Thursday, October 28, 2010

Under Threat: Our Right to Dissent

इतना दम बाजु-ए-रमन में नहीं है कि नेहरु-गाँधी के 
खून के बलिदान को भुलवा सके-

जो ये इतिहास मिटाएगा
वो खुद इतिहास बन जायेगा.

The Right to Dissent, to voice disagreement, is central not only to the notion of modern Democracy but, as pointed out by the Nobel laureate, Dr. Amartya Sen, to India’s glorious if somewhat overlooked tradition of Heterodoxy. It is a fact those in government often tend to ignore: when all else fails, dissent is met with deterrence in the form of punishments; in many cases, these punishments do not have the sanction of Law.

Dr. Raman Singh’s government in Chhattisgarh is increasingly enforcing such unlawful punishments as a deterrent against lawful dissent: the object is to frighten would-be dissenters from taking up causes against it.

Very recently, the Chhattisgarh State Textbook Corporation was instructed by the state government to stop issuing framed pictures of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shashtri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi- all former Prime Ministers- and Sardar Vallabhai Patel to state-run schools and colleges, and instead to replace them with those of Pandits Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Deen Dayal Upadhyay. The reason for this decision is of course political; it has nothing to do with the merits of their contribution to the nation-building process. Nehru ji, Sardar Patel, Shashtri ji, Indira ji and Rajiv ji were all Congresspersons; Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Upadhyay belonged to the erstwhile Jan Sangh (the precursor of BJP). What Dr. Raman Singh is trying to do, therefore, is nothing short of what VS Naipaul, another Nobel laureate, has termed as “the erasure of history” (albeit in an entirely different context).

This issue has been jointly taken up by the two youth frontal organizations of the party, NSUI and the Youth Congress. This afternoon, they staged a peaceful protest outside the Textbook Corporation’s head office at Raipur. They did not- nor did they have the intention to- hurt anyone. Even so, the district administration mercilessly lathi-charged the protestors, including the state presidents of both these organizations, Uttam Vasudeo and Sanjeev Shukla, and shut them behind bars. They were booked under section 151 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which is a bailable offense. But the SDM was specifically instructed by the DM (Collector) and SP to make himself scarce so that the protestors would not have an opportunity to furnish their bail bonds. The purpose of this is clear: to send them to jail, where they would be kept in barracks like common criminals. “If I had my way,” the SP told someone, “I would keep them locked up till after Deepawali.”

They did the same thing two days ago, when NSUI President Sanjeev Shukla and his associates staged a fast-unto-death outside Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla University at Raipur to urge the Vice Chancellor to issue degrees to more than 53000 students: they have been waiting for more than 3 years to get them. It is, to say the least, a most reasonable demand: without their degrees, they cannot even apply for jobs. The modus operandi of their protest was also not unreasonable: if anybody was being hurt, it was the students themselves. And yet, the police once again beat them up, and put them behind bars. Once again, the SDM made himself scarce, and once again, the students were forced to spend more than 2 days and 2 nights locked up in barracks like common criminals. For most if not all of them, this was their first time in jail. Naturally, they were terrified to be living alongside convicted criminals and the like, but it also gave them an insight into the inhuman conditions inmates are kept in inside our extremely corrupt jails. When they came out finally, they told the Press exactly what they saw and lived through.

For some reason- I can’t tell what- the state leadership of the Congress party organization has decided not to react to all this, let alone express support for the two youth organizations. It is most disappointing. After all, the removal of our Leaders’ pictures from schools and colleges is not simply a student- or even a youth- issue; it strikes at the very soul of our democratic culture. If we do not speak up now, there is no telling what they will do: at stake, is our Right to Think and Speak Freely. It is clear to me, now more than ever before, that when Dr. Raman Singh fails to buy our Silence (something I’m told he has become rather good at), he will stop at nothing to punish- and terrify- us into Silence.

The Gentleman Doctor’s Mask is slipping away; behold, a Tyrant emerges! Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Star is Born: Anuj Sharma

(This article is the property of The Sunday Indian and part of their publication "Ratn-36".)

In 2000, my mother took me to watch Mor Chhaiyyan Bhuiyyan; most of the film’s cast and crew were present. Afterwards, we invited them home for tea. But the person I most wanted to meet was absent. I didn’t know his name back then. So, when I met the producers, I asked them “where is the guy, the naughty younger brother Kartik, who lit up the screen every time he was on it; the one who had the audience going gaga…” Before I could finish describing him, they proclaimed his name: Anuj.

A lot has happened during the last decade. Chhollywood, Chhattisgarh’s still-nascent film industry, has gone through a definitive cycle of Rise, Fall and Rebirth. There has however remained one constant: the ever-increasing endearment of Anuj Sharma to the people that speak and sing in his dialect, share his on-screen life, and hope someday to emulate his off-screen Rags to Riches story. I have personally borne witness to this phenomenon on countless occasions, not just when he is performing on-stage but also when we are doing simple everyday things like going for a drive, or having an ice cream or watching a movie. People, especially those one doesn’t generally take note of- the doorman, the auto-rickshaw driver, the maid, the quintessential ‘have-not’- seem to materialize out of nowhere just to shake hands with him, to touch him. And boy, does he touch them- not just physically (something his numerous heroines, no doubt, would vouch for!) but also, much more significantly, at a deeper emotional, ethereal level. This fact didn’t escape The Sunday Times of India when it recently did a one-page cover story on Anuj.

I am not a film critic. But Anuj comes across as something of a Chhattisgarhi Brando: even at his quietest moments, he simmers and sizzles; he is both Chocolaty Romantic Hero and Angry Young Man, all rolled into one. Trade-wise, he remains Chhattisgarh’s most bankable star: 9 out of the state’s 10 biggest-grossing films have Anuj as their lead and not one film has celebrated its Silver Jubilee which didn’t have him in it. To say the least, his producers are never disappointed. His foray into television led to the most-watched show ever in Chhattisgarh’s history, Folk Jhama-jham, on ETV-Chhattisgarh. I’ve seen posters of Anuj’s films not just plastered all over Chhattisgarh- more than any neta, in fact- but also in far-off corners of Bhagalpur (Bihar), where he is a household name. Professionally, he helped re-launch his bosom-friend, Prakash’s fledgling film career, when they made Maya (2010), the highest-grossing film in Chhattisgarh’s history. And once every year, he gives a free performance at his native town, Bhatapara, personally bearing all costs.

But the reason I’ve been asked to write this is not to narrate what everybody already knows about Anuj; it’s to tell what you don’t. For instance, he’s completely and totally devoted to his Amma, who raised him singlehandedly after his father passed away. (Amma is, by the way, the best Chhattisgarhi cook I know, and her jimikanda cooked in curd are to die for!) He loves his wife (whom he married out of love) and his newly arrived daughter, Anumita, who has brought him not only joy but also an unending string of hits! He is remarkably down-to-earth, and can keep smiling- not just with his lips, but with his eyes- for a longer time than anyone I know: at his wedding reception, his all-winning smile didn’t leave his face for 7 hours as he personally attended to several thousand guests!
I also know for a fact that he can sing better than he can act: every time Anuj sings, I can almost feel the divine. Also- and this is his big secret- he has ghostwritten tantalizing lyrics for some very titillating albeit hugely popular songs! (Bhoran debe ka, being one such number.) He also has his likes and dislikes, and in particular, one dislike: the shameless exploitation of Chhattisgarh’s immense cinematic talent by a clique of mindless cultural illiterates. (You can also listen to my podcast of Anuj's interview to know more about his views on the subject.) That is perhaps why he was unanimously elected as President of our state’s Film Artistes’ Association: to protect, and if necessary, fight for their often-trampled Rights. Not surprisingly, UNICEF has chosen him as their Goodwill Ambassador for Chhattisgarh.

From there, it’s just a hop-skip-and-jump to Politics. Realizing his immense potential in public life, I’ve often tried to shamelessly lure him into this world, but Anuj hasn’t yielded. No yet, anyway!
Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Friday, October 01, 2010

विश्वास की लड़ाई: छत्तीसगढ़ में युवा कांग्रेस चुनाव

Read this post in English here.

छत्तीसगढ़ में युवा कांग्रेस चुनाव की आठ-महीने लम्बी प्रक्रिया समाप्त हो गई है: प्रदेश भर से लगभग 400,000 नौजवानों ने अपने मताधिकार का प्रयोग करके 7500 पंचायत, 1000 वार्ड, 90 नगर पंचायत, 89 विधान सभा, 11 लोक सभा और प्रदेश समितियों का चयन कर लिया है. निःसंदेह ये हमारे प्रदेश के इतिहास में किसी भी राजनैतिक दल द्वारा चलाया गया सबसे वृहद् लोकतांत्रिक अभियान है. यही नहीं, छत्तीसगढ़ देश का पहला ऐसा राज्य है जहाँ दोनों एन.एस.यू.आई. और युवा कांग्रेस के पदाधिकारी पूर्णतः निर्वाचित हैं. इस मायने में, राहुल जी की देशव्यापी क्रांति सबसे पहले हमारे प्रदेश में सफलतापूर्वक पूर्ण हुई है. यह हमारे लिए गौरव की बात है.

मैंने भी इस अभियान में अपनी छोटी सी भूमिका निभाई है: मुझे प्रदेश का दौरा करने के साथ साथ उसकी युवा पीढ़ी से मिलने का अवसर भी मिला.

इस चुनाव के 5 प्रमुख बिंदु निम्नानुसार हैं:
  • पहला, प्रदेश युवा कांग्रेस का नवनिर्वाचित अध्यक्ष उत्तम वासुदेव एक गरीबी रेखा कार्ड रखने वाला किसान का लड़का है. उसका गाँव, झाबर, मरवाही विधान सभा क्षेत्र में है. उसके चुनाव ने विरोधियों के आरोप कि इन चुनावों में धन-बल और बाहु-बल का खुला दुरूपयोग हुआ है, की धज्जियां उड़ा दी है.
  • दूसरा, प्रदेश के चारों संभागों को प्रदेश समिति में प्रतिनिधित्व का मौका मिला है: सरगुजा से दानिश रफीक, बस्तर से साकेत शुक्ला, बिलासपुर से उत्तम वासुदेव, सुश्री सुखबाई खूटे (अ.जा.) और पप्पू बघेल (अ.जा), और रायपुर से दीपक मिश्रा, आसिफ मेमन, संदीप साहू और अभिषेक मोदी.
  • तीसरा, चुनाव में केवल एक लोक सभा अध्यक्ष का पद आरक्षित रखा गया. इसके बावजूद 3 लोक सभा अध्यक्ष आदिवासी बने (बस्तर- कवासी हरीश, सरगुजा- बबला तिर्की, कोरबा- सुश्री बून्दकुन्वर मास्को); 2 अनुसूचित जाति के है (बिलासपुर- गोविन्द सेठी, जांजगीर- अशोक सोनवानी); और 3 मुसलमान (कांकेर- अमीन मेमन, दुर्ग- अयूब खान, राजनंदगांव- नवाज़ खान). इस प्रकार 11 में से 8 लोक सभा अध्यक्ष आरक्षित वर्ग के हैं.
  • चौथा, ८९ में से ८४ विधान सभा अध्यक्ष स्थापित स्थानीय पार्टी नेतृत्व की सक्रिय खिलाफत के बावजूद चुनाव जीते हैं; न की उनके समर्थन से. कई जगह वे स्थापित नेताओं की संतानों को हराकर जीते हैं. बस्तर लोक सभा में हरीश कवासी, जो की सुकमा का जनपद अध्यक्ष है, महेंद्र कर्मा के बेटे बंटी कर्मा को पराजित करके अध्यक्ष बना है. सन्देश स्पष्ट है: युवा पीढ़ी की पलटन चल पड़ी है; वह अब रुकने वाली नहीं है.
  • पांचवा, पिछले १ साल में राहुल गाँधी के नेतृत्व में छत्तीसगढ़ में 100,000 छात्र एन.एस.यु.आई से, और लगभग 400,000 नौजवान युवा कांग्रेस से जुड़े हैं. इस प्रकार कांग्रेस पार्टी के दोनों युवा संगठनों की सदस्यता प्रदेश कांग्रेस से कम से कम 3 गुना अधिक हो गई है. समय आ गया है कि युवा कांग्रेस के साथ साथ अब हम कांग्रेस को युवा करने की ओर काम करें.

प्रदेश युवा कांग्रेस की पहली बैठक उत्तम के गाँव, झाबर, में २ अक्टूबर गाँधी जयंती को रखी गई है. भविष्य में युवा कांग्रेस शहरों से नहीं, गाँवों से चलेगी. ये मुनासिब भी है क्योंकि प्रदेश में युवा कांग्रेस के 75% सदस्य पंचायतों में रहते हैं.

युवा कांग्रेस के अपने साथियों को मैं दो सुझाव दूंगा: पहला, किसी प्रदेश-स्तरीय कार्यक्रम के बजाय वे ऐसे स्थानीय मुद्दों की पहचान करें, जिससे उनके क्षेत्र की जनता, विशेषकर युवाओं, का सीधा वास्ता है, और फिर इन मुद्दों को हल करने के लिए अपने नौजवान साथियों की टीम के साथ अभियान चलाये. दूसरा, ऐसा करने का 'पदयात्रा' से बेहतर तरीका नहीं है. लोगों को समझने के लिए, उनका विश्वास जीतने के लिए, उनके बीच में जाकर उनके साथ रहने से अच्छा रास्ता कोई नहीं है. साथ में, जिन पंचायतों में सदस्यता नहीं हुई है, वहां सदस्य बनाने का काम पूरा करें.

इस चुनाव ने हमें एक सीख दी है. हमारे साथ सदस्य, संसाधन और रणनीति भले ही हो, जब तक लोगों का विश्वास नहीं रहेगा, उस विश्वास को हासिल करने के लिए टीम नहीं रहेगी, किसी का भी नेता बनना संभव नहीं है. जब कोई भी सदस्य मतदान करने जाता है, वो बूथ के अन्दर अकेले रहता है, उसे कोई देखता नहीं रहता है. ऐसे में उसके मन में केवल एक प्रश्न उठता है: "मैं किस पर भरोसा करता हूँ?" मुझे बेहद संतोष है कि जो 90 साथी मेरे साथ नक्सली इलाकों में बस्तर सत्याग्रह के दौरान चले थे, उनमें से 52 विधान सभा अध्यक्ष, 11 लोक सभा अध्यक्ष, और 7 प्रदेश समिति के सदस्य निर्वाचित हुए हैं.

इसलिए मैं अपने युवा कांग्रेस के साथियों से निवेदन करता हूँ कि वे लोगों का विश्वास जीतने का हरसंभव प्रयास करें. यही राहुल जी की क्रांति का सार है: नेता बनने के लिए बड़े नेताओं के आगे-पीछे घूमना बंद करो; जनता के बीच में रहकर, कार्यकर्ताओं का विश्वास जीतो. पदयात्रा करो, अपनी टीम बनाओ.

Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

On the Youth Congress Election in Chhattisgarh: Fight for Faith

इस लेख को हिंदी में यहाँ पढ़ें.

The eight-month long election process to constitute the Pradesh Youth Congress (PYC) committee has come to an end in Chhattisgarh: almost 400,000 members from across the state exercised their franchise to elect Youth Congress (YC) committees in more than 7500 panchayats, 1000 urban wards, 89 assembly segments and 11 Lok Sabha constituencies of the state. This was, beyond doubt, the largest democratic enterprise undertaken by any political organization in our state’s history. Not only this, Chhattisgarh has now become the first state where both NSUI and YC office-bearers are all elected. In this respect, we are the first state of the nation where Rahul ji's Revolution is complete. I was fortunate to have played a small part in this mammoth effort: more than anything else, it gave me an opportunity to tour the state, and interact with its youth.

Five aspects need to be noted about the PYC elections:
• First, the election of Uttam Vasudeo as state President puts paid to allegations of rampant misuse of money and muscle power in YC elections: he is, after all, a BPL-card (Below Poverty Line) carrying OBC farmer’s son from a village called Jhabar in Marwahi, my father’s home constituency.

• Secondly, each of the 4 divisions of Chhattisgarh has found representation in the state committee vis-à-vis Bastar (Saket Shukla), Sarguja (Danish Rafique), Bilaspur (Uttam Vasudeo, Sandeep Sahu, Sukhbai Khute and Pappu Baghel) and Raipur (Deepak Mishra, Asif Memon and Abhishek Modi).

• Thirdly, even though only 1 Lok Sabha (LS) President’s post was reserved, 8 of the 11 LS Presidents come from the "reserved categories":
o STs were elected Presidents in no less than 3 Lok Sabhas vis-à-vis Bastar (Harish Kawasi), Sarguja (Babla Tirki) and Korba (Ms. Boondhkunwar Masko). Also, in Korba LS, the president-elect also happens to be a woman;
o SCs became Presidents in 2 Lok Sabhas vis-à-vis Bilaspur (Govind Sethi) and Janjgir (Ashok Sonwani);
o 3 other LS Presidents are Muslims vis-à-vis Kanker (Ameen Meman), Rajnandgaon (Nawaz Khan) and Durg (Ayub Khan).

• Fourthly, 84 of 89 Vidhan Sabha Presidents contested- and won- against rather than with the support of established local political leaderships. In this respect at least, the mandate ushers in a new wave of anti-establishmentarianism. The youth of the party, it appears, are not on the same frequencies as their leaders, and vice-versa. In many cases, progenies of political stalwarts were ousted by relative newcomers. Most notably, in Bastar LS, Harish Kawasi, the young Janpad President of Sukma (Dantewada), dealt a crushing blow to Bunty Karma, the so-called Bastar Tiger, Mahendra Karma’s son. The way I see it: the Youth cannot, and will not, be stopped.

• Last but not the least, 100,000 students have joined the NSUI and almost 400,000 youth have enrolled in the YC in Chhattisgarh during the past year under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi. This means that the membership of the party’s 2 youth organizations is at least 4 times bigger than that of the parent body’s. It is time, therefore, to stop thinking merely in terms of ‘Youth Congress’ but instead start to work towards making the entire Congress young.

The first Meeting of the new PYC, I’m informed, is to take place on Gandhi Jayanti (October 2, 2010) in Uttam’s Jhabar. It marks a radical new beginning: henceforth, the Youth Congress in Chhattisgarh will be run from villages, not cities. This is only fitting as 75% of its members live in panchayats.

To my friends in the Youth Congress, I offer two suggestions:
  • First, rather than have a statewide program, I believe it is much more important for elected office bearers (EOBs) of the YC to identify local issues that directly concern the people, particularly the youth, and formulate strategies to solve them.
  • Secondly, the best way to go about doing this is for each of them to undertake Padyatras (foot march) of their respective areas: there’s no better way to understand the people, and win their trust, than by actually living with them. During membership drive, some villages were left out. Padyatras would be a good way to encourage youth of those villages to join YC.

What this election has taught us all is this: one may have members, resources and strategy, but unless and until one has the Trust of the youth, and a Team to capitalize on that Trust, it's simply not possible to become a leader. This is something most commentators seem to miss out on. When a member casts his vote, he’s alone and there’s no one watching him, he’s free to do as he pleases, and at this point, the only question that arises in his mind is: whom do I trust? In this context, it gives me a certain degree of satisfaction to note that of the 90 persons who marched with me through the heart of Naxalite territory during the Bastar Satyagraha, 52 are now Assembly Presidents, 11 are LS Presidents, and 7 are in the state committee.
I, therefore, urge my friends in the YC and the NSUI to do everything possible to win the trust of the people. That is the essence of Rahul ji’s Revolution: to become a leader, you no longer need the blessings of the top leadership; all you need to do is win the trust of the people. And the best way to go about doing it is by hitting the road, and building your team.
Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

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1. No part of this Blog shall be published and/or transmitted, wholly or in part, without the prior permission of the author, and/or without duly recognizing him as such. (१. इस ब्लॉग का कोई भी भाग, पूरा या अधूरा, बिना लेखक की पूर्व सहमति के, किसी भी प्रकार से प्रसारित या प्रकाशित नहीं किया जा सकता.)
2. This Blog subscribes to a Zero Censorship Policy: no comment on this Blog shall be deleted under any circumstances by the author. (२. ये ब्लॉग जीरो सेंसरशिप की नीति में आस्था रखता है: किसी भी परिस्थिति में कोई भी टिप्पणी/राय ब्लॉग से लेखक द्वारा हटाई नहीं जायेगी.)
3. The views appearing on this Blog are the author's own, and do not reflect, in any manner, the views of those associated with him. (३. इस ब्लॉग पर दर्शित नज़रिया लेखक का ख़ुद का है, और किसी भी प्रकार से, उस से सम्बंधित व्यक्तियों या संस्थाओं के नज़रिए को नहीं दर्शाता है.)

CONTACT ME. मुझसे संपर्क करें

Amit Aishwarya Jogi
Anugrah, Civil Lines
Raipur- 492001
Chhattisgarh, INDIA
Telephone/ Fascimile: +91 771 4068703
Mobile: +91 942420 2648 (AMIT)
Skype: jogi.amit
Yahoo!: amitjogi2001