

Apart from this, all information related to agriculture is being given to the farmers by SMS. If the crops gets infected with worm, what will be the favourable time for cultivation of crops, fish farming, animal husbandry, information related to livestock breeding including cows, poultry, goat, piggery, duck, etc., their vaccination and treatment, various schemes of Government from which farmers can  benefit, how to make them self-dependent through adopting to agricultural work, income growth solutions, what to do if the animal becomes ill, every such information is now available on phone.

Puja Singhal points out that about 28 lakh farmers are dependent on farms in Jharkhand. There is total of 79 lakh hectares of land, out of which 38 lakh hectares is arable land. Out of this arable land, only 25 lakh hectares of land is being cultivated. Nearly 13 lakh hectares of land lies fallow. Under another very beneficial scheme, the Government has set a target to convert the fallow land into fertile arable farms; the work has already begun to meet these targets.

And to create greater awareness among the farmers, the Government has started the Agri Festival RathYatra, so that farmers are provided with up-to-date information about agriculture. The Government has also started supporting the farmers in areas such as crop and seed production, procurement and sale of crops, etc. Kisan Mitra have been appointed who are ceaselessly working to solve the various problems being faced by the farmers and help them increase the production of crops.

The use of solar energy in water harvesting operations, seed production, pulse production, soil health card, agricultural equipment bank and operation of agricultural machinery and irrigation pumps are other schemes being carried forward. Beej grams have been set up for farmers in the State so that farmers do not have to wait for paddy seeds. At the same time, special focus is being levied on pulses and oilseeds as rabi crops.

Elaborating on the other major interventions by the Jharkhand Government, Puja Singhal says “another major intervention has been that we have a separate agricultural budget for the last two years in running and the agriculture budget focusses not just on agriculture but also components from water resources department, component from energy department, components from rural development department and various other departments from which everything has been converged into a separate agriculture budget, to show the kind of focus which has to be given to agriculture.”

She further states: “The Government and the Agriculture department are committed to the development of farmers and for this all these schemes have been worked upon. Attempts are being made to implement many novel schemes for the benefit of the farmers.”

There remains no doubt that these programs which the Government has launched are reaping greater benefits for the farmers and due to these freshly launched policies, unprecedented development is already visible in the agriculture sector.

As Chief Minister Raghubar Das had said on an occasion that the water of the village will remain in the village and the water of the farm will remain in the farm. The depth of this sentence was not realized until the Chief Minister started implementing the various unique schemes for the betterment of farmers and took to developing agriculture in the State in a mission mode, so that the faces of the farmers of the State always remain smiling.

Aziz Haider

(Article exclusively done for Outlook Magazine)

Nitish leaves his own party-men red-faced as he begins a new innings jointly with BJP in Bihar

Nitish and Laloo: Friends no more

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar yet again “invoked his conscience” to justify his decision to leave the ally RJD and Congress, with whom Nitish’s party JDU had jointly fought election against BJP’s communal agenda, and retain power, while leaving RJD and Congress out of the Government.

As Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the Vice-Chancellor of Ashoka University writes in “Old ways die hard”, a column in Indian Express earlier today: “Nitish Kumar has always been a politician’s politician. This has manifested itself in many ways. His first instinct has always been survival. He now has an enviable track record of managing to remain an indispensable figure in Bihar politics. His second instinct, like many politicians in India, is to ensure a relatively weak internal party organisation that ensures he is never challenged from the inside. He has combined that with a personal outreach, recognition, popular touch and a relative absence of personal thuggery to remain an important figure. In Bihar, electoral secularism was a wise thing to hold onto, which he did. But he never had any qualms about the NDA. He has also  managed to paradoxically combine both dependence on allies with his own indispensability.”

BJP is undoubtedly upbeat as they have pulled up a political coup of sort. Bihar was very important for realizing their dream of pan-India presence. And it is a big setback for Congress’s dream of making a strong front against the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. While Laloo and Rahul both have stated they had seen the writing on the wall few months back, apparently the biggest setback has been for certain politicians within the RJD, who claim to have been taken by surprise. It is strange that while Rahul Gandhi and Laloo Yadav had seen this coming, they could not fathom Nitish would go on to join hands with BJP so soon.

Nitish’s own party-men look stunned. Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar Ansari has spoken out against this new alliance claiming that even party leader Sharad Yadav was not aware of Nitish Kumar’s decision to walk out of the Grand  Alliance and form a government with the BJP.

Talking to newspersons, Ansari had said: “Nitish Kumarji has said he quit the Grand Alliance because he listened to his voice of conscience. My conscience does not allow me to support the decision to form a government with support from the BJP. He further said: “Though there were indications from sometime, I never believed that Nitishji will join hands with the BJP again. We were the ones who gave the slogan of ‘Sangh-mukt Bharat’ and ‘Sharab-mukt Samaj’. The issue on which we had parted ways with the BJP, fearing that they will get further strengthened under Modi, is what is happening today… So why join hands with the BJP now.”

Veerendra Kumar too said he was shocked by Nitish’s decision and said the Kerala unit of the party of which he is the state chief will not follow the Bihar Chief Minister into the NDA fold. He appealed to all JDU MPs to denounce the move and quit the party.

Sharad Yadav even met Rahul Gandhi, though he is also said to have spoken on phone with Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley.

Even though the immediate reaction of some of the JDU politicians is one of shock, politicians as they are, RNI has learnt that a few of them have already started making approaches for a Cabinet seat in the Union Government. Ali Anwar Ansari didn’t made himself available for comment today and his office maintained that his stand of not going with the BJP remains the same even today.

BJP sources have already started hinting of a cabinet expansion and it remains to be seen whether the politicians of JDU who are opposing the move stick to their stand or they too join the BJP bandwagon with lucrative cabinet ministries in the Centre.

Aziz Haider

You cant Preach Self Respect to Empty stomachs

Interview with the Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani. By ILANGOVAN RAJASEKARAN

IN mid July 2016, a video of a few Dalit youths being beaten and paraded by a mob for skinning a dead cow in Una in Gujarat went viral and triggered a mass movement for Dalit assertion that probably had few parallels in the history of modern India.

This battle for self-respect and dignity began with a 400-kilometre march by more than three lakh Dalits from Ahmedabad to Una braving threats and intimidation from Sangh Parivar elements and daring them with slogans such as “You may keep the cow’s tail, give us our land”.

One of the architects of the movement was Jignesh Mevani, a 36-year-old lawyer-activist who has been working for long on the Dalit land rights issue in Gujarat. As convener of the Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti, he made Dalits take a pledge that they would not do jobs such as skinning dead animals that were linked to their birth in a particular community.

Mevani is going ahead with his ambitious mission of uniting Dalits and all progressive forces, including the Left, on one platform to launch a pan-India movement against the growing menace of communalism and to safeguard secularism and work towards establishing a casteless society. There are many sceptics within the Dalit community about this approach.

Taking on the Sangh Parivar in its den, Gujarat, he says, is not easy. He realises that making Dalits conscious of their right to live with dignity is a stupendous task, and his immediate objective is to defeat the caste-centric nationalistic Hindutva caucus. “If they are defeated, the fractures in society can be removed. But it is not possible unless Dalits bury their differences and join hands with progressive forces,” he says.

Mevani was recently in Chennai on an invitation from the Caste Annihilation Front (Jathi Ozhippu Munnani) and to attend a series of programmes. He spoke to Frontline on the Gujarat model of development and why it failed, the rise of the scourge of right-wing extremism, and the deep differences within the Dalit community.

Excerpts from the interview:

The Gujarat development model that Narendra Modi is said to have scripted as Chief Minister of the State from 2001 to 2014 is now sought to be replicated at the national level. But you have criticised it as a failure. Why?

The Gujarat model is a lethal combination of neoliberalism and communalism, which syncs perfectly with Modi’s “Goebbelsian rhetoric” of development.

Sensing the growing divide between the rich and the poor in the post-liberalisation era, corporate giants and the political dispensation have been trying to deflect the attention of the masses from their economic plight. Communal fascism and globalisation are made for each other. It is not a coincidence that the Babri Masjid demolition took place soon after the country adopted the neoliberal agenda.

Please substantiate.

Well. The Gujarat model has, in fact, left the once-vibrant Gujarat in tatters today. The State had healthy financial stability until 2001, but is facing a huge financial deficit today. Gujarat’s public debt, according to reports, stood at Rs.53,000 crore then but is Rs.1,65,000 crore today. It is no exaggeration to say that Gujarat is facing economic bankruptcy today because of the prioritisation of unviable and anti-people projects that benefit only the corporate class.

Social spending on public health and education, employment and infrastructure has come down drastically. Modi’s model of development is to rob the poor and pay the rich. He gave away even fertile land and “gauchar”s [grazing land] to corporate giants at throwaway prices, causing severe stress to the State’s economy and ecology, which in turn led to a serious agrarian crisis and forced nearly 1,000 farmers to commit suicide in a decade in the State. Even water meant for farmers was diverted to big industries. Is this a development model?

Do you mean to say that Modi’s development model, which seems to have brought him successive electoral victories, will actually be disastrous for the country?

Absolutely. His failure to create jobs and ensure sustainable growth has been the main factor behind the massive Patel agitation for reservation. The Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, led by Hardik Patel, is campaigning for reservation under the OBC [Other Backward Classes] quota. Had Modi been committed to a sustainable growth [model], affluent social groups such as Patels would not have taken to the streets asking for reservation in employment and education, competing with the downtrodden. It is his gross failure that has created disharmony among various sections of the people in a once-peaceful State. This is his model of depravity and decay, which he attempts to implement across the country. Just imagine what will happen if he is allowed to pursue his mission based on “the Gujarat model”.


Is it not premature to say that his model will fail?

His model is bound to fail. Renowned scholars and economists have said so. Gujarat has been a laboratory to test the Hindutva agenda at the micro level. Now these right-wing extremists have started implementing it at the national level. Modi is their face. The country’s development is not their agenda. It is not about economics and development. It is something sinister, a majoritarian agenda that attempts to communalise a secular nation. The youth and farmers have been cheated like never before. Has Modi ever visited the family of a farmer who committed suicide? He will never in future too. For him big corporate houses are important, not the common man.Modi is just a mirage and will remain a total failure.

Many claim and believe too that Modi has brought Gujarat to the fore. It is the successful projection of this image of him that has brought the BJP to power at the Centre and in many States today. You cannot deny that.

It is just a fairy-tale fantasy. His “’Vikas Purush” image is just a corporate construct. His agrarian policy in Gujarat was a mess. Despite the massive Narmada project, in which a huge amount of taxpayer money was spent, half of Gujaratis are left with no water today. More than a lakh manual scavengers [safai mazdoor] of the Valmiki community are struggling to get basic minimum wages. There has been no visible effort to rescue them from this menial job and rehabilitate them.

It is a carefully propagated image that Gujarat is shining. Do you know that it is not found among the top 10 developed States despite Modi having been in power there for four terms from 2001. Gujarat has the largest number of malnourished people in the country and one of the most corrupt regimes today.

Modi promised to build 50 lakh houses for the poor in the State. But not even 1 per cent of that has been completed so far. These houses, mainly built under the Indira Awas Yojna, were to be completed within the maximum time limit of two years. But the majority of them are still incomplete, though the State has claimed that the target has been achieved. The incomplete houses are shown as complete. A similar fate has fallen on other welfare schemes, too. These fudged figures expose the emptiness of the Gujarat model, which excludes Dalits and the marginalised.

But Modi claims that his development model is inclusive and has benefited Dalits and the marginalised.

It is a lie. There is a 300 per cent increase in violence against Dalit women in Gujarat today. The data provided in reply to a query under the Right to Information Act reveal that a total of 501 rape cases have been registered between January 2001 and December 2014 in the State. Dalits in 104 villages are living in perpetual fear of death since they suspect that the police who give them protection against casteist forces might withdraw at any time and expose them to danger. [The government has identified 11 districts, including Mehsana, Ahmedabad (Rural), Amreli, Rajkot and Surendranagar, as “atrocity prone”.] The world knows how Muslims were victimised in Modi’s Gujarat. Is this an inclusive model?

Why do you lay stress on the distribution of land among Dalits at a time when they face social ostracisation, an issue that needs to be confronted and solved  immediately?

This problem of caste-based discrimination is not confined to Gujarat. In the post-globalisation period, Dalits have become “double victims” of both caste and class discrimination. In the post-Una era, Dalits understand the evilness of the Hindutva forces, which actually nurture caste-based discrimination, and the importance of owning land. Economic empowerment will ensure them dignity, socially and economically.

In India, land determines the caste system. The redistribution of surplus land in the possession of caste Hindu feudal landlords among Dalits is essential for their uplift. I have demanded that five acres [two hectares] of land should be distributed to each landless Dalit in Gujarat under the provisions of the Land Ceiling Act and the Agriculture Land Ceiling Act. Many of the parcels of land that were allotted to landless Dalits remain on paper.

At a time when the rhetoric of manuvadis is growing shrill, one must realise that both caste and class should unite. One cannot preach self-respect to empty stomachs. The land issue lies at the core of this movement, the aim of which is to move towards an all-inclusive model. If one studies Ambedkar and Marx in the context of atrocities, one can understand that they endorse the point that land reform is the key tool for

Your views on coordination with Left and other progressive forces for Dalit liberation have been criticised not by Hindutva elements but by a few intellectuals and activists within the subaltern stream.

Yes, I am well aware of it. This sort of negativity and divisive approach, as far as I know, goes against the spirit of Amberkarism. Amberkarites interpret Babasaheb to their whims and create hurdles to the marginalised in their path towards emancipation and empowerment. Everyone knows that Ambedkar was not a Marxist, but can anyone deny the fact that he did have a class perspective? My objective is to place Ambedkar before the people in totality with his radical interpretations and also for critical appreciation. This would take one far closer to him and also to the Left, though it is imperative that we must engage with the latter continuously against its perceived dogmatic principles insofar as class is concerned.

An intellectual understanding of Ambedkar with an open mind will create the space to share commonness among the forces that are fighting communal and casteist elements even at the micro level. Unfortunately, the post-Ambedkar Dalit movement is a disappointment. There is hardly anything in it that can be called Ambedkarite. Given this, the character of mainstream Dalit parties is even more shocking. Dalit parties are caught in perpetuating identity politics, adopting whatever means that suit the individual leaders to achieve their political aspirations and power.

Ambedkarites, of course, can disagree with me. They have the right to do so. But in order to annihilate the monster of Hindutva capitalism that is waiting to devour even the meagre livelihood resources of subaltern society, is it not imperative for us to forge a broad coalition of the forces that propagate similar agendas? We must learn to agree to disagree.

Divided we fall?

Yes. We must realise that we are all sailing in the same boat targeting a toxic foe—Hindutva and its Varnashrama-based casteist structure. Ambedkar, in 1944, said that “the root of untouchability is in the caste system; the root of the caste system is religion attached to varna and ashram; and the roots of varnashramam is Brahminical religion; and the root of the Brahminical religion is authoritarianism or political power”.

The forces in Gujarat are systematically targeting Dalits and Muslims to construct a right-wing monoculture and identity. Today they have captured power at the Centre, and we need to keep that in mind. Our slogan in Gujarat, “you may keep the cow’s tail, but give us our land”, has no doubt stunned the right-wing communalists. It could be equated with the perspective that the Left propagates. So what if we Dalits and the Left have to work in tandem to defeat our common foe to achieve social and economic justice. I would say that Tamil Nadu is fortunately insulated against Hindutva machinations thanks to the legacy of the Dravidian movement and its leader [E.V. Ramasamy] Periyar.

What are your views on the Dravidian movement and the position of Dalits and Dalit politics in Tamil Nadu today?

As I mentioned earlier, Dalit politics across the country is caught in identity politics. But in Tamil Nadu, Dravidian ideology has more or less shaped the State’s overall social consciousness and kept the fundamentalist elements out. There is a morbid fear that the dilution of the Dravidian movement and the [weakening of] Dravidian political parties have created a congenial environment for the entry of right-wing forces.

Ambedkarites in Tamil Nadu, I understand, feel that the Dalit parties have not addressed the issues they are supposed to. They are also suspect that the present Dravidian political parties are OBC-centric and hence against Dalits, who form nearly 20 per cent of the population. This distrust and suspicion about the Dravidian movement, besides the Left’s class theory, cannot be dismissed.

But we must keep one thing in mind—you cannot dismiss the progressive forces outright. We can criticise their ideologies that are at fault. But can it be an impediment to join hands with them in the annihilation of communal fascism? Can we fight a lone battle against a formidable foe emerging as a monolithic entity? Then, it can never be an even battle.

While the Hindutva forces are getting united across the country, why have leaders like you and of other Dalit political parties not attempted to forge a common platform at the national level involving Ambedkarites, Marxists, secularists, Dravidians and others?

Yes, certainly. The foremost requirement is Dalit unity by removing the inherent “internal casteism” among us. We will be organising programmes to give shape to the structure of anti-caste politics. The Left in India has made some mistakes. At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that Ambedkarite politics, too, has similar problems. I am not going to turn away anyone who wishes to join us in our struggle for our emancipation and empowerment.

The point is simple—even after witnessing what we are witnessing today, if the Left, the Ambedkarites and activists of the self-respect movement don’t come together, it will be disastrous not only for the nation but also for Tamil Nadu. With the kind of legacy Periyar’s movement has had here, we can definitely defeat the dark and devilish medieval forces like the Sangh Parivar and the BJP.

History will never forgive us if we don’t come together and stop the entry of such dark forces.

Dalit activists feel that the fight against caste oppression by the OBCs should be prioritised. They have a point. Unless you eradicate caste and the discrimination associated with it at the micro level, how can a social group be brought into the mainstream at all to achieve inclusiveness?

Agreed. The ultimate aim of any Dalit party or any Dalit rights group has to be the annihilation of caste, whether it is at the micro or macro level. Almost everywhere in the country, we see that most of the atrocities inflicted on Dalits are by the OBCs, who have been “Brahminised”. Also, the way in which the Indian state has carried out land reforms, the Sudras have become even more oppressive on Dalits. But without Dalits joining hands with democratic and secular forces, their cause cannot materialise.

Dalits have become cynical about many of these issues. Certain sections within the Dalit community propagate the belief that there is a Brahmincal conspiracy in everything. They believe that each Brahmin on this planet is out there to destroy the lives of Dalits, little realising that our problem is with Brahminism and not with Brahmins. So, yes, I agree that we need to be open to embrace the progressives, provided they are ready to join us in the annihilation of caste.

What is your suggestion for the eradication of caste?

My suggestion is that land reform is the most vital tool that can overhaul the structural change in society and give socio-economic empowerment to the marginalised. Caste is not just a sociocultural phenomenon, as it has a material foundation as well.

So I will keep coming to Tamil Nadu and the other southern States and try to launch a struggle for land reforms, which alone, I believe, can eradicate caste inequalities, and particularly for our Panchami land. So I will urge not just Dalits but all pro-poor and anti-caste forces to come together to launch a united struggle to retrieve the Panchami lands that were allotted to Dalits by the British, though I know it will be a stupendous task. This will be definitely our main agenda here.

Your dream of uniting secular forces against communal fascism appears to be far-fetched. How will you consolidate the different elements from within and outside the Dalit community for a united movement to achieve an egalitarian society?

We must create a joint platform of all like-minded and all anti-Sangh Parivar forces across the country. We cannot let our struggle languish in isolation. Me, Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid Shora and many other socially conscious stalwarts, activists and friends are already working on this. Hopefully, we will be able to show a trailer of this unity very soon, maybe before the Gujarat Assembly elections of 2017.

The Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch is successful in Gujarat. The task ahead of us is mammoth and not going to be easy at all. Dalits are now under the clutches of some cynical people—fragmented, confused and isolated. Bringing them together under one common banner and shaping it as a movement with class perspective is a no mean task.

But we will. Many in the States I travelled to, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, have expressed their willingness to join us in this cause. I need the support of all to defeat our common enemy—Hindutva-propelled capitalism.

Our enemy has been identified. Now join us to retain the identity of the nation as an inclusive entity with its moorings firmly entrenched in its secular, caste-free and progressive ideology.

Lynching to power

Mashal Khan, a 23 year old journalism student was seized from his dorm room by a mob that stripped and beat him, then shot him dead on 13 April 2017 in Mardan in North West Pakistan. Khan was accused of offending Islam (Rasmussen and Baloch 2017). In the month of May 2017, a mob attacked a police station demanding that Prakash Kumar, a 34 year old Hindu, arrested under blasphemy laws of Pakistan, be handed over to the mob (AFP 2017). Just over a week later, a mob attacked a mentally ill man who claimed to be a prophet at his local mosque in north-western Chitral (Pakistan). He was rescued by police. The spate of incidents followed government of Pakistan’s drive against blasphemy. Unproven allegations of “insult to Islam” led to dozens of mob attacks or murders since 1990 in Pakistan.

India is trying to catch up with Pakistan with spate of mob lynching after the BJP Govt. was elected to power in May 2014, different only with regards to minor details. Replace the allegation of “insult to Islam” with “cow slaughter” and you get same lawlessness and lynch mentality on this side of the border. The similarities between Pakistani – jihadi if you prefer the term – and Hindu supremacist lynch mobs are many – on both sides of the border the blood thirsty lynch mobs were encouraged by specific legislations – blasphemy laws in case of Pakistan and anti-cow slaughter laws in case of India.

The lynch mobs on both sides of the border target their respective minorities with the state law and order machinery laid back and taking little action against the members of lynch mob. They target the economically poor, politically weak and socially marginalized within the minorities. Not the elite within the minorities. The lynch mobs do not target owners of the beef packaging and exporting industry and large slaughter houses. Slaughter of large number of cows and progeny would come to a near halt if fear of God was put in the owners of beef exporting industry.

Instead of taking strict punitive action under law against the members of lynch mob, the machinery mandated to uphold law and order investigate the allegations made by the mob against their victims. Booking the victims of the lynch mob is meant as a measure to appease the blood thirsty mob. The Pakistani police registered offence against Prakash Kumar. In case of Mashal Khan, Abdul Wali Khan University launched an inquiry whether Khan insulted Islam. In the case of Dadri lynching, the police sent sample of meat to laboratory for testing whether it was beef.

In both countries, the lynch mob enjoy patronage of politicians from the ruling party and dominant religio-political organization – Hindu supremacist in India and Islamic fundamentalist organizations in Pakistan. In both the Countries, law abiding citizens were horrified by the violence invoking religious issues. Protestors in India protested in various cities and towns under NotInMyName campaign after lynching of a teenage boy Junaid in Haryana. Protesters gathered across Pakistan, calling for justice after lynching of Mashal Khan. Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Nawaz Sharif condemned the murder – although it took him two days. Prime Minister Modi too condemned the so called “gau rakshaks” for records more than nudging the police to act against them effectively.

Indian Constitution is democratic, whereas Pakistan is believed to be dominated by “jihadi” ideology. While there have been only about a dozen lynching in Pakistan since 1990, in India, media reported 33 incidents of mob lynching since the year 2015 beginning with Dadri. Some say there were 67 incidents since 2015. 18 persons, including one Hindu, were killed and 71 persons were injured. 7 of the 71 injured in the lynching have been Hindus and 14 dalits. Two incidents of lynching took place in Karnataka and one each in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Assam, West Bengal and Bihar. Whereas 26 lynching incidents have taken place in BJP ruled states, including Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, UP, MP, Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir.

We are made to believe by the lynch mobs in Pakistan that they are protecting Islam and the lynch mobs in India that they are protecting cows. Wrong. Neither Islam needs protection of lynch mobs nor are the cows protected by them. In fact their actions endanger both – cow and Islam. Pakistani lynch mobs are in fact defaming Islam by their violent actions. Experts have pointed out that the peasant would not be able to bear the burden to maintain a cow beyond its lactation period and they may opt for other milch animals and the number of cows in the country may drastically go down. The animators and leaders of lynch mobs have other objectives which we would like inquire into a little later. “Silence of the majority”

Lynching is possible in a context wherein a social group is demonized and stigmatized for years, particularly the minorities in Pakistan and India. Minorities are demonized so frequently and so widely using media and social media platforms that they are perceived as anti-nationals and loyal to the “enemy” state. Just because a few Muslim women wear veils and a few Muslim men wear skull cap and grow beard, they are stigmatized as fanatics whereas Hindus applying “tilaks” on their foreheads women wearing “mangalsutra” or Sikhs wearing their headgear and carrying “kirpan” are not perceived as religious fanatics.

Such perceptions do not emerge from nowhere. Differences of way of life are politicised. PM Modi when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat had demonized Muslims to be breading like rabbits in relief camps and denied any material support to hapless displaced of riots in 2002. The PM Vajpayee had to remind the CM of Gujarat of his “raj dharma”. Maneka Gandhi, Minister for women and child welfare without any evidence said that the profits from cow slaughter are funding terrorism in the country. The Jains and Hindus are owners of largest slaughter houses and have substantial stake in beef export market earning huge profits. Why would they fund terrorism? Sakshi Maharaj, a BJP MP said “madrasas” are training grounds of terrorists. Amit Shah, BJP President during campaign in Bihar state elections said that Pakistan would celebrate the defeat of BJP! He had earlier during the General election campaign called upon his Hindu audience to take revenge of Muzaffarnagar communal violence. These are just a few examples of demonization of Muslim and Christian minorities by Hindu supremacists for many years and now they have become conventional wisdom.

State functionaries ignore these hate crimes and remain silent. They shirk their Constitutional mandate and duty to bring those committing hate crimes to justice. This strengthens the assumption within the people that the averments may be true. People then come to believe that the law of the land and criminal justice system is not effective to tackle these criminal, unpatriotic and anti-national traitors that the minorities are.

Lynching receives silent approval of the majority in this backdrop. Mere allegation is enough to believe that a Muslim driver transporting cattle or meat in spite of all necessary permits is a “cow smuggler” or a co-conspirator in cow slaughter. Similarly, in Pakistan, mere allegation that a Hindu or a Christian has insulted Islam or Prophet is sufficient to be convinced of their guilt. This assumption of guilt gives rise to silence of the majority. Large majority of populace of the country is converted into believing the allegations of animator of the lynch mobs without any question. Mashal was lynched in Pakistan, the other students were silent spectators as no one even asked what did Mashal Khan do or say! 16 year old Junaid Khan could be stabbed to death and thrown out of the train as all the passengers were silent spectators. Media reports suggest that even on the railway platform on which Junaid bled to death, no one came forward to speak to the police. The credentials of the animators and members of the lynch mobs do not matter. They may be bullies or extortionists or even criminals often having political ambition.

The lynch squads pretending to be “gau rakshaks” have been functioning Gujarat since at least over a decade. There are over three scores of them in Ahmedabad alone and many more in other towns of Gujarat. The lynch squads are well networked under patronage of a politician and they cultivate informers all over the place. The squad receives information of vehicles transporting animals from one place to another and whose driver or owner is a Muslim. On receiving such information, their animator/leader assembles the members, sets up unauthorized blockades on road. After the vehicle is stopped, the first thing they do is snatch all the permits that the driver of the vehicle may show  (Engineer 2014). At times they extort money and allow the vehicle to carry on and at times they start lynching, they may video graph the whole lynching, summon the police and hand them over. The video is uploaded on social media to exhibit the prowess of the lynch squad. The police would then charge the victims of the lynch squad under anti-cow slaughter legislations and other laws. If a lynch squad is able to mount several such operations, their leader establishes himself as a local bully and has an accelerated political career in the party wherein Hindu supremacist seek opportunities. Hate crimes create silent spectators which enables lynching and which in turn is used as an instrument to deepen demonization of the minorities.”Objectives of lynch mobs”

The lynch mobs have a political objective rather than religious one they pretend to have. If the Pakistani lynch mobs wanted to serve or “save” Islam, they should be saying their prayers, observing fast, serving the orphans and the needy through charity and treading the straight path in accordance with Qur’anic guidance, as many pious Muslims do. The lynch mob masquerading as “gau rakshaks” would not ignore the stray cows and hungry suffering cows in the “gaushalas” across the country receiving grants from tax payer’s funds. The lynch mobs and their patronisers desire an accelerated political career. Having legally and politically survived lynching operations, their participants have a sense of empowerment and above law. The lynch mobs establish their hegemony not only over the state machinery, but also over politically and socio-economically marginalized sections of the society, including minorities, dalits and other backward classes.

They enforce through coercion the will and way of life of socially hegemonic and privileged upper castes. The Pakistani lynch mobs establish their hegemony not only over the Hindu and Christian minorities but also over Ahmediya, Shias and rationalists. Lynching is leading to Wahabisation of Islam in Pakistan and reinforcing caste based hierarchies, and traditional upper caste and Khap panchayat morality in India. The lynchers trigger off political processes that strengthen patriarchy and control over women’s body, mind and movements. They politically push for more authoritarian state enforcing cultural norms and will of the upper caste. They undermine the concept of citizenship and push the society towards  mental ghettoization and acceptance of hegemony of community over the individual.

Resisting lynch mobs and speaking against them is not only in the interest of minorities directly threatened but also in the interest of society in general and democracy in particular. The majority will have to break their silence and be vocal against all forms of violence.

Irfan Engineer