Wednesday, August 22, 2007

August Diary: Of Conspiracies and Calamities

This morning’s ‘Haribhoomi’ carries a story on an attempt to implicate me in yet another criminal conspiracy; apparently, the present BJP dispensation in the state believes that I should be put safely behind bars in time for next year’s assembly election. A similar story appeared in yesterday’s eveninger, ‘Tarun Chhattisgarh’. Now, ordinarily I wouldn’t get too worked up about what, at first glance, seems to be in the realm of speculative reportage.

The chain of events, however, leads me to believe otherwise. On the afternoon of August 10, as I was on my way to a village in Balod to preside over a function to commemorate the birth anniversary of the Freedom Fighter, Dau Dhal Singh, Papa telephoned me with the briefest of instructions: “leave whatever it is you’re doing,” he said, “and come to Delhi.”

Upon reaching the capital, he told me of a conversation he had had with a senior functionary in the state administration. “There is to be a shooting,” this functionary had confided to Papa, “and Amit will be arrested.” He further informed Papa of the existence of a ‘recovered mobile telephone’ containing a video-clip of a ‘meeting’ in which ‘plans’ were allegedly discussed to eliminate one Yogesh Agrawal, brother of a state minister, Mr. Brij Mohan Agrawal. This clip was to be cited as evidence of my complicity. To extract maximum mileage, the whole thing was to be executed ‘on or around Independence Day (i.e., August 15)’. Was any of this true?

There was, as it happened, only one way to find out: wait and watch. Consequently, I accepted a long-standing invitation from a family friend, who is heading the Patna circle of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), to visit recently-excavated late-Mauryan Buddhist sites; and left for Bihar. There were two other things I had hoped to accomplish during this trip: one, to visit Patna University, breeding ground of most if not all of the present lot of the Bihar leadership; and two, to get a first-hand estimate on flood-relief work in the post-Laloo era. Mr. Law Kumar Mishra, a journalist with the Times of India who had previously headed the newspaper’s Chhattisgarh bureau, very kindly agreed to be my host-in-absentia cum telephonic-guide (since he was obliged to remain mostly at Dhanbad, the place of his current posting).

In the 1950s, the excavation at Kumrahar (the only remnant of the fabled Patliputra) had yielded two monuments of note: an eighty-pillared Hall, reputed to have been the site of the 3rd Buddhist Council held in the Asokan Age; and the outlines of a somewhat cluttered hospice. I failed to see either of these sites since they were both flooded. As the base of the Hall is wooden, there is a justifiable apprehension that it might now be lost forever. The ASI people blame the mushrooming buildings around Kumrahar for this plight: apparently, the eighty-pillared Hall now functions as the principal receptacle for their over-flooded sewers. In any case, we pacified ourselves with a rather quaint memorabilia: a photograph of us standing before a reconstructed plastic display case of the excavated site (see below). A similar fate awaits the site of the historic mahajanapada of Champa in Bhagalpur: the HOD of the Ancient Indian History department at the local university bemoaned that it is for the best that this NBW (northern black ware) sites remain unexcavated. "If you cannot conserve them," he said, "then best to let them lie undisturbed for future, more sensible, generations to unearth." In any case, despite an aid of two hundred crore rupees from the Buddhist countries (notably Japan), the erasure of histories, to paraphrase Lord Naipaul, is lamentably nearing completion.

Thankfully, things weren’t quite as dismal at the Patna University, situated majestically on the banks of the Ganga overlooking the plains of Vaishali: almost everywhere, there were visible signs of reclamation. ‘King’ Mahendra, a local coal-trader and MP, has donated twenty million rupees from his MPLAD (MP Local Area Development) fund to the ASI (sensibly not the PWD) to restore Darbhanga House, his alma mater. Elsewhere, work was underway to repair broken windowpanes, falling roofs and bricked-up windows of long-abandoned hostels. Encroachments had been removed, and the police station had a lazy-air around it. The students, on the whole, seemed disgusted with politics. Most, if not all, of them continue to nurture the IAS dream. The corporate world seemed somewhat distant to them; it was something that they’d rather not think about, atleast for now. Both they- and their teachers- grudgingly attributed the beginnings of this “Renaissance” to the new Telegu Vice Chancellor, and to the Chancellor (an ex-officio position held by the state’s incumbent Governor). Elements of continuity from the past too remained visible: the VC was locked up in his first-floor office, heavily guarded by personnel from the state’s armed constabulary.

Mandarins in Patna like to joke that Flood Relief is Bihar’s “third crop” (after kharif and rabi). That might not be entirely incorrect. There was rarely a time when an IAF helicopter wasn’t hovering above the capital: the state’s immense political clout at Delhi (due mostly to its teeming population) ensures a fairly good harvest of this third-crop. Just recently, the Congress President had surveyed flood-hit areas, accompanied by the Union Railway Minister and the state’s chief minister: newspaper reported that she had been visibly moved to tears at the plight of those displaced from their homes, their lives, by the ravaging flood. The chief minister, on whom the people of the state have put great faith, recently suggested ‘interlinking’ the state’s rivers à la the Ganga-Kaveri project to prevent this annual recurrence. His argument that the amount spent on this project would be far less than the amounts spent every year in relief operations makes sense. But would it work? Atleast two such ‘mammoth’ projects- the Bargi dam and the Sardar Sarovar Project, both on the river Narmada- faced massive earthquakes, which very nearly destroyed the city of Jabalpur and the state of Gujarat. If Ms. Arundhati Roy’s polemics are to be believed, then even the World Bank, the erstwhile principal funder of such large-scale earth-moving projects, has come around to the view that their long-term disadvantages (population-displacements and earthquakes included) far outweigh their short-term gains, if any.

At the local paan-wallah’s shop, two khadi-clad gentlemen were heard lamenting that nothing has changed since the ouster of Mr. Laloo Prasad Yadav's regime: “even if (Mr.) Nitish (Kumar) doesn’t take money,” they said, “the people below are the same.” There may be some truth in this remark. The kidnapping-industry shows no signs of stopping. The only cars one sees on Patna roads are Ambassadors (many of them topped with beaming red lights), Maruti 800s and vans, and even fiats: it’s almost as if Bihar has somehow managed to remain entirely unaffected by the liberalization of the nation’s automobile sector. LKM explained rather matter-of-factly: “a new car, especially a foreign car, is an invitation to the kidnappers.” Consequently, all signs of conspicuous consumption remain conspicuously absent. There can be another reason for this as well: the near-total absence of roads. Whatever little remains of the road is flooded. I saw three autorickshaws overturn when their drivers accidentally stumbled upon underwater potholes, very nearly drowning their overcrowded passengers, including a little girl. The plight of the historic Gandhi Maidan at Patna, where the chief minister unfurls the tricolor every year, was hardly better: every available pumpset in the state had to be requisitioned to drain the water. Despite what I had hoped, things in the state don't seem to have changed a lot.

Politically, caste-feelings continue to predominate. There is an overwhelming feeling among local Congressmen that the party should ‘go it alone’; they are obviously tired of playing second fiddle to the RJD (the party’s dominant alliance partner). Many of the former party bigwigs, including its last chief minister, Jagan Nath Mishra, have joined the current chief minister’s JD(U). I spoke to a former Congress home minister, who is also now in the JD(U). “What other option do we have?” he said. I don’t mind so much this exodus of senior partymen to the JD(U) as I do the paucity of those from the younger lot joining the Congress. At the Patna University, the walls were plastered with posters of all possible political hues (including the Shiv Sena): notably absent was the Congress-affiliated NSUI.

On Independence Day, when I unfurled the tricolor at a local school at Bhagalpur, there was talk of a cow having been slaughtered in Shuja mohallah, the Muslim-dominated area. A local journalist confirmed this, and when I asked him wasn’t cow-slaughter banned in the state, he replied: “it is but this isn’t Bihar, or even India. This is mini-Pakistan.” Much later, when I spoke to a higher official to verify the veracity of the rumor, he totally denied it. Whatever be the truth, I could sense the presence a strong communal undercurrent, as also politicians- and news-hungry journalists- only too eager to exploit it.

Suddenly, I was reminded of something that Alberuni, the Arab scholar, had written at the dawn of the last millennium: India, he observed, is ‘a mixture of pearls and dung.’ Returning from Bihar, I felt that not much has changed in the last thousand years.

Back home, a firing did take place at Silyari, Raipur’s industrial hub, on the 13th. Nobody was injured, and no complaint was lodged. Why Silyari of all the places? The motive of the crime-that-did-not-happen lies here, in the railway sheds. Yogesh Agrawal, the minister’s brother, controls the loading and unloading of all goods- manufactures as well as raw materials- to and from the railway-wagons: no industry, howsoever big or small, may do so without his ‘blessings’. An industrialist-friend, who also employs Mr. Agrawal’s services, estimates that his daily income from this business is in the region of two hundred thousand rupees. Not a small sum. Now, it is rumored that persons allegedly close to me, who are associated with the Youth Congress, have acquired this land around the railway sheds, which has led to some ‘tensions’ between them and Mr. Agrawal. The firing-incident was supposed to be a culmination of this rivalry, and along with the mysterious mobile video-clip, a way to unearthing a deeper, more sinister plot to murder the minister’s brother. Needless to say, I was supposed to be the mastermind.

The mysterious Mobile-clip

For whatever reason- maybe because I was not present, maybe because the minister didn’t want his brother’s name involved, maybe because better sense prevailed and they thought that like previous such ‘moves’ to implicate my family, this too would boomerang?- this did not happen. What I am sure of is this: my opponents’ paranoia- again for some inexplicable reason, they’ve come to see my hand behind everything that goes wrong with their politics (the latest being the revolt brimming in the BJP’s legislative party even though I was living in the remote village of Tala)- will not allow them to desist from their efforts to falsely implicate me. However, it would be equally foolish of me to succumb to these ploys, and not do what my heart- and mind- tell me to.


6 comments (टिप्पणी):

Remmish Gupta said...

After reading ur write-ups thoroughly, the only comment I can pass on is- 'the never ending political conspiracies against u, can never have an end'.
These mutts can do anything to keep u away from the much awaited political-battle which they too know well that it's a whiling movement now and it's surely be going to a huge loss for them. And hence, they're trying to take on such nonsensical acts. But, now the people of Chhattisgarh have come to know abt the actuality and the results will show them off. We're always with u & ur family in all circumstances.

Thx for the informative article abt recently-excavated late-Mauryan Buddhist sites in Bihar. It's really an useful information abt the history of Nalanda.
Thanks for showing the factual picture of NOW 'Nitish-Land. It can never be ameliorated until the people of Bihar themselves take on the challenges.


Atul said...

Really I cant believe that these ppl can come down to such a level..Just for the sake of getting one more term.
On the other hand, my inner mind makes me feel that there is nothin to be surprised of here. This govt is used to do such nonsense acts so its just another addition to it.

Cant this government do something positive, some real good works in the state like improving the ever detoriating law and order situation, improving the drainage and road conditions,solving the power shortage and providing some basic ammenities to the poor. Cant they think in the direction to atleast be true to "SOME" of their promises made in the pre election campaign.

Why are they behaving like total cowards?? They want to keep Mr Ajit Jogi and the family away from the elections. Why??India is a land of incarnations who have always shown that moral values and principles should always occupy the topmost place in one's life.Our brave warriors have always fought for our motherland even at the cost of their lives. They have happily sacrificed their lives keepin their heads high but never did anything which could have put a remark of "kaayar" on our country.

But the govt's attitude is in total contrast to this. They themselves know that they havent done anything good for the state and its ppl after gettin into power. They have simply cheated the innocent people of chhattisgarh and played gladly with their emotions. Now they are afraid that during the elections all their black deeds will be opened before the public by the mascot of C.G. (Jogi uncle) and then they wont be able to face the ppl at all. Forget about asking votes from them!! They have done a lot of scandals too, for which they are afraid that in 2008 elections if Congress comes to power then all those files wil be opened again. To safeguard their skin they want to retain power anyhow at any cost.

The best way which they have found out, to keep uncle away from election campaign and from public is to target Amit Bhaiya. They are of the opinion that if they are successful in targetting bhaiya and starting a case against him, then uncle's entire mind and strength wil be occupied there. Thats the only way they have found out to keep him away. Ppl of Rajnandgaon have already replied to this act of theirs.
With the victory of Khairagarh, they found this the best way. But they have forgotten that Khairagarh's poll was just two days after bhaiya's decisive hearing. So Mr Jogi was naturally tensed in the case and could not participate to the fullest for the by-poll(which is quite understandable for a father, that too when bhaiya is his only son)!! But the govt should not be in such a notion that everytime they can succeed in their motto..(After all everyday is not Sunday!!)

If the govt has even a little of morality left with them, then they should stop this dirty political game immediately. They should understand the self respect and value of a human and should also understand that a person's self respect is much above all the politics, they dont have any right to spoil the good image of anyone. For the next 15 months they should start doing some real good works for which they can tell the ppl of atleast some achievements of theirs and ask for votes.
Have guts to face the public and fight the elections on issues, not by such cheap and mediocre acts. After doing all this "naitikta toh yehi kehti hai ke state govt ko tatkal resign kar dena chahiye". But I am not askin for tat coz I know they are not gng to do that at any cost.

Amit Bhaiya we all r with you, Uncle and your entire family. These ppl wil always keep targettin you for their personal gains. But ab chhattisgarh ki janta jaag gayi hai. We are not going to come to any of govt's ploys. Ab sach sapke saamne aa chuka hai aur apni bholi bhali janta ko har baar gumraha nahi kar sakte yeh log.."Once bitten, twice shy"..
Under all circumstances you enjoy the total faith and support of 2 crore ppl of chhattisgarh. You continue your good work..and we wil definitely reply to this govt next yr...
May God bless you all..

Abhinandan said...

Amitji ,Needless to say a nice balanced description of the lost glory of Bihar. The once 'political capital' of the country is now in dire needs of a good leader. The state is gradually losing whatever it has.

Though Nitish Kumar is trying hard, but what has been done by the previous government was an effort that took 15 years. Atleast he is not just sitting and watching while Bihar 'burns' or rather 'floods'.

Congress has lost its base in Bihar, mainly due to sidelining of leaders like Ram Jatan Sinha and also because of a neglect of Bihar Congress on the part of Delhi high command, so as to please Lalu and keep him in good humour.

BJP since its inception never had an issue or an ideology save during the Ayodhya issue. Hence it always manufactures one..the current incident again proves this.

"Let ppl do whatever they wish, let them throw anything they desire.. for I am the one who decides when to sway and when to stand upright"..

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Amit,
Unexpectedly, I come across your blog ""...
Very Nice compilation.
However, the colors are very high contrasting. Please change the color of background and fonts.
I have a great respect to your father.
I can estimate how much he struggled to reach to that position. I wish him a speedy recovery.
By the way, I am Dr. Subba Reddy, from Andhra Pradesh, presently working as a scientist in Korea after my M.Tech and Ph.D. from IIT Kharagpur..
Good Luck for your future..

Dr. N. Subba Reddy
Postdoctoral Research Scientist
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Pohang University of Science and Technology
San 31, Hyoja-dong, Pohang 790-784, Gyeongbuk, Korea
Ph:82-54-279-5253/5256(O), 82-54-279-0793(H)

Anonymous said...

The post answers what I was looking for for a long time - why is Bihar backward? I got the answer now - the biased attitude of the non Bihari Indian. If you cant see any change in bihar since the congress backed lalu days, what can one say. And to write so unempathetically about the flood relief operations!!! Is there anything to show that other places are any less corrupt than Patna? And what about the Mugaliya attitude of Delhi? Do you know that Nehruvian policies of building the embankments have increased the flood prone areas! Does it occur to you that MEA has never made any serious attempt to engage Nepal for flood management.

Time is not far when Biharis will give up on India.

Anonymous said...

this shows the real face of the RSS and BJP ,they r trying all the tectiks and executing their hardcore plans to keep u and u r family out from the chattisgarh politics, but no matter what they do the common people of chattisgarh this time r with u and congress party.

"we r always with u against all odds and injustice bhaiya and always pray to god for u and u r family"

sameer thakur

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Amit Aishwarya Jogi
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Chhattisgarh, INDIA
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