Friday, December 15, 2006

A Poem in Three Acts

This poem is in response to reading Manish Gaekwad's fascinating blog, The Alibi Of Life. I thank my namesake, Amit Tiwari for drawing my attention to it.

Last night
While leafing through
Pages torn from your Soul
I beheld
A sudden passage of
Flickering images:

Words, shadows
All wrapped in
An infinite Silence-

In hope poisoned with despair
I looked everywhere
But found you nowhere.

From beyond the void

A voice
Cuts across-

A mirror cracks:

Caught in its countless broken pieces
Are glimpses of doomed destinies, obscured identities,
Dismembered memories and forgotten histories

Of battles won and loves lost-
A commentary
On things at once
Momentous and momentary.

With blind eyes
The poet sees

Look, your Alaap has become
My Aleph.


dedicated to and inspired by the writings of the poets Rumi and Borges
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Monday, December 11, 2006

Art: Saurav's Sketch

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Personal: Mummy and the Kota bye-election

To be perfectly honest, the idea that anyone from my family would contest the bye-election to the Kota assembly constituency in Chhattisgarh did not cross our minds. Needless to say, it came as a surprise when the three Block Congress Committees- all of which were appointed by the PCC President, Shri Charandas Mahant- unanimously passed resolutions recommending my mother's name for the party ticket. Several others from the constituency felt similarly. While driving through this area to go to my paternal village Jogi-Saar to attend 'Nava Khayi'- a traditional festival where the first harvest is offered to the family deity, Jogi Baba- I was even more surprised to see that walls of mud-houses had already been painted with her name. I've also been told that 31 of the 34 Congress MLAs from the state- i.e., everyone except the LoP, Shri Mahendra Karma, his deputy, Shri Bhupesh Baghel and the incapacitated, Dr. Chetan Verma- have written to the Hon'ble Congress President, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, requesting Mummy's nomination.

My mother, Dr. (Mrs.) Renu Jogi, has never been in public life. Until my father's accident in April 2004, she worked as an ophthalmic surgeon and a professor at the Government Medical Colleges at Indore and Raipur, having graduated from CMC, Vellore. In fact, most, if not all, pre-final MBBS students have read her text-book 'Basic Ophthalmology' (Jaypee Publishers, New Delhi): like her, the book is simple and to-the-point. She has also co-authored a collection of short stories, Phoolkunwar (Raj Publication, Delhi) with my father besides contributing regularly to the popular Hindi monthly, 'Sarita'. Her book on 'Paediatric Nursing', published by the National Book Trust, was awarded a prize by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Planning.

Mummy is not new to Kota. When my father first fell in love with her in 1973-4, she was already quite popular as a beautiful young 'doctorni' working at the Mission Hospital in our native village, Pendra Road. Even after their marriage, she has remained very active in the area. There isn't a village in the entire region where she hasn't personally conducted an eye-camp. She was instrumental in organizing the 'Rajiv Gandhi Life Line Express'- a hospital-train- at Pendra Road and Kota, where thousands of villagers received life-saving on-the-spot medical treatment. In memory of my late sister, Mummy started the 'Anusha Self-help Group for Women': during the past five years, more than 10,000 women, many of them from Kota, Marwahi, Raigarh and the various Central Jails of the state, have received vocational training in traditional kantha (embroidery) work, bringing about the revival of 'Marwahi Art'. The 'Anusha Ashram' at Gaurella (also in Kota Vidhan Sabha) houses an old people's home, training-centre for girls and has undertaken massive afforestation drives in the township. She also opened the 'Muktidham', so that those abandoned by Fate may be cremated with dignity. Very recently, Mr. Nimrania, who supervises the daily working of the Anusha Ashray, was conferred the most respected citizen award by the township's mayor-in-council: his selection has been unanimous, cutting across party-lines.

As a doctor working at Raipur's Government Medical College and Hospital, she persuaded certain prominent citizens to contribute towards providing hot meals to the several attendants of outstation patients at a nominal sum of Rs. 2 per meal. The Rajiv Smriti Van, in which thousands of 'memorial trees' have been planted by the loved-ones of those departed on what used to be barren land, too was her brainchild: not surprisingly, it is a favorite haunt with the capital city's lovers and young couples (incidentally, whenever she visits, she makes it a point not to disturb them!). She also prevailed on our state's top industrial houses- Monnet, BALCO and Jindal, to name a few- to 'adopt' public parks, not just in Raipur but also elsewhere: consequently a lot of goodwill, not to mention good publicity, was generated for them in return for beautifying these derelict spaces. It is obvious to me that she believes that governments can be effective only if they involve active private participation. Although I tend to attribute the shaping of my own belief-system on governance to the writings of the Austrian political economist, Friedrich August von Hayek, the fact is that Mummy has proved time and again that what he has written actually works.

Personally, she is the most courageous person I know. Twice- once after his accident in April 2004 and again when he suffered a stroke in November 2005- she has fought for Papa's life and snatched him from the jaws of death. Not once have I seen her lose her composure, even when Papa and I broke down. When I was in jail, she was my strength: "you are not alone, beta," she would tell me everytime she visited. I wrote a poem for her on her birthday, describing the way I feel about her. For her, it is the best gift I've given her. She is the silent pillar- the anchor- that has held my family together. Even my father's worst opponents hold her in the highest esteem. Everytime I've met Shri Dilip Singh Judeo, he has told me how much he admires her. To me, that speaks a lot about the kind of person she is.

Now, when her name is on the front pages of all the state newspapers, she can't imagine what all this fuss is about. Before leaving for Delhi with my father two days ago, I took her aside, and asked her what she wants: 'your father (Papa),' she said, 'is my number one priority'.


POST-SCRIPT: November 17, 2006. 1:34 a.m.

While the Congress Party is yet to declare its candidate for the Kota bye-election, it has become clear that my mother is not to get the nomination. The reason is the forthcoming elections to the Uttar Pradesh assembly.

The Kota assembly seat has been represented by two Brahmins- Pandit Mathura Prasad Dubey followed by his nephew Pandit Rajendra Prasad Shukla- since Independence. It would therefore send 'a very wrong message' to the electorate of U.P. if a non-Brahmin- i.e., my mother- were given the party ticket from a 'Brahmin seat'. For the record, the Brahmin population in Kota constituency is no more than 2.7% while tribals constitute over 43%.

The choice is now between two candidates: the son of Pandit Rajendra Prasad Shukla, Pandit Sunil Shukla and the city Youth Congress president, who is also called Pandit Rajendra Shukla. The former has already communicated his unwillingness to contest this election; he has also said that in his opinion (shared by the 3 Block Congress Committees of the Kota assembly) my mother is 'the only candidate likely to win'. The latter's greatest asset is his name, which he has in common with the former MLA of this constituency.

As loyal partypersons, we will of course do everything to ensure that the offically declared Congress candidate wins this election.


Post- Post Script

At 12:50 PM today, my mother, Dr. Renu Jogi, was officially declared as the Congress candidate. She filed her nomination papers before the Returning Officer at 2:40 PM, less than twenty minutes before closing time.

She has begun campaigning in earnest.



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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Naxalism: (L) The Evacuation of Muded

Last night, SPOs evacuated the village of Muded on their way to Bhopalpatnam. Over 700 villagers were forced to leave their homes. The specific instruction was: "take nothing except rations to last a week." I do not yet know where- to which particular 'base-camp'- they would finally be taken. Or how many will make it alive: many might well manage to escape to the neighboring states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra; quite a few will be shot, then dressed up in Naxalite uniform; the remainder shall be confined within slum-like 'base-camps', their lives no different from cattle. All hope of Return- all Hope- is dying out.

Today the SJ was scheduled to reach Patnam. It is not far-fetched to presume that families of those 28 brave elected representatives who had the courage to come all the way to Raipur, having traveled by a circuitous route for more than twelve days and nights, to speak out against SJ will be specifically targeted.

Suddenly, I feel very helpless.


Post Script:
Perhaps there is Hope? Here is a post from the erudite and tireless Anoop Saha:

"According to the initial reports, at least 60000 people attended the aamsabha today in Dantewada to protest against the Essar steel plant and Salwa Judum. People came from as far as Konta to attend the rally, which were addressed by leaders from CPI. The rally was entirely peaceful.

The district administration of Dantewada had refused permission to hold this rally at least three times. Finally the organizers went to the CG high court, which asked the district administration to allow this event. It is ironical that on the one hand armed Salwa Judum cadres are allowed to roam around freely in Dantewada and continue their killing spree, and a peaceful mass rally against a private company is blocked by the executive.

Thanks and Regards,
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Naxalism: (K) Voices from Bhopalpatnam

Note: I've recently been accused of being 'a Naxalite supporter' by Naxal Terror Watch: apparently, a link to an entry in this blog appears in one of the pro-Naxalite websites. According to this view, I seem to have only two choices: either I can be a member of the CP (Maoist) or a supporter of Salwa Judum. The third option, of speaking the Truth, does not exist for me. To set the record straight, I do not subscribe to such a dogmatic interpretation of Humanity. Thankfully, neither do these brave people of Bhopalpatnam, whose long suppressed voices, I hope, will begin to find utterance through this article.

The leaders of Salwa Judum (SJ) never tire of saying that it is ‘a spontaneous and peaceful people’s movement’ against militant-Maoism: this is what gives SJ its moral and political legitimacy; this is why we stop short of condemning SJ but merely criticize the way it is being conducted (‘provide security and training to the tribals first before asking them to take-on the Maoists’).

Two nights ago, 28 elected representatives from Bhopalpatnam block of Bijapur (in Dantewada 'revenue' district) appeared almost out of nowhere in the drawing room of our Raipur residence. It had taken them twelve days to get here. This is their story.


Mrs. Shashikala Dhruv, Chairperson, Janpad Panchayat, Bhopalpatnam:
"On 19 June this year, we were driving to Dantewada to see the C.O. regarding pending works in our janpad. Our jeep was stopped at the ghati. It was searched thorougly. An SPO got in and asked us to keep driving to Bijapur. At Bijapur, we were taken to the SJ base-camp. We were asked to get out of the jeep. A lady SPO asked for my handbag. Before she could snatch my handbag from me, I quickly took out my janpad seal and threw it away because I saw that other members were being beaten to sign some document and put their seal on it. My handbag was searched thoroughly. All the papers relating to janpad work were thrown away. Then we were taken inside a room. Narad Mandawi asked me where I was going. I told him that we were going to the C.O. office in Dantewada. He abused me and asked the lady SPO to beat me. She hesitated saying that 'how can I beat a woman?' Narad slapped her and said that "what's so special about ladies, are they 'topchands' (bigshots)?" He told her that if she doesn't beat me, he will beat her. Then the lady SPOs- there were four of them, aged between 17-18 years- began to pull my hair and hit me. It was around 11 'o clock in the morning. My 3 year old son and 12 year old niece (elder sister's daughter) were with me. They began to shout and scream. They continued to hit me. I don't know when I fell unconscious. There were 5 other women in the room along with the two children and 4 lady SPOs. It was a small room with no electricity. At 7, somebody brought us dinner, rice and lentils (daal-bhaat). I didn't eat much. The 4 lady SPOs said that "if we don't hit you, they will hit us." After dinner, 4 new lady SPOs came. They again started to beat us. I don't remember for how long but I fell asleep. All the time, they kept using the filthiest abuses against us in Hindi. It surprised me that ladies could speak such filthy language. Next day at 4 in the evening, we were given chuda (edible mixture). Nadar Mandawi, Chinnaram Gota, Madhukar Kondra, Hanif Khan and others asked us to sign on a blank piece of paper. They asked me put my seal on it but I told them that I didn't have it with me. Then Narad took our photograph with his mobile phone camera. We were then asked to 'get out quickly'. They told us that if we said anything about this to anyone, we would be killed."

Q. Why were you going to see the C.O.?
A. No work was being done in our janpad. The last time we had met the C.O., he released a measly sum of Rs. 2000 to each panchayat, which is not enough even for tea and snacks (chai-nashta). So we all decided to go together to ask him to release the allotted fund (moolbhoot rashi) at least.

Q. Why did the lady SPOs abuse you in Hindi? Why not in Halbi or Gondi?
A. In Bhopalpatnam, we speak mostly Telugu. We don't know Halbi. So they abused us in Hindi.

Q. Who is Narad Mandawi?
A. He is a Zila Panchayat member. His wife is also a member. Both were members of the 'sangam' (Maoist village committee) and could get elected only with the help of Naxalites. When SJ started, they squealed on other members. Now they are both on the (Naxalite) hit-list. They are extortionists, nothing else. If SJ ends, they will go back to being Naxalites.

Q. Who were the others with him?
A. Chinnaram Gota contested and lost the janpad election. Madhukar Kondra is a government teacher. Hanif Khan is a Congress worker, I think. They were all sangam members. Budhram Rana is the president of Bijapur SJ camp and janpad vice chairman. Suresh Rana is the secretary of the SJ camp. Gautam Sahu was a tailor. He is the local BJP head. There are not many BJP people here.

Q. Why did they beat and detain you?
A. I don't know.

Mr. Jaihind Kumar Latkar, Janpad member, Bhopalpatnam:
"We had decided to go to meet the C.O. in Dantewada from our respective villages (in Bhopalpatnam). In all, there were four jeeps. We had decided to halt midway at the Bijapur bus stand for refreshments. I was just telling Miccha Istari (Sarpanch, Tamnapalli) that I will have mutton curry when our jeep was stopped at the ghati at Mathed. I was asked to get down and a SPO got in. He asked us to drive to Bijapur base-camp. All along the way, I was made to stand on the footstand of the passenger's door...

Mr. Miccha Istari, Sarpanch, Tamnapalli:
"When I got down, I was taken to a man with a notebook. He asked me my name. Even as I was answering, 3-4 people started slapping me from behind. All my facial skin came off. There was blood all over. I fell unconscious. When I woke up, I was in a room with the rest of the men. We were 15-20 of us. A government doctor came to see us. He didn't ask or speak anything: just gave us all some capsules and an injection each, and went away...

At this point, Mr. Ingé Narayan, janpad member, shows me his right arm. It is bruised and slightly disjointed. He says even now he has difficulty moving it. By now, others present have gotten involved in the discussion. We get around to talking about more general issues. For the sake of continuity, I shall continue with the Q and A format. However, the answers are given jointly, with people adding or clarifying things to what someone has already said.

Q. Is there SJ in Bhopalpatnam?
A. No.

Q. Do you oppose SJ?
A. No, we don't oppose SJ. We only want that it shouldn't be started in Bhopalpatnam. That is why we have come to Raipur.

Q. Have the SJ people come to your block?
A. Yes, thrice.

Q. How did they come?
A. In gypsies, matadors, taxis, all bearing "CG" number plates. Once the CRPF jawans had come riding 32 motorcycles.

Q. Do you mean to say that the CRPF also comes?
A. Yes. They do nothing. They only provide protection to the SJ leaders.

Q. What do the SJ leaders do when they come to Patnam?
A. They go to the rest house. Then they send for local officers and the seths (well-to-do merchants). They also send for us but most of us don't go. When SPOs with guns come to our houses, we hide ourselves. They say: "you are supplying things to Naxalites. We know because at one time, we also did the same thing. But now we are SJ. So now you must to chase them away. If you don't, then we will burn our houses. We will eliminate you.

Q. Why don't you do as the SJ asks and 'chase them away'?
A. If the armed forces cannot do it, how can we? Let the police fight the Naxalites. It is a global problem. Why should we come in between? Why are innocent people being killed? We tribals are being killed both ways. SJ does it during the day, the Naxalites do it in the night. Everybody is leaving. Two more years, and no man will be left here.

Q. Why is everybody leaving?
A. To escape SJ, not Naxalites.

Q. Were the Naxalites better?
A. The Naxalites fought with the police and forest guards. Not with the common people. They let us live.

Q. Where do they go to?
A. They go to Andhra Pradesh: Chintur, Bhadrachalam, Etur Nagaram in Warangal district, Khamam...

Q. Don't the Andhra Pradesh people have problem with new people coming into their area?
A. No, they like us. We are hardworking. We do kulibhuti (labor). There, we get work for 12 months. They take three crops of paddy and one crop of chilly in a year. Even the Andhra Pradesh government is very helpful. It gives us land, builds houses for us. Here, the Chhattisgarh government takes away our land, burns our houses.

Q. SJ has not yet started in Bhopalpatnam. How can you say that the state government takes away your land and burns your houses?
A. We know because it has happened in the Usur block. Nearly 70% of that block has been 'emptied' (khaali kar diya). Entire villages are destroyed: Basaguda, Avapalli, Fuswanka, Gangnapilli, Pamed, Pujari Kanked, Nanbi, Galgam, Tegmetla...All the houses have been burnt. No cultivation is allowed there. No paddy, not even corn (bhutta). It also happened in Bijapur. In Gangalur village, the CRPF men came. They started to take the goats, chickens, everything. So the villagers started to run. Maybe the CRPF thought they were Naxalites, we don't know? But they started shooting at them. Countless people died. In Gornamankeli, the Naga (battalion) didn't even spare little children. Recently, in Dornapal they killed a Bengali fellow.

Q. Have you seen all this yourself?
A. Those people who cannot do kulibhuti (labor) do not go to Andhra Pradesh. They come and rent rooms in our villages. We give them work. Otherwise they cross the river Indravati into Ankisa in Maharashtra. It is only five kilometers from Asaralli, a village in Usur.

Q. If all the people are going away to other states, then who stays in SJ base-camps?
A. Very few do. That too only because they are afraid to go anywhere else. Most of them prefer to run away.

Q. But there are officially more than 55,000 people living now in base-camps?
A. In Bijapur, there are SJ base-camps at Jhangla, Nimid, Toyanar, Wangapal, Matwada, Bhairamgarh and Bijapur. Jhangla is probably the biggest of the lot. It doesn't have more than 400 persons.

Q. Why do you think there is this discrepancy between the official figure and the actual figure of persons living in base-camps?
A. Every base-camp chairman (adhyaksha) is allotted daily funds for food (ration) and other facilities on the basis of number of persons living there. If he says 3000 when there are not more than 300, then he pockets the extra money. It's that simple. Nobody goes to check anything anyway.

Q. How are base-camp chairmen (adhyaksha) appointed? Is there any election, any criteria?
A. No. Ajay Singh, the Bhairamgarh chairman, was appointed by (Mahendra) Karma.

Q. Are all base-camp chairmen appointed by Mr. Mahendra Karma?
A. Karma and his men make all appointments.

Q. What about the SPOs?
A. They are also appointed by them. Many are 13-14 year old boys. They are given guns. They go about doing what they wish. If you don't listen to them, they kill you. Now they are all being recruited in the state police...

Q. Doesn't the district administration have any say?
A. [Kaka Bhaskar, Tarlaguda sarpanch] I was intercepted by SPOs at Bhairamgarh. They told me that I had to go to back to Bijapur base-camp to join the rest. The additional (superintendent of police) was also there. I asked him to help me. He said he couldn't do anything and I must do what the SPO tell me to do. When we got to Bijapur, they smashed the glass-panes of the jeep. The SDO was sitting there. He also did nothing...The entire district administration takes orders from SPOs and SJ people. They are with them. At Errabore, the SPO killed two people in the presence of Pisda (Collector of Dantewada district)...

Q. Then why doesn't anyone complain to the state government?
A. If they can beat us (elected representatives) like this, one can only imagine what they will do to the public. In Awapalli in Usur block, two students from Murdanda decided to complain. They were tortured for three days and shot. Then they put (Naxalite) 'dress' (uniform) on their bodies. Same thing will happen to us. They will kill us, then put a dress on our bodies.

Q. This incident happened in June. Why did you wait for five months to come here?
A. We were afraid of going through Bijapur after what happened to us. Eventually we all decided to slip away quietly to come to Raipur via different routes, so that it does not happen to us again.

Q. Different routes?
A. [Jaihind Kumar Latkar] I took my motorcycle till the river (Indravati). I crossed the river at Jimmalgatta. From there I kept changing buses, and came via Viratghat and Ballar to Nagpur. Then I came to Raipur. I reached here on 3rd November. Then I waited for others to come. They trickled in slowly on the 4th and 5th. It took me 12 days...[others describe similarly round-about routes]

Q. Why did you change buses?
A. We were afraid of being followed, intercepted, shot...

Q. How long does it ordinarily take to come to Raipur via Bijapur?
A. 6-7 hours by bus.

Q. Are there others who haven't reached?
A. Yes, 2-3 persons. The sarpanch of Sarouncha called this afternoon. He said he might reach by the evening. He didn't disclose his location. Others haven't gotten in touch as yet.

Q. You have all come alone. Why didn't you bring your families with you? Isn't there a danger to their lives now that you have come here and publicly said things?
A. Yes, there is. We called them. They told us that the SJ people are coming again on the 11th. We don't know what they will do to them...

Q. You met the Chief Minister today. What was discussed?
A. Yes, we went to his house during 'jan darshan' (public audience) this morning. He called 3-4 of us. He asked us "are you opposing SJ?" We told him "no". We said that all we want is that SJ should not be started in Bhopalpatnam so that we can live in peace. We also gave him the gram sabha resolutions unanimously passed by every village panchayat of Bhopalpatnam block demanding that SJ should not be started there. (They have also given copies of these to me.)

Q. Anything else?
A. We asked him for security, for us and for our families. We told him that without security, we cannot go back. The SJ people will kill us now, for sure.

Q. What did he say?
A. He said he will write to the Collector of the district administration.

It is clear to me from this dialogue that SJ is neither spontaneous nor peaceful. As such, it has no moral right to continue. It must be stopped.

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Monday, November 06, 2006


The verdict- death by hanging- shouldn’t come as a surprise. The moment Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s Baathist autocrat, was captured by American troops from his Tikriti hideout, betrayed by his own bodyguards, his end had already become a fiat accompli: if anything, it was not so much a question of time as it was of process. To be more precise: what process- procedure- to be followed to bring this former head of state’s head to the scaffold? For his captors, the objective of the whole exercise- ‘charade’, as skeptics are prone to term it- has been to ensure that he doesn’t go down as a martyr: that his death doesn’t become the rallying-point for resurgent pan-Arab, militant ‘Islamic’ fundamentalisms. Did they- the overlords of the ‘War Against Terror’- succeed?

Certain features about Mr. Hussein’s trial need to be noted. First: it wasn’t ‘in camera’. Images of a belligerent ex-dictator, shouting at his judges and questioning their legitimacy to try him, were beamed down ‘live’ to millions of television viewers worldwide. In the ensuing din, the specific charge for which he was being tried- the genocide of 148 shias ordered by him in Dujail in his capacity as head of state in 1982 following a failed assassination attempt- did not get the coverage his captors might have hoped for. Still, there is something to be said for the way his trial was conducted: aside from the murders of lawyers, resignations of judges, death-sentences and the inevitable theatrics, it was a relatively 'humane' affair- sans handcuffs, chains, signs of mutilation and torture etc.- as can be evidenced from the photograph above of the smiling Mr. Hussein, possibly sharing a joke with his co-accuseds. In fact, John Simpson of the BBC noted that he could see a definitive smile on Mr. Hussein's face as he was led out of the courtroom after being sentenced for the simple reason that "he had accomplished exactly what he had come for."

Secondly, Mr. Hussein’s conviction has challenged a fundamental precept of diplomacy, the way nations conduct affairs with each other: the immunity due to a head of state. At the time of the Dujail genocide, he was, beyond all doubt, Iraq’s head of state. What is even more ironical is that when this genocide occurred, his present captors, the Americans, instead of condemning him- or even his government- were actually actively assisting Mr. Hussein’s regime in its war against neighboring Iran. [See photo: Shaking Hands: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983.]

Here, comparisons with his Yugoslavian contemporary, Slobodan Milošević's trial become inevitable:

(a) In Mr. Milošević’s case, he was tried on the specific charge of ‘war crimes’; the charge against Mr. Hussein involves an act undertaken as head of state.
(b) Mr. Milošević was tried by an international court, constituted by the United Nations no less; Mr. Hussein’s reluctant judges, though appointed by an Iraqi administration, are clearly not beyond the reach of America’s sphere of influence.
(c) Mr. Hussein’s charge involves an act of genocide committed against his own country’s nationals (even though shias, despite being in a majority, were treated as little more than second-rate citizens); what Mr. Milošević did was an act against nationals of another country- race, religion- in the aftermath of the balkanization of Yugoslavia.
(d) Unlike in the case of the Kurdish genocide, there was large scale international condemnation for Mr. Milošević’s crimes at the time these were committed.

In this regard at least, Mr. Hussein’s trial seems unprecedented. This, however, is not so much an encroachment of the principle of immunity- and consequently, sovereignty of nation-states against growing internationalism- as it is a doing away with the notion of impunity: that persons, including heads of states, can get away with anything. In the opinion of this blogger, it can’t be such a bad thing after all: theoretically speaking at least, the actions of President George W. Bush of the United States of America can no longer be considered to enjoy immunity or impunity.

Thirdly, the Court constituted to try this case was intended to showcase the best principles of civilized- Western- jurisprudence, by highlighting what is called ‘the due process of law’, in which the accused is afforded every opportunity to defend himself. Unfortunately, Mr. Hussein did not buy into it. The only defense he offered was a copy of the Holy Quran: clearly, his intention is to portray himself as a jihadi, single-handedly taking on the might of the world’s most powerful nation. And while he has every right to appeal against this verdict, it is very unlikely that he will use that right. The only thing that Mr. Hussein has demanded is that instead of being hanged, he should be shot by an armed squad while attired in his military uniform. His purpose is clear: he intends to demonstrate through this the illegitimacy of ‘the American occupation of Iraq’, and project himself as a soldier fighting for his country’s independence. Like Mr. Milošević, he may well end up dying in his cell- possibly by shooting himself- before he can be led up the gallows.

In retrospect, this blogger feels that it might have been better if Mr. Hussein were sentenced under the shariat (Islamic law), and for a crime(s) against fellow Muslims (it would not be farfetched to say that instances of these are fairly numerous), and the only appeal allowed to him, in the form of a reprieve- letter of pardon- signed by members of the victims’ family. In any event, such a procedure would have avoided the pitfalls of ‘the clash of civilizations’ premise, which became all the more pronounced, especially in the Muslim states, as the trial progressed, and which will most certainly escalate with the sentencing. In any event, this should not deter from the task of healing the sectarian strife between Shia and Sunni, and bringing true democracy to the peoples of Iraq.

With the sentencing of Mr. Hussein, the past too must finally begin to be buried even as the Iraqi nation prepares once again to take charge of its destiny. The other alternative, of the Iraqi state withering away into two- even three- disparate entities based on sectarian beliefs, would be a vindication of Mr. Hussein's "fair but firm" style of governance: it will prove decisively that the only way to keep Iraq together is by means of brute force, which is precisely what he did for the quarter of a century he ruled Iraq.


POST SCRIPT: America did the right thing, the wrong way.

Anyone vaguely familiar with Mr. Saddam Hussein's 'fair but firm' style of governance- involving large-scale genocide of Kurds and fellow muslim Shias, chemical bombings of entire villages, summary executions of citizens, including high officials, who refused to kowtow to his whims et al- would not doubt that his sentence is fully deserved. The question then is not so much about the sentence itself as the process through which he has been sentenced. I have commented at length on this above.

Here, I shall deliberate briefly on whether the American role in Mr. Hussein's sentencing can be justified. In my opinion, the answer must be yes. Here's why. Mr. Bush's decision to invade/liberate (depending on which side you are on) Iraq might have been based on one wrong factor- WMD, as it turned out- but all the same it was a right decision. For two reasons: one, even if the probability of finding WMDs was 0.1%, it was well worth the risk; two, in order to sustain his regime, an increasingly paranoid Mr. Hussein had become an enemy to the majority of his own subjects, as is evident from the numerous instances of human rights abuses that have come to light subsequently. Of course, it would have been far more ideal for the entire international community to have shouldered the responsibility of putting an end to these unchecked state-atrocities in Iraq; but it is clear that besides procrastination, it did little else, leading Mr. Hussein into believing that he could go about acting with impunity. Under the circumstances, America did what any responsible world-hegemon ought to do, even if its intentions weren't entirely altruistic (oil?).

To clarify, allow me to offer an analogy: you see an old woman being beaten by a ruffian; the policeman stands and watches. What do you do, especially if you happen to be powerful yourself?

Where America bungled, in my opinion, is in its trial of Mr. Hussein. The best course would have been to let him be tried- and judged- under shariat, especially since it does not exclude heads of states from having their heads chopped-off, especially for slaughtering fellow muslims. That would most certainly have kept everybody happy.


Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Sunday, November 05, 2006

An Obituary in Hindi: काशीराम

This is the Hindi translation of my obituary on Late Shri Kashiram. I am grateful to Shri Shailesh Nitin Trivedi (of JAI CHHATTISGARH), Shri Amit Tiwari and Shri Agnihotri (of Naiduniya) for their suggestions.

Please click on images to enlarge:

Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Preview: "िदवारों की धङकनें": िकनारा- A poem for Mummy's Birthday

Here is another poem from my anthology "िदवारों की धङकनें" called "िकनारा". It was written from jail, as a sort of present for Mummy- the only gift I could give her on her birthday, along with a rose I had grown in the high security prison complex yard I was jailed in.

Please click on image to read:
Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Preview: "िदवारों की धङकनें"

For the first time, I publish excerpts from "िदवारों की धङकनें", an anthology of poems composed during my over ten months in Raipur Central Jail. The first page is an introduction to the anthology, explaining how- and why- it came into being. The second page is a poem I dedicated to my parents. Readers comments, as always, are welcome.

Please click on images to read:

AJ Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

िहन्दी में पहली बार

मैं हितेन्द्र िसंह और अनूप साहा का आभारी हूं िजनके कारण आप इस ब्लॉग पर ये िलपी पढ़ पा रह हैं.

अमित जोगी Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

PLAY: चल बे कपङे उतार: Story Board

The storyboard of the play runs something like this. Vikram, a young boy of 18, is brought through the spectators’ gallery to the stage, escorted by a cop, who knocks at the jail gate (the curtain). It opens, like Ali Baba’s cave, and Vikram enters ‘the world of prison’: the first sentence he hears is Chal bé kapadé utar (go on, strip). From then onwards, till the very end, he remains naked, even when clothed, his action, even his thoughts, always visible to the surveillance devices of the modern Panopticon. In the first act, he and another inmate, Jai, become objects of an auction: two numberdars (that’s what they call Convict Overseers, chosen from among those sentenced to life imprisonment, to help with the day to day running of the jail administration etc.) buy them for Rs. 300 each, from the officer incharge of the Warrants Department (responsible for the allotment of barracks). However their bid is ultimately foiled by Dilip- the play’s central character- who reminds the concerned officer that since they are under 21, they should be sent to the ‘Kishor Ward’ in accordance with jail manual provisions. The second act takes place in the ‘Kishor Ward’: Vikram befriends Raju: ‘the only convict (he finds) in jail who doesn’t declare himself innocent’. The numberdar incharge of Kishor Ward, Udu, claims that Jai is his friend’s son, only to sleep with him later in the night. Vikram and Raju witness this: Raju tells Vikram that this is what Jai has to do if he wants a better lifestyle in jail; he also points out that Jai, from the sounds that emerge, doesn’t seem to mind. Next morning, over breakfast, Vikram confronts Jai, who confirms what Raju had already told him (‘a hole is a hole, whether in front or behind!’); he also propositions Vikram to a ménage à trois.

In the next scene, we meet Dilip being harassed for ‘diwali money’ by the head-warder; Raju tells him of Vikram’s predicament, and Dilip assures him that he will ask the Octagon incharge to get Vikram transferred to Ward Number One, in which mentally-challenged convicts are kept, so that he can be with Raju. In the next act, we witness the monthly auction of prison-factories, barracks and other other concerns of the prison economy, which the octagon incharge gives to the highest convict-bidder. Dilip’s group is pitted against Narad’s group. The act ends with an announcement on the public address system asking Dilip to report to the Visitors’ Room. In third act, Dilip shows Vikram, who is returning from meeting his only relative, an ailing grandmother, the cop who was responsible for falsely implicating him for a murder he did not commit, but ended up in jail himself on a charge of custodial-death: he tells Vikram that he will avenge himself, by watching his captor ‘die a million deaths everyday in jail’ and after his release, he will go to his house and rape his daughter, who incidentally has taken a liking for Dilip. As Dilip goes to the visitors’ window, Vikram witnesses another scene between a convict, his wife and two kids: the convict’s outburst; frustration at the legal system; repentance and sense of total loss; bribe paid to the warder for ‘smuggling’ in the basic necessities of life. On his way back, we notice an unopened letter in Dilip’s hand.

The next act takes place in Dilip’s ‘masala factory’: Dilip reads his letter; he screams; a new convict is produced before him; he has a young son, who Dilip takes an instant liking to; when everybody leaves, Vikram picks up Dilip’s discarded, crumpled letter. In the next scene, we are in the ‘mental ward’: a corpse lies unattended on a cemented platform; deranged convicts light their bidis with the incense-sticks, burning next to the corpse’s feet; a group of convicts decide to pass time by playing cards; a warder joins them, and when he is caught cheating, confiscates the cards and all the gambling money; another convict, Naresh, tries to sell Vikram marijuana; Vikram reads Dilip’s letter to Raju and we discover that his daughter died of pneumonia; during the power cut that follows, Raju is emboldened to ‘hint’ his true feelings to Vikram.

It’s day, and we see the lunatic-convicts being given their weekly bath in preparation for the Parade. Vikram is impressed at the selflessness of those convicts who are bathing the lunatics; Raju tells him that their real motive is that they get to sell the lunatics’ rations- eggs, soaps, Colgate etc.- in the prison-market for ten times their actual cost; Dilip gives the young boy a bath. Everybody lines up for the Parade. A retinue comprising the jail superintendent, jailor, officers incharge, doctors and warders arrives. A prison-don complains to the superintendent about the unattended corpse they had to sleep with; this leads to an altercation, in which the don ends up slapping the superintendent. Immediately an ‘alarm’ is sounded, in which the officers and warders brutally beat up all the convicts, including the young boy. The next scene is the same as the previous one, except that all the convicts are in bandages. We learn from their conversation that the don has been transferred to some other jail, and that as a result of Dilip writing to the human rights commission, some officers are coming to do an inquiry. Most of the scene consists of a dialogue between the human rights officer and Dilip, who decides to tell all: the dark underbelly of prison life is brought to light. The real quality of prison food, the ‘death-factory’ medical system, in which each death presents a postmortem windfall gain for the authorities, and rampant corruption everywhere. In their defense, the jail-administration declares Dilip mad, citing that he is suffering from the shock of not being permitted parole to attend his daughter’s funeral. The human rights officer concurs, and he is shifted to the ‘mental ward’ for ‘treatment’, under his bete-noire, Narad’s supervision. As they leave, the superintendent compliments the human rights officer on his wife’s excellent taste at having selected the best pieces of furniture from the prison carpentry store.

The next scene is a ‘play within a play’: a rehearsal is underway for the prison’s annual drama, to be enacted in the local dialect Chhattisgarhi, with each convict taking on a role. It is a morality play called ‘jaisi karni waisi bharni’ (what one reaps, so one sows). Raju trumps Narad in getting the hero’s part. The story-line of this play is fairly simple: a boy leaves his mother to seek his fortune in the big city; on the way, the caravan is looted by robbers; while everybody else escapes, thanks to the boy’s help, he himself gets left behind, whereupon he decides to dress up as a woman; the leader of the robbers takes a fancy to the boy-woman, and takes him to his house; there the boy falls in love with the robber’s sister- played by Vikram- and the two run away with the robber’s loot. In the love scene between the boy and the robber’s sister, Raju and Vikram deviate from the script and begin to confess their feelings for each other, when suddenly, Dilip- who had always played the hero’s part- makes his entrance. Narad and his gang try to catch the ostensibly mad Dilip but it is Vikram- the robber’s sister- who ultimately convinces Dilip- who thinks of himself as the play’s hero- to stop his antics and return. The following scene is a soliloquy by Dilip, naked and wet in a solitary-cell. It is recited against the backdrop of diwali-crackers bursting in the distance: is he really mad, or just pretending to be? He is woken up by Raju and Vikram, who tell him that they have a novel plan of turning the table on the jail-administration, and exposing what really goes on behind the prison-walls. The president of the republic is to be the chief guest at the state foundation day function, and the cultural department has asked for the convicts to stage their play. Except that instead of ‘jaisi karni waisi bharni’, they- the prisoners- have decided to do something different.

In the final scene, the superintendent makes a short welcome speech for the chief guest, and ends by introducing the play. The play begins: Vikram, a young boy of 18, is brought through the spectators’ gallery to the stage, escorted by a cop, who knocks at the jail gate (the curtain). It opens, like Ali Baba’s cave, and Vikram enters ‘the world of prison’: the first sentence he hears is Chal bé kapadé utar (go on, strip).

Of course, through this play, it is not Vikram- and his motley group of convicts- who strip; instead the entire ‘technology’ of our carceral system is laid bare before the world, or so I hope.

Your comments and ideas on production, stage-direction, story etc. are, as always, welcome.

Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Monday, October 30, 2006

A NEW ME: Ten Prescriptions for Changing Myself

Note: This post has been published by Blogbharti.
A dentist-friend recently emailed me a few prescriptions on how I should go about changing myself. Not surprisingly, he holds me singularly responsible for my father's ouster from office. [Papa's government was voted out of power from Chhattisgarh in December 2003: thus began our family's over three-year long 'winter of discontent'.] As things stand, he is not alone in thinking so: Ms. Saba Naqvi, writing for the Outlook magazine, described it rather succintly as 'son-stroke'. I am taking the liberty of publishing these prescriptions followed by the ATR (action taken report) in brackets. I hope that readers of this blog will be gracious enough to offer similar constructive suggestions of their own.


1. Change your photo of a dreamer to a smiling one in your blog site.[What do you think of this one?]

2. Don't write too much on your site, keep it short and simple - so that people can understand and correlate you with themselves. [Visitors will note that posts have gotten shorter, and the language simpler]

3. Don't project yourself to be a cut above the rest - example your favourite movies, music or books you have read/written, to tell you bluntly - no one is frankly interested, all your Orkut friends will try to flatter you, citing your vast knowledge. You should try to project yourself as a normal human being, with whom people can resemble themselves. People of Chhattisgarh don't understand French, they understand Chhattisgarhi. [Interests are listed to form associations with like-minded people; nothing else]

4. Try to win peoples heart rather than trying to brainwash and hijack the brain of 'Boley - Bhaley' people of Chhattisgarh. [How does one win people's hearts? I thought the best way to go about it was by being absolutely honest: telling precisely what I feel. This is what I've done in my blog.]

5. It is not necessary that you serve the people of Chhattisgarh if/when you are in power. When in opposition, your voice is heard more, and seems to be genuine, it's the right time for image building. [Totally agree]

6. It will look as opportunist when you start saying something just 1 year before elections, people's memory is not short, esp. in Chhattisgarh. [Yes]

7. Explain/Describe 1 point at a time, in simple manner to the people, to make it reach their heart. This mistake was done by your father too, I think, so much was tried to explain to people in such a short span, that always it went over their heads. In his first term itself, he opened all his cards. The upper caste people became afraid for their existence in the state. [see point no. 2]

8. No doubt you raise voice for tribals in the state, what about people of other communities, who have worked hard and grown here. If you are a projected leader of Chhattisgarh, you have to represent everyone. Raise voice for upper caste people too, sometimes they are also deprived of justice. [Yes: when specific instances of injustices are brought to my notice against anyone, including people from 'the upper castes', I make it a point to raise it. See for instance, the blog entry on 'A Killing in Dornapal', which describes the killing of a Bengali shopkeeper by a soldier of the armed forces]

9. Move in a two-wheeler, everywhere in Chhattisgarh, (except Bastar) [For a variety of reasons, I am not allowed to drive. Also, I don't own a car. So I have to depend on friends for my transportation needs. Despite warnings to the contrary, I do not have security. The two-wheeler idea does sound good though, if my family- especially Papa after his accident- will permit me]

10. Time is less, Congress is fast loosing ground in Chhattisgarh. It is getting 'Disconnected' and 'Disoriented' from the common man at a fast pace. The Kauravs have again started spreading propoganda at public places against Congress. Who else except you, has to rise, seize the opportunity and show people the way...[If anything has to be done, we have to do it together. I cannot do it alone. I realize my limitations]

to be continued.. Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Title: Self in Technicolor
Date: November 11, 2005
Place: High Security Cell, Raipur Central Jail
Artist: Amit Aishwarya Jogi

Title: Self in Technicolor- Sepia imprint
Date: October 29, 2006
Place: Anugrah, Raipur
Artist: Amit Aishwarya Jogi

Title: Trial- At the Court of III ASJ Mr. Shiv Mangal Pandey
Date: November, 2005
Place: High Security Cell, Raipur Central Jail
Artist: Amit Aishwarya Jogi

Title: Cellular
Date: November 11, 2005
Place: High Security Cell, Raipur Central Jail
Artist: Amit Aishwarya Jogi
Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

PLAY: (A) Indian Express on Chal Bé Kapadé Utar

Note: Today's Indian Express newspaper carries a feature on my forthcoming play entitled Chal bé kapadé utar. It was written during the time I was incarcerated in Raipur Central Jail, and is being directed by Mr. Rajkamal Naik of Koutuk. The sketch at the bottom is of Dilip Chhatri, C.O. (Convict Overseer), who is its principal character.

Express News Service

Meet Jogi jr, playwright post-prison

Nitin Mahajan
Posted online: Sunday, October 29, 2006 at 0000 hrs

Raipur, October 28: Chal be kapde utaar (go on, take off your clothes).” These are the words every new entrant in a prison here hears. This is also the title of a play by Amit Jogi, son of former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi, who was an inmate of the Raipur Central Prison for about 10 months.

Amit had been booked for the murder of NCP treasurer Avtar Singh Jaggi.

The play, compiled from Amit’s notes during his 10-month stay at the prison, attempts to portray life inside prison. According to junior Jogi, the literary attempt is an effort to come to terms with reality; the inhuman environment, rampant homosexuality inside the prison walls and gang politics.

The characters in the play tell their own story. One of them is implicated for murder while another is an innocent person who has been booked under a false case and forced to spend the best years of his life in prison. Refusing to clarify whether one of the characters in the play was based on himself, Amit said he wanted to bring out the real prison life in a form accessible to everyone.

“Despite tall claims about prison reforms, the situation within the confines is shockingly different,” Jogi said.

“Once inside the walls, everyone feels naked as penetrating eyes are always looking at each and every action of the inmates,” he added, explaining the title. Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Thursday, October 26, 2006

POETRY: (A) Liable (translated from Hindi)

Note: In the translation, I have put the poem’s context in a distant past. The reason is simple: verses for the Hindi came to me while I- the man ‘in a box of wood’- stood in the courtroom. The English translation was done when those verses, once alive, had become stilled, in the solitude of my cell. [Photograph below shows 'a poet in court', courtesy The Hindu Newspaper]

Caught in a web of words
A worried man once stood
In a box of wood:
Drunk in Silence’s Embrace.

If he heard something, he nothing said
If he said, nobody anything heard:
The why O why
Did that Man’s shadow-
Like Moon fallen from the Sky
Upon a River of Tears- by itself flow
Through terrified vales
Of terrible tales?

As if he had known
From Centuries before
Destiny’s Destination.

Raipur Central Gaol,
March 3, 2006 Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Sunday, October 22, 2006

From One Computer to Another: Shubh Diwali, Eid Mubarak etc...

Note: This post has been published in Blogbharti.
A Dumbed-down Deepavali?

This holiday season, I shall not talk of the significance- the multiplicity of meanings- of religious festivals for our times, ‘when the globe has shrunk to about the size of a grapefruit’, or even the symbolism of ‘the happy coincidence’- it’s not every year that Diwali and Id are celebrated one day after the other- as a Divine Call to strengthen interfaith harmony against teeming mutual suspicions and xenophobias. I will instead deliberate briefly on the role of communications technology in transforming interpersonal relationships during festivals: put simply, I will look at the way the Internet- emails, instant messages (IMs)- and SMSs have changed the way we ‘greet’ each other.

Unhappily enough, I’ve been in bed: the consequence of a viral epidemic. Hence my capacity to respond to the countless emails, SMSs, scraps and messages I’ve received has become rather limited. As always, technology, the contemporary Super Man, comes to the rescue: all I’ve to do is type this down, and with a click of a button, everybody who I’ve ever known is blissfully reading this, soaking in the warmth of my good wishes- or not. This is where I’m wrong: the chances that anyone of my recipients will actually read all the way down to this is, for lack of a better word, zilch. I console myself: after all, it’s the gesture- the sentiment- that counts. They will at least know that I responded, if not how precisely I did so.

Three trends can be discerned from what I’ve just described. First, ‘content of communication’ has become secondary to the ‘act of communicating’ itself. We don’t read because we pretty much know in advance, even before the SMS icon flashes on the mobile screen, what to expect. It’s got nothing to do with empathy or even telepathy. The messages, they’re all the same. This brings me to the second point: much as I hate to use the expression, the commonality of content- the way one man’s received message becomes another's forwarded message, forming ‘message-chains’ long enough to cover the distance from here to that recently discovered but still unnamed planet beyond Pluto (in some cases, we don’t bother to alter the sender’s name from the plagiarized text-body)- is reflective of a collective ‘dumbing down’. Quantity, as we all know, cannot be a substitute for Quality.

Last and most troubling, I’m compelled to ask: has digital technology replaced personal obligation? Look at it this way, I might just be dead inside my bed, but my computer- that sweet, super-intelligent entity happily humming away on my desktop- will not fail in its duty to send you this, just as your computer or mobile will not fail in its duty to shoot off an instant reply. Machines greeting each other? Is this what our festivals have dumbed down to?

With that thought, I wish you Happy Holidays!

AJ Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Film Recommendations for Diwali and Id

Looking for God
I’ve spent this Diwali in bed, thanks to an epidemic of viral fever. My namesake, Amit Tiwari, brought home three DVDs to keep me entertained during the few waking hours I’ve before the relay-course of medications begin to make me drowsy all over again: Woody Allen’s Match Point, Duncan Tucker’s Transamerica, and the French-Canadian filmmaker, Jean Marc Vallée’s C.R.A.Z.Y. Unlike his previous recommendations, all of them were quite simply brilliant.

Mr. Allen’s film marks a break from his earlier repertoire: Match Point isn’t an ‘intellectually funny’ movie; it isn’t even set in New York. Put briefly, it’s the story of a tennis coach who must choose between lust (his passion for a struggling American actress) and happiness (marital bliss with a wealthy British heiress): or as the character played by Jonathan Rhys-Myer says, between ‘good and luck’. Ultimately, for Allen, good- and God- don’t exist. What’s more: in this case, we, the audience, don’t want Him to intervene, even as Mr. Rhys-Myer’s character turns wickedly immoral.

Mr. Tucker’s Transamerica explores the cross-country relationship between a transsexual woman, played superbly by Felicity Huffman, and her newly found bisexual hustler-son, played by Kevin Zeger. The scene when Ms. Huffman tells Mr. Zeger’s character that she is really his father is to die for. Again: Mr. Tucker, like Mr. Allen, irreverentially shuns all moral judgement, in what is essentially a celebration of Freedom of Expression.

Mr. Vallée’s C.R.A.Z.Y. is a sympathetic film about the childhood and youth of a Quebec man coming to terms with his sexuality, especially with relationship to his conservative family, which includes his parents and four brothers. The title of course is a tribute to Patsy Cline’s number, and becomes a character in itself in the movie. Once again, God remains notably absent; or if He does make his presence felt, it is in a most enigmatic- but ultimately redeeming- way.

I recommend them all highly.

Happy Holidays!

AJ Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

SHOWCASE: Anuj Sharma on Chhattisgarhi Film

फिल्म समाज का आइना होता है. जब मुझे अपनी पहली फिल्म "मोर छइंया भुइंया" (M.C.B.) का ऑफर मिला था तब मैंने कहा था कि "मैं धोती बंडी पहनकर गले में गमछा डाल कर पेड़ के किनारे नहीं नाचूँगा" और मैंने फिल्म के लिए मना कर दिया था. दूरदर्शन ने जो आम जनता के बीच एक छत्तीसगढ़िया आदमी को प्रेसेंट किया था वो या तो लेद्गा था या भकला,इसी बात ने मुझे भी इस जवाब को देने के लिए मजबूर किया था. जब फिल्म M.C.B. ने परदे पर एक साधारण छत्तीसगढ़िया परिवार की कहानी को दिखाया तो कहीं ना कहीं हर छत्तीसगढ़िया को ये कहानी अपने से जुड़ी हुई लगी, और फिल्म को अपार सफलता मिली.छत्तीसगढ़ी फिल्म में दर्शक जिस अपनेपन को देखने के लिए जाते हैं अगर उन्हें वो मिट्टी कि खुशबू नहीं मिलेगी तो फिल्म असफल ही होगी.
Anuj Sharma, film actor, in a post to JAI CHHATTISGARH

Translates as follows:
Cinema is the mirror of society. When I got the offer of my first film “Mor Chhainya Bhuinya” (MCB), I categorically said “I will not dance next to a tree, wearing a dhoti and a gamcha around my neck”, and refused to act in the film. The presentation of Chhattisgarhiya man as either a ledga (country-bumpkin) or a bhakla (nincompoop) by Doorsharshan among the common man compelled me to give this reply. When the film MCB showed the story of a simple Chhattisgarhi family on screen, then every Chhattisgarhi felt that its story is linked at some level with their own, and the film got unprecedented success. The familiarity which audiences expect when they come to see a Chhattisgarhi film, if they don’t get the smell of that mitti (earth), then the film will inevitably be unsuccessful.

To listen to this blogger speak to Anuj on the state of Chhattisgarhi cinema, listen to my Podcast of 26th July 2008.

अनुज शर्मा से मेरी बातचीत सुनने के लिए, मेरे २६ जुलाई २००८ के पॉडकास्ट को सुनें.
AJ Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......


A Bengali shopkeeper, Shekhar, was shot dead at point-blank range at Dornapal yesterday by ‘unidentified assailants’.

This is what really happened: a jawan (policeman) of the Naga battalion entered the shop with the purpose of buying an undergarment; the shopkeeper asked him Rs. 30 for it; the jawan insisted that he wouldn’t pay more than Rs. 15; a quarrel broke out between the two; the jawan took out his weapon, and fired. The abovementioned sequence of events has been confirmed by reliable sources, including eyewitnesses, who wish to remain unnamed.

As of today, the entire district administration, along with a certain Mr. Kushwaha, a Salwa Judum leader and Mr. Mahendra Karma’s Number Two, has been camping at Dornapal, trying to ‘persuade’ members of Shankar’s family to lodge an FIR (First Information Report) against ‘unidentified person(s)’.

This is the first specific case of human rights violation, involving directly a member of the armed forces, to have come to light, if only because the victim is a non-tribal. The shocking aspect is that this killing did not happen in a remote village but in the largest SJ ‘base-camp’, where more than 7000 uprooted tribals are being kept.

AJ Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Personal: Roza Iftar at Home

The photographs here were taken at the Roza Iftar party hosted at our Raipur residence, 'Anugrah', on October 7, 2006.

Seated (left to right) Chaitram Sahu, MLA (Bhatapara); Dr. (Mrs.) Renu Jogi; Mrs. Veena Seth, First Lady of Chhattisgarh; H.E. Lt. Gen. K.M. Seth, Governor of Chhattisgarh; Mr. Ajit Jogi, MP; Mohammed Akbar, MLA (Virendranagar); Amarjit Bhagat, MLA (Sitapur). This blogger can be seen standing between the two elegant Ladies.

This blogger serving 'biryani' to the Rozdaars.

This blogger greets the Rozdaars after Iftar.
AJ Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Monday, October 16, 2006


Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the UPA leader and Congress President, addressed a public meeting at the Rajkumar College Ground, Raipur on October 14 2006. This was her first visit to Chhattisgarh after the formation of the UPA Government at Delhi. In her speech, she categorically said that 'a new approach' is needed to address issues raised by Naxalism; she also stated that development of tribal regions, and not guns, are the solution to what is principally 'a socio-economic problem'. [This incidentally is the conclusion- and recommendation- made by the AICC Task Force constituted by her to study various aspects and possible solutions of the Naxalite issue.]

Most political commentators noted that Mr. Mahendra Karma, the leader of state-sponsored Salwa Judum (SJ), found himself isolated: not one person from the Bastar delegation, including the two Congress MLAs (Mr. Kawasi Lakma from Konta and Mr. Rajendra Pambhoi from Bijapur) whose constituencies have been most affected by the SJ-Maoist conflict, supported the continuance of the Union's (read: Ministry of Home Affairs) support to SJ.

What I would like to know of course is this: will the tribals be allowed to return to their villages, if and when they are permitted the option of leaving SJ base-camps, in which they continue to languish under the most inhuman conditions? For unless that happens, there can be no end to the madness that rages in Dantewada.

AJ Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Personal: Papa-Mummy's 31st

The photograph here shows (from left) this blogger, Papa and Mummy at an informal luncheon hosted at our Raipur residence to celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary on October 8, 2006. On the background wall, are two photographs of my late sister, Anusha.

I wish them many, many more happy years together!

AJ Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Restoring Muraliguda: The Tribal Bill, c. 2005

Note: This was the last article I had written before going to jail in July last year. It is reproduced here without any changes. The Tribal Bill is still pending passage by the Parliament. Certain things never seem to change.

Inset: A Young Bastar Maharaja

The end back to its beginning,
The beginning back to its end

Anusha Jogi,
“Aitia” (unpublished)


Mangoes the Size of Watermelons

Not far from Konta- the southernmost frontier of Chhattisgarh- is a tiny hamlet that has mangoes the size of full-grown watermelons, and just as juicy. To reach it, you’ve to take a left from the Dhaba- the only one on the Konta-Sukma stretch of the National Highway, and perhaps even more creditable, managed entirely by a group of robust women- and then go past the bombed-ruins of a Panchayat building and twisted-gnarled electric-poles until a point where the road suddenly ends. From here on, follow your nose, or if you’re instincts have already abandoned you, then simply listen to the sound of water until you spot a circular mud-hut with a conical bamboo-thatched roof. [This, as the erudite observer might have guessed, is- or was- a ‘Gotul’.] You’ve reached Muraliguda. Do not be frightened by the absence of humans. Just outside that hut, is a menacing-looking rod. Pick it up and start beating the animal-skin covered drum, hung from the centre of the hut’s ceiling.

A fraternity of adolescents should appear, equipped with bows-and-arrows. You know almost instantly that they’ve been out on a hunt: feathers still stick at the corner of one member’s lips, revealing that the creature’s consumption was accomplished in somewhat sloppy haste. Confront them for confirmation: tribals, as a rule, make bad liars. Then, if you’re really lucky and get them to trust you- as I did- they might even teach you how to shoot arrows. Spend some more time with them and you’d find your legs wrapped midway around a tall tree-trunk as one of them pours cold, white salphi into your gaping mouth from a vessel that is nothing but the sun-dried hollow of a pumpkin.

Now, isn’t that a Kodak-moment?

Scratch the surface, and the idyll cracks: none of these adolescents have heard of school; most of them haven’t been beyond Konta; malaria is commonplace; there isn’t one manned primary healthcare centre in a fifty-mile radius; the road exists only in one’s imagination; only recently, my salphi-offering friend’s mother died in childbirth. You want to do something- anything- to make their life less intolerable, but they tell you that there’s nothing one can do. Didn’t the Mahatma proclaim that ‘India lives in her villages’? Not here, in Muraliguda: India dies, many, many times over. Building that road, you see, would mean cutting down thirty-seven trees and trimming four hundred and sixty-seven branches. And the PHC and the school and the electricity, well don’t even think about it: whatever would happen to the Bastar-bison? And what of India’s future, the sustainability of our endangered ecologies, the continued survival of our species on this planet? Surely, saving the lives of Muraliguda-mothers and building a future for their children isn’t worth putting so much at risk? In a world where everything is about choices made after careful cost-benefit analysis, I guess not- but that’s not the point.

The betterment of Muraliguda- and thousands of other similar tribal habitats all across India- is not incompatible with conserving the environment, or saving our blue planet. On the contrary, it is necessary.

At the core of the current polemic on the proposed ‘Tribal Bill,’ lies the notion of a dichotomy- a ‘clash of discreet worlds’, to use the historian Felipe Fernandéz-Armèsto’s expression- between forests, and the tribes that have inhabited them since the antediluvian era. In my opinion, such an assumption is not only misconceived but also symptomatic of a misplaced sense of superiority: one, they- the forests and tribes- are not disparate entities, in a state of conflict; two, the presumption that tribes are incapable of looking after their own habitat, and that ‘the burden and the glory’, as President Kennedy so eloquently put it, of ecological-conservation is best left to others. This is not supported by historical evidence, which corroborates the operation of ‘punctuated deforestation’ in two distinct ‘epochs’: the transition from early to late Vedic period, marked by the increasing adoption of iron in agricultural-technologies, and reflected in a militarist-hymn celebrating Agni’s heroic march across the River Gandak. Secondly: the era of industrialization, when forests were transformed from ‘territory’ into ‘commodity/ market’. In both these instances, tribes were ‘victims’ of foreign incursions into their domains. Contemporary approaches to conservation have, so to speak, turned this evidence on its head, and depicted them as ‘villains’ instead. Perhaps, this has a lot to do with the portrayal of ‘tribes as savages’ in contemporary rationalist-discourse, which subscribes to the view that progress necessarily entails humankind’s control over nature’s vicissitudes and vagaries. In the pursuit to adapt nature to serve civilization’s need, culture becomes the opposite of nature. This depiction is not reinforced by available anthologies of anthropological data, which reveals a remarkable, if somewhat generic, affinity- one might even call it symbiosis- between the lifestyles of tribes and their respective habitats. For a tribal, the forest is more than territory or resource: it becomes anthromorphized into ‘Mother’, a living entity that gives and sustains life. Consequently, the act of deforestation- the reckless and more often than not, mechanized felling of trees- becomes much more horrific, brutal: the almost surgical mutilation of the Mother’s body. Embedded in this belief, is the hope of immortality, of not dying, but living forever, through one’s progenies.

This brief, somewhat ‘condensed’, introduction, however, constitutes a precursor to my argument: it dispels certain mythologies about the relationship of the tribes with the forests, and paves the way for a paradigm-shift, to employ Thomas Kuhn’s phrase, where ‘tribes are conservationists’.


Confucius in Abujhmar

The Tribal Bill, like all legislation, has two functions: corrective/ remedial and reformatory. Corrective, because it restores both the responsibility and the authority of forest-conservation to tribals, ensuring that they no longer- to quote the poet Virgil- ‘exchange their hearths for exile,’ and reformatory as it seeks to remove existing impediments that prevent the laying of roads, the building of schools and dispensaries, and the electrification of villages in tribal regions. Mr. Harish Salvé, Amicus Curiae of the Supreme Court and among India’s most effortlessly brilliant jurists, understands this. He is perturbed- perhaps even furious- to the extent that he has filed an intervention restraining Parliament from passing that Bill into Law: he feels, like most concerned environmentalists, that it will make the Forest Conservation and Wildlife Protection Acts- the twin pillars of Indian environmentalism- redundant, and open the ‘business’ of forests to rampant exploitation by poachers and the ‘timber-mafia’, who will only too easily find ways to dupe gullible tribes. In short, he views the Bill as a veritable sanction of deforestation.

The polemic on the Bill, therefore, appears to be polarized between two contradictory positions vis-à-vis the post-colonial nation-state and the environmentalists. The former views itself as ‘an instrument of progress,’ a position decipherable most prominently in the exposition of Nehruvian Socialism: without active intervention, it simply couldn’t metamorphose into the welfare state. However, its incursion into tribal-territory was novel, in that it had never happened before: from the beginning of history, the ‘state’ had, more often than not, been rather content with letting Tribes- seen variously as the monkey-people (vanarsena) of the Epics, forest-dwellers (vanyavasis) of Kautilya’s Arthasastra, primitive-persons (adivasis) of the Raj, and the Scheduled Tribes of the contemporary nation-state- be, allowing them to exist in exclusive, clearly demarcated spheres. [The Manavdharmasastra (or, as it is more popularly known, Manusastra)- arguably the principal treatise on the basis of which the subcontinental “homo hierarchichus”, to use the sociologist Louis Dumont’s term, has evolved- contends that in the event of conflict between its self-promulgated prescriptions and the prevalent customs of tribes, the latter should necessarily take precedence. Islamic historians, from Ziaud’din Bar’ni (Tarikh-e-Ferozshahi) to Abu’l Fa’zl (Akbarnama), scarcely refer to them, except when the armies of the Sultanate, and later, of the Mogul Empire, had to trespass these arduous territories, during their onward march to the Deccan. [Here again, the ‘northwestern tribes’, always a menace to rulers of Déhli, remain the solitary exception; but these weren’t exactly of indigenous origins.] Thus, for many millennia, the state and the tribes remained in “Discreet Worlds”.] ‘Environmentalism’ offers the antithesis of this position: the nation-state’s involvement is seen as corrosive, uprooting traditional tribal way of life, exposing them to new and sophisticated forms of exploitation, and as NBA (Narmada Bachao Andolan) activist Ms. Medha Patekar’s study of Mumbai suburbs revealed, also contributing to the proliferation of urban-slums by bringing about the forced-immigration of displaced peoples, in search of alternative sources of subsistence. This argument is not entirely without substance. Infact, I would add a further rejoinder to this chargesheet: the sense of displacement- of having becoming aliens in their own homelands- has made tribes willing receptacles for the nihilist pogrom of Left Wing Extremists (LWE): not surprisingly, the areas identified as ‘most sensitive’ by the MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) are also among the most backward, in terms of ‘development’.

There is something to be said about the environmentalist-chargesheet: tribal disenchantment with the nation-state can be deciphered from a song, still fashionable among Bison-horn Maria tribe, which inhabits the Abujhmar (lit: that which can not be known) region of Bastar in southern Chhattisgarh; the only one in the entire nation yet to be surveyed by the Surveyor General of India. Put simply, the song tackles the universal theme of what constitutes heaven and hell: “O you young ones,” hums the bard to the uninitiated, “Heaven is miles & miles of forests, full of mahua trees (from whose ripened flowers, an intoxicating brew is extracted), whereas Hell is miles & miles of forests, full of mahua trees, but with a forest guard.” Here, the simile with Confucian imagery is striking: heaven and hell are exactly the same place, instructs the venerable Confucius, with a bountiful banquet spread-out over an endless table around which are seated diners with five-feet long chopsticks; the difference is that in heaven, the diners know how to put their obdurate chopsticks to use, which is simply to feed each other instead of trying to eat with it themselves. However, in the Confucian instance, the ‘problem’, so to speak, is of the individual’s uncultivated nature; in the Maria song, it is situated specifically elsewhere: in the contemporary nation-state, of which the forest guard is perhaps the most visible representative.

[Yet another instance appears in the bureaucrat-turned-environmentalist Mr. BD Sharma’s recounting of an anecdote my father narrated to him. When the latter was serving as Collector of Sidhi- a small district in the Baghelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh- in the late 1970s, he took a particular liking for a remote tribal village Runda-Bhadora, then accessible only on horseback. Sitting around a bonfire with other tribals one summer night, he must have felt especially jubilant, and as is often the case with young Mandarins in far-off postings, also omnipotent. No wonder, he asked them to name the one thing they most wanted. After conferring for about fifteen minutes, they gave their answer. “Sahab,” they said, “if you can make it happen, then ensure that no do-nali (lit: double-barrel, but used here to refer to ‘the trousered-man’, or man wearing trousers) ever sets foot upon Runda-Bhadora.” Since this took place before the promulgation of the Acts of 1980, I take it as further evidence of a priori hostility towards the nation-state.]

I offer this illustration not to buttress the environmentalist-charge, but merely as a description of the dismal failure of the nation-state in achieving its objectives. Unwittingly, the state- propelled by the ideas of democratization and industrialization, the twin-vehicles of the Modern Age identified by the historian Eric Von Hobsbawm- has opened the ‘business’ of forests to a medley of competing entities: the invasion of their hitherto ‘discreet world’ by erstwhile rulers acting as intermediaries for a vote-hungry establishment; swayamsevaks waging a veritable crusade against missionaries; merchants and middlemen plundering their natural-wealth; private corporations; the State itself, with its massive mining operations and big-dams, and government-personnel, often of dubious repute, entrusted with implementation of its altruistic policies (and ofcourse, the environmentalist-activist).


A Plant in Nagarnar

No disquisition on the Bill’s polemic can be complete without stating both the descriptive (analytical) and prescriptive aspects of various positions: in the above survey, I’ve not touched upon the prescription offered by environmentalists, since this is a subject of considerable importance that needs to be examined separately.

When Mrs. Indira Gandhi enacted the Forest Protection and Wildlife Conservation Acts in 1980, she did so taking into account the existential-threat posed by unchecked industrialization and commercialization- call it greed, or lust- to our diminishing forest resources. In many ways, the promulgation of these Acts was a victory for environmentalism. A quarter of a century after their operation, a lot has changed: it would not be farfetched to say that the threat posed by an organized ‘timber-mafia’ has been considerably reduced; satellite imagery shows that India’s forest-cover might actually have increased; and there is widespread concern for, and awareness about, the environment. Environmentalism itself has become a powerful vector in the nation’s politics, with influential ‘lobbies’ of its own: it has emerged as yet another of Prof. Rajni Kothari’s ‘interest-groups’ albeit not quite as dominant as in certain other developed nations of the West.

However, there is a flipside to this: the prescriptive part of their argument supports a curiously anthropological solution for the tribes, denying to them the possibility of scientific and technological progress, and condemning them to perpetual primitiveness, of life lived in a human-zoo.

Broadly speaking, the environmental-lobbies oppose any effort on part of the nation-state to undertake development projects, both large and small, in tribal areas. The most controversial illustrations of this are Ms. Medha Patekar’s opposition to the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Valley Project on the Madhya Pradesh-Gujarat border, as also Mr. Bahuguna’s campaign against the Tehri Hydel Project in Tehri-Garhwal in Uttaranchal: both these projects involve massive undertakings to dam rivers. In Chhattisgarh, particularly Bastar, pressure from environmentalist-lobbies led to the stifling of the Hiranar Steel Plant in Dantewada, the closure of the Bodhghat Hydel Power Project, shelving of the Dondilohara-Jagdalpur railway line, and the failure to start work on the Raoghat Iron Ore Mines. Collectively, these four ‘projects’ would have involved billions of dollars worth of investment, and generated more than enough employment for all tribal youth living in the area. Yet, for some reason, the conservation of ‘Bastar-bison’ has taken precedence over the welfare of ‘Bastar-tribes’. Indeed, while the state’s methodology in bringing development into tribal regions leaves much to be desired, it would be folly to condone such exaggerated environmental-evangelism.

Not all environmentalist-efforts have met with success: despite Mr. BD Sharma’s persistent efforts to create dissent among them, the tribes of Nagarnar were only too happy to accord consent, through their Panchayats, to the setting-up of a NMDC Steel Plant. In a rather fierce confrontation with some of the environmentalists opposing Nagarnar, Papa screamed “Don’t teach me what is good and isn’t good for the tribals.” He had a point: if the environmentalists had their way when he was about the age of those Muraliguda-adolescents, he wouldn’t be where he is today. Under the provisions agreed upon, atleast one member from every tribal household shall be gainfully employed in the Plant, medical benefits including insurance to be given to them and their families, and free education. Even before the Plant has become operational, a world-class hospital and school are under construction.

It would seem that in this particular instance atleast, success lies in failure.


Savaging the Civilized

[The phrase owes to Ramchandra Guha’s biography of the anthropologist Verrier Elwin.]

Conservation of tribal environments shouldn’t imply the exclusion of ‘development’ altogether, as environmentalists preach. Instead all development effort should incorporate, at its core, the following two precepts: first, the establishment of a constructive cultural dialogue between tribes and state-agencies that results not in a doomed ‘clash of civilizations’ but leads to a harmonious commingling, based on mutual respect for beliefs and lifestyles; secondly the development effort should create an economic partnership, where both ‘the burden and the glory’ are shared equally among them. With respect to Mr. Salvé, it is imperative that this approach to Conservation be given due primacy by the nation’s judiciary as well, which has of late proven rather receptive to subscribing to an almost unilateral version of environmental-evangelism to the detriment of tribes, who given their status, cannot afford to be heard. In this article, I’ve done my best to familiarize the reader with the two principal positions in the debate: after all, as the French say, “tout comprendre cést tout pardonaire” (lit: to understand all is to forgive all).

These then are the Facts. One: the presumption that tribes are gullible savages, incapable of conserving their habitat is not based in historical and anthropological evidence. Two: for as long as the forests have existed, tribes have been their custodians. Three: due to ‘extraneous’ factors- principally, the transformation of the forest as a ‘resource’- deforestation became rampant, endangering the very survival of our species. Four: deforestation went hand-in-hand with the physical, cultural and psychological displacement of tribes. Five: the displacement of tribes, and the resultant loss of identity, has made them susceptible to militancy in the form of Left Wing Extremism (LWE), which threatens the very integrity of India. Six: only the restoration of tribes to their preordained role as Custodians of Forests can restore the balance of Nature. Seven: this is precisely what the Tribal Bill proposes to do.

Whatever else may be said of them, the tribes of Muraliguda, indeed anywhere, do not belong in museums.

Amit Aishwarya Jogi
New Delhi

The author asserts his identity as a post-adolescent tribal.
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Amit Aishwarya Jogi
Anugrah, Civil Lines
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Chhattisgarh, INDIA
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