Monday, May 16, 2011

Toba Tek Singh by Saadat Hasan Manto



Two or three years after Partition, the governments of India and Pakistan  decided that just as there had been a cordial exchange of prisoners, there should now also be a similar exchange of lunatics. That is to say Muslim lunatics housed in Indian asylums should be repatriated to Pakistan and Sikh and Hindu lunatics, in turn, handed over to India.
It’s hard to be sure of the wisdom of the idea. But in line with the wishes of intellectuals, a high level conference was held, and at length, a date for the transfer fixed. A thorough review was conducted. In India, it was decided that those Muslim lunatics who had family living there would be allowed to remain while the rest were moved up to the border. Here, in Pakistan, as practically the entire Sikh and Hindu population had departed, no question arose of allowing any to remain; each and every Sikh and Hindu lunatic was put under police custody and duly transported up to the border.
One cannot speak of the other side, but here in Lahore, a lively debate began at the lunatic asylum when news broke of the transfer. When one Muslim lunatic—for twelve years a regular reader of The Landowner/Zamindar (a newspaper of the time)—was asked, “Maulvi saab, what is this Pakistan?” he replied after careful deliberation, “an area in India where razor blades are manufactured.” This explanation seemed to satisfy his friend. Similarly, one Sikh lunatic said to another: “Sardarji, why are we being sent to India; we don’t even speak their language.” The other said with a smile, “I speak Hindustaneese. And let me tell you they’re very wicked people.” Then, doing an impression of their arrogant ways he added,  “they strut about bold upright like this.” In a separate section of the asylum, a Muslim lunatic, while bathing one morning, cried, “Long live Pakistan” so loudly that he slipped and fell on the bathroom floor, knocking himself unconscious.
Some lunatics were not in fact mad. The majority of these were murderers whose families had bribed the police to have them sent to the madhouse in order to save them from the gallows. They—to some extent— were able to grasp why India had been partitioned and what Pakistan was. But of the real facts, even they were in the dark: the newspapers explained little to nothing and their warden was ignorant and illiterate. They remained confused even after much discussion. They knew only that there was a man called Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who people called the Quaid-e-Azam, and that he had made a country for the Muslims called Pakistan. Where it was, what its shape and size were—of these, they knew nothing. And for this reason, those lunatics who were not entirely deranged, were forced to wonder they were at the present moment in India or in Pakistan. If India, then where was Pakistan? And if Pakistan, how was it that they had ended up here, despite never having moved and having been in India only a short while ago?
One lunatic, emerged from this confusion over India and Pakistan and Pakistan and India, madder still. Sweeping his way along the floor with a broom, he climbed a tree, and there, from one of its branches, delivered a speech which touched upon the problems of both countries. When the guards tried bringing him down, he climbed higher still. Surrounded and frightened, he yelled, “I neither want to live in India nor in Pakistan. I’m happy in this tree.” It was only with great difficulty, and only once his fit had cooled, that he was persuaded to come down at which point he fell weeping into the arms of his Hindu and Sikh brethren, his heart filled with sadness at the thought of them leaving him and going to India.
In the daily routine of one radio engineer, a master of sciences who kept largely to himself, spending the entire day pacing the garden’s trails in silence, one change occurred: he removed all his clothes, and handing them over to one of the wardens, resumed walking the garden trail stark naked. And one fat Muslim lunatic from Chaniot, who had in the past been a dedicated Muslim League worker, but had since taken to bathing fifteen to sixteen times a day, now suddenly gave up this habit. His name was Muhammad Ali. And so, one day, from the confines of his cell, he announced that he was in fact the Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Watching him, a Sikh lunatic instantly became Master Tara Singh. And there was nearly bloodshed in the cell until both men were declared dangerous lunatics and separated.
When a young Hindu lawyer from Lahore, whose romantic failures had driven him to madness, heard Amritsar had gone to India, he was filled with sorrow. It had been a Hindu girl from this town that he had fallen in love with. And though she had spurned him, he had, despite his madness, not been able to forget her. He hurled insults at all the leaders, Muslim and Hindu alike, who had come together to make two pieces of India, leaving his beloved in India and him in Pakistan. When talk of the exchange began, his fellow lunatics tried explaining to him that he should not lose heart; he would be sent to India where his beloved lived. But he didn’t want to leave Lahore for fear that in Amritsar his legal practice would suffer.
In the European ward, two Anglo-Indian lunatics despaired at hearing that the British had left and India was independent. They spoke for hours in secret, turning over the problem of what their status in the asylum would now be. Would the European ward remain or be abolished? Would they still get breakfast? And would they now in place of toast have to force bloody Indian chapattis down their throats?
There was in the asylum a Sikh lunatic, who had been committed for fifteen years. At any moment these strange words were ready on his lips: “Opadh di gudh gudh di annexe di bedhayana di mung di dal of the laltain.” He slept neither in the day nor at night. It was rumoured among the wardens that in fifteen long years, he had not slept, not even laid down, for a single moment. At most he would occasionally rest against a wall.
His feet and legs had swollen up from standing up for so long, but despite his discomfort, he refused to lie down. Whenever a discussion about India and Pakistan and the exchange of lunatics began in the asylum, he listened with keen interest. And, if ever, anybody asked his opinion, he gravely replied: “Opadh di gudh gudh di annexe di bedhayana di mung di dal of the Pakistani government.” However later, in place “of the Pakistani government,” he had begun to say, “of the Toba Tek Singh government” and would regularly ask the other inmates if they knew where Toba Tek Singh—to which he was native—was.
Nobody knew whether it was in India or in Pakistan. Whoever tried to explain would slide into confusing speculations that if Sialkot, which had once been in India, was now in Pakistan, who could say whether Lahore, which was in Pakistan, would not tomorrow be in India? Or that all of India become Pakistan? And who could say with any conviction that one day both Pakistan and India would not be wiped off the face of the earth?
This Sikh lunatic’s hair had thinned and little remained. Because he didn’t bathe much, the hair from his head had become entangled with the hair from his beard, and hardened, giving his face a frightening aspect. But he was harmless, and in fifteen years, he had not once been embroiled in a fight or incident of any kind. The asylum’s veteran employees were aware that he had vast holdings of land in Toba Tek Singh. He had apparently been a perfectly normal, bon vivant landlord until one day when his mind turned.
His relations had brought him to the asylum in heavy iron chains. After that, they came to visit him every month. Once they had inquired after his well-being, they would leave. For a period this arrangement had remained active, but since the trouble began between India and Pakistan, they had stopped coming.
Though his name was really Bishen Singh, he was known to all as Toba Tek Singh. He had no idea of the passage of time, neither what day or month it was nor how many years had passed. But every month when the time for his friends and relations to visit drew near, he would instinctively know and would inform the warden.
Then on that day, he was sure to bathe well. He would rub his body thoroughly with soap, brush and oil his hair and take out his own clothes, which he never usually wore. And dressed up like this, he would appear before his visitors. If ever they asked him something, he would either remain silent or on occasion burst out with: “Opadh di gudh gudh di annexe di bedhayana di mung di dal of the laltain.”
He had one daughter, who adding an inch to her height every year, had grown into a young woman of fifteen. Bishen Singh was unable to recognize her. As a girl, she had wept at seeing her father, and later, even as a grown-up girl, the sight of him brought tears to her eyes.
Whenever the subject of India and Pakistan was raised, Bishen Singh would start asking the other lunatics where Toba Tek Singh was. When he didn’t receive a satisfactory answer, his inquiries became more urgent. The visits had ceased as well. In the past he had known instinctively when his visitors were coming, but now that stopped too, as if the inner voice that had informed him of their arrival had fallen silent.
He wished very much that those people, who had shown him sympathy and brought him fruit, sweets and clothes, would return. He was sure that, they would tell him whether Toba Tek Singh was in India or Pakistan if only he could only ask them. He was certain that that was where they came from, Toba Tek Singh, where his lands lay.
The asylum also housed a lunatic who believed he was God. When one day Bishen Singh asked him if he knew whether Toba Tek Singh was in India or Pakistan, he replied characteristically with a cackle. “It is neither in India nor in Pakistan. For the simple reason that I haven’t given the order yet.” Bishen Singh implored him many times to give the order quickly so that this matter could be resolved, but he said he was very busy as he had many other orders yet to give. At length, Bishen Singh tired of him and exploded: “Opadh di gudh gudh di annexe di bedhayana di mung di dal of wahe Guruji da Khalsa and wahe Guruji di Fateh…jo bole so niha(stressed accent)l, sat sri akal.” The meaning of this perhaps was that ‘you are evidently a Muslim god, for if you were a Sikh god, you would assuredly hear my appeal.’
A few days before the exchange, a Muslim friend of Toba Tek Singh’s came to visit him. He had never come before, and when Bishen Singh saw him, he moved to one side and began retreating. The guards stopped him. “He’s your friend, Fazal Din,” they said, “he’s come to see you.”
Bishen Singh eyed the man with a sidelong glance and began mumbling indistinctly. Fazal Din took a step forward, and resting a hand on his shoulder, said, “I’ve been meaning to come for many days, but was never able to find the time. All your people have made it safely across to India. In whatever way I could help, I did. Your daughter Roop Kaur…”
He stopped mid-sentence. Bishen Singh had remembered something. “Daughter Roop Kaur.”
Fazaldin continued haltingly: “Yes, she…she is also fine. She went across with the others.”
Bishen Singh was silent. Fazal Din began to say, “They asked me to check up on you routinely. But I hear now that you are also to go to India. Do give my salaam to Bhai Balbir Singh and Bhai Vadhawa Singh. And to Bhen Amrit Kaur too. Tell Bhai Balbir Singh that I am well and happy. Of the two brown buffaloes he left behind, one has given birth to a calf. The other had too, but sadly hers died after six days. And…and if there’s anything I can do, I’m always at their service. Here, I brought you some sweets.” Bishen Singh took the cloth containing the sweets and handed it to the warden. Then turning back to Fazal Din, he asked, “Where is Toba Tek Singh?”
Fazal Din said with outright surprise: “Where is it? Why, it’s where it’s always been of course.”
Bishen Singh pressed him: “But in Pakistan or in India?”
Fazal Din gave a start. “In India,” he said, “No, no, in Pakistan.”
Bishen Singh mumbled, and jumping up, said, “Opadh di gudh gudh di annexe di bedhayana di mung di dal of the Pakistan and India dar fattey mun.”
The preparations for the exchange were complete. The lists of lunatics to be exchanged had arrived and a date for the transfer had been fixed.
It was bitter winter when lorry-loads of Hindu and Sikh lunatics, with police escorts and officers accompanying them, departed from Lahore’s lunatic asylum. At the Wagah border crossing, the superintendents of both sides met. After initiating proceedings, the exchange began and continued through the night.
Unloading the lunatics from the lorries and handing them over to the officers was no easy task. Some refused to get out. Those who were prepared to step out proved difficult to manage, running wildly in every direction. When an attempt was made to dress those who were naked, they tore the clothes from their body. Some became abusive, some sang songs, others wept and quarreled; the noise was deafening. The female lunatics, especially, made ear-splitting noise. It was bitingly cold and everyone’s teeth chattered.
Most of the lunatics were not in support of the exchange because they couldn’t understand why they were being uprooted from their place and forced to go somewhere else. The few who understood yelled slogans: “Long live Pakistan” and “Death to Pakistan.” On two or three occasions a  riot was narrowly avoided as the sentiments of a few Sikhs and Muslims became inflamed by the slogans.
When Bishen Singh’s turn came, and the official on the other side of the border began entering his name into a register, he asked, “Where is Toba Tek Singh? In India or in Pakistan?”
Laughing, the official said, “In Pakistan.”
Hearing this, Bishen Singh jumped to one side and ran to rejoin his remaining comrades.
The Pakistani soldiers caught hold of him and tried taking him to the other side, but he refused. “Toba Tek Singh is here,” he said, and began loudly to yell, “Opadh di gudh gudh di annexe di bedhayana di mung di dal of Toba Tek Singh and Pakistan.”
A great effort was made to explain to him that Toba Tek Singh was now in India. If he didn’t go himself, he would be sent, but he would not relent. When they tried forcibly to send him across, he dug in his swollen heels at a point in the middle of the border, such that it seemed no force was powerful enough to uproot him.
No excessive force was used as he was harmless. He was left to stand there while the rest of the exchange was completed.
Before the sun rose, a piercing scream broke from the throat of a rigid Bishen Singh, standing at attention. Several officers came to see the man, who had been on his legs day and night for fifteen years, lying facedown on the ground. There, behind barbed wire, was India. Here, behind barbed wires, was Pakistan. In the middle, on a nameless piece of earth, Toba Tek Singh lay.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

HINDI IS NOT OUR NATIONAL LANGUAGE: INDIAN JUDICIARY


Gujarat High Court has observed that though majority of people in India have accepted Hindi as a national language, there was nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country.
The observation was made by division bench of Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and justice A.S. Dave recently while rejecting a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by one Suresh Kachhadia.
Mr. Kachhadia had filed the PIL last year seeking direction to Central and State government to make it mandatory for manufacturers to print details of goods like price, ingredients and date of manufacture in Hindi.
The court observed, “Normally, in India, majority of the people have accepted Hindi as a national language and many people speak Hindi and write in Devanagari script but there is nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country.”
“No mandamus can be issued on any manufacturer or others for giving details or particulars of package in Hindi in Devanagari script,” it further said.
It was contended by Mr. Kachhadia’s lawyer that Hindi was the national language and was understood by a large number of persons in the country.
The Counsel representing central government submitted that specific provision has been made under the Standard of Weight and Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules of 1977 that particulars of declaration should be in Hindi in Devanagari script or in English.
The court said that the Constituent Assembly while discussing the Language Formula noticed the recommendation of the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights, which recommended the formula as per which, “Hindustani, written either in Devanagari or the Persian script at the option of the citizen, shall, as the national language, be the first official language of the Union. English shall be the second official language for such period as the Union may, by law, determine.”
However, in the constitution, Hindi was declared as an official language and not a national language.
The court in its order said Part XVII of the Constitution deals with Official Language. Under Article 343, official language of the Union has been prescribed, which includes Hindi in Devanagari script and English. (THE HINDU)


YARA ELECTION

Yara International School, Riyadh organised its annual students' council election on 16 April 2011.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Junk food banned in school canteens


By MUHAMMAD HUMAIDAN | ARAB NEWS
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Education has banned the sale of junk foods 
and sugary beverages at all public schools.
The banned items include cookies, chocolates, chips, chewing gum, power drinks, canned foods, fruit juices, carbonated drinks and meat dishes, including liver. The ban order also covers various kinds of pastries.
School canteens are not supposed to sell junk food and supply only balanced food to students.
A dietitian in Jeddah, Fatimah Bukhari, stressed the significance of educating children on nutrition and eating balanced meals and learning healthy food habits. They should also be able to distinguish between good and harmful foods, she said.
The traditional Arab diet is healthy, especially when coupled with the more active outdoors lifestyles of the past. But the modern advent of consuming processed foods and foods heavy with sugars, oils and fats — coupled with a far less active lifestyle — has created a health crisis.
Diet-related diseases like diabetes is rapidly approaching endemic levels in Saudi Arabia and other countries.
She recommended that the Education Ministry should resume the free supply of balanced meals to students particularly at the primary and intermediate schools.

anna hazare: a flame of protest against corruption




Anna Hazare was born on 15.01.1940 in  Bhingar, near Ahmednagar city, Maharashtra   in India. Anna's father Baburao Hazare worked as an unskilled labourer in Ayurveda Ashram Pharmacy. Anna's grandfather was in the army and was posted at Bhingar when Anna was born. He died in 1945 but Anna's father continued to stay at Bhingar. In 1952 Anna's father resigned from his job and returned to his own village, Ralegan Siddhi. At that time Anna had completed his education upto 4th standard and had six younger siblings. It was with great difficulty that Anna's father could make two ends meet. Anna's aunt (father's sister) took Anna to Mumbai. She was childless and she offered to look after him and his education.
From a tenacious soldier to a social reformer, and a right to information crusader, Anna Hazare’s journey of four decades has been unprecedented in terms of a non-violent yet effective campaign of resurrecting a barren village into an `ideal village?model and empowering the faceless citizen through pioneering work on Right to Information. His efforts to empower grampanchayats, protect efficient government officers from frequent transfers and fight against the red tapism in government offices have also received accolades.
His tryst with the army came when many Indian soldiers became martyrs in the Indo-China War of 1962 and the Government of India had appealed to young Indians to join the Indian army. Being passionate about patriotism, he promptly responded to the appeal and joined the Indian Army in 1963. During his 15-year tenure as a soldier, he was posted to several states like Sikkim, Bhutan, Jammu-Kashmir, Assam, Mizoram, Leh and Ladakh and braved challenging weathers.

At times, Hazare used to be frustrated with life and wondered about the very existence of human life. His mind yearned to look out for a solution to this simple and basic question. His frustration reached the peak level and at one particular moment, he also contemplated suicide. For this, he had also penned a two page essay on why he wants to live no more. Fortunately for him, inspiration came from the most unexpected quarters ?at the book stall of the railway station of New Delhi, where he was located then. He came across a book of Swami Vivekananda and immediately bought it.
He was inspired by Vivekananda’s photograph on the cover. As he started reading the book, he found answers to all his questions, he says. The book revealed to him that the ultimate motive of human life should be service to humanity. Striving for the betterment of common people is equivalent to offering a prayer to the God, he realized.
In the year 1965, Pakistan attacked India and at that time, Hazare was posted at the Khemkaran border. On November 12, 1965, Pakistan launched air attacks on Indian base and all of Hazare’s comrades became martyrs, It was a close shave for Hazare as one bullet had passed by his head. Hazare believes this was the turning point of his life as it meant he had a purpose to life. Anna was greatly influenced by Swami Vivekananda’s teachings. It was at that particular moment that Hazare took an oath to dedicate his life in the service of humanity, at the age of 26. He decided not not to let go of a life time by being involved merely in earning the daily bread for the family. That’s the reason why he pledged to be a bachelor. By then he had completed only three years in the army and so would not be eligible for the pension scheme. In order to be self-sufficient, he continued to be in the army for 12 more years. After that, he opted for voluntary retirement and returned to his native place in Ralegan Siddhi, in the Parner tehsil of Ahmednagar district.
While in the army, Hazare used to visit Ralegan Siddhi for two months every year and used to see the miserable condition of farmers due to water scarcity. Ralegan Siddhi falls in the drought-prone area with a mere 400 to 500 mm of annual rainfall. There were no weirs to retain rainwater. During the month of April and May, water tankers were the only means of drinking water. Almost 80 per cent of the villagers were dependent on other villages for food grains. Residents used to walk for more than four to six kilometers in search of work and some of them had opted to open country liquor dens as a source of income.
More than 30-35 such dens located in and around the village had tarnished the dignity of the village and marred the social peace. Small scuffles, thefts and physical brawls resulted in loss of civic sense. Morality had reached such a nadir that some of the residents stole wooden logs of the temple of the village deity Yadavbaba to burn the choolah of one of the country liquor outfits.
Hazare came across the work of one Vilasrao Salunke, a resident of Saswad near Pune who had started a novel project of water management through watershed development in a joint venture with the Gram Panchyat. Hazare visited the project and decided to implement it in Ralegan Siddhi. By keeping an eye on conserving every drop of water and preventing erosion of the fertile soil, he steered the villagers to begin working towards water conservation. At the outset, they completed 48 Nala Bunding work, contour trenches, staggered trenches, gully plugs, meadows development and of forestation of 500 hectares of land. Thereafter, they constructed five RCC weirs and 16 Gabion Weirs.
This resulted in increase in the ground water level. After that, Hazare along with his team worked out the cropping pattern suitable to the quality of soil and the water volume available for farming. This led to increase in the water table by making water available for 1,500 acres of land instead of 300 acres. As a natural sequel, this effort led to yielding of food-grains and the villagers became self-sufficient in terms of food. The table turned turtle ?earlier there was no work available for the villagers, now manpower was required to be imported from neighbouring villages.
The changes in the economics brought all the villagers under one roof of unity and people voluntarily contributed in terms of labour and money to build a school, a hostel, a temple and other buildings. Mass marriages, grains bank, dairy, cooperative society, self-help groups for women and youth mandals helped develop the village in all aspects and gave a new face to it.
Hazare opines that proper planning of natural and human resources can result in the betterment of a person, area, village instead of exploiting such resources. He says, ``Today we all are exploiting the earthen resources like petrol, diesel, kerosene, coal and water. This can never be termed as perennial development as it is going to lead a state of destruction one day. The sources of energy are limited and hence I am concerned about the next generations. Today many of the villages of almost every state are feeling the brunt of water shortage. Building concrete jungles does not mean development as Gandhiji had rightly said.
Creation of a human idol should be the main objective rather than creating towering buildings. Surely, one needs to live for oneself and the family but simultaneously one owes something to your neighbour, your village and your nation too. For this, you need an idol who could lead to this goal. Such leadership is not created by power or money but only by virtues like pure thinking, matching action and willingness to sacrifice. It is the thumb rule of farming that ?When a seed buries itself, it leads to a better yield. in order to get better yield of grains, one single grain needs to burry itself.
The society needs such volunteers who are ready to get buried in selfless service for the better future of the society.’’
Hazare’s Ralegan Siddhi became the first role model of an ideal village and has become a tourist spot for many visitors across the nation, since it shows the metamorphoses from the worst village to an ideal village. Visitors include politicians, researchers, social workers and students. Four postgraduate students have completed Ph. D. thesis on Ralegan Siddhi.
Social Life
Anna rightly thought that Development is marred by corruption and started a new venture in 1991 called Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Aandolan (BVJA) or public movement against corruption. It was found that some 42 forest officers had duped the state government for crores of rupees through corruption in confederacy. Hazare submitted the evidences to the government but the latter was reluctant to take action against all these officers as one of the ministers of the ruling party was involved in the scam. A distressed Hazare returned the Padmashree Award to the President of India and also returned the Vriksha Mitra Award given by then prime minister of India Rajiv Gandhi.
He further went on an indefinite hunger strike in Alandi on the same issue. Finally, the government woke up from deep slumber and took action against the culprits. Hazare’s sustained campaign on this issue had a great effect - six of the ministers were forced to resign and more than 400 officers from different government offices were sent back to home.
Hazare realized that it was not enough to merely take action against fraudulent ministers or officers but to change the entire system that was studded with loopholes. Hence, he campaigned for the Right to Information Act. The state government turned a blind eye towards the pleas in this regard and so he first agitated in the historical Azad Maidan in Mumbai in the year 1997. To create mass public awareness about RTI amongst the youth, Hazare traveled extensively throughout the state. The government kept promising that RTI Act would be made but never raised this issue in the house or the state assembly. Hazare did not relent ?he agitated at least ten times.
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Finally, again he went on an indefinite hunger strike at Azad Maidan in the last week of July 2003. At last, the President of India signed the draft of the Right to Information Act after his 12-day-long hunger strike and ordered the state government to implement it with effect from 2002. The same draft was considered as the base document for the making of the National Right to Information Act-2005.
After the implementation of the RTI Act-2005, Hazare travelled for more than 12,000 Kms across the state creating awareness about the Act. In the second phase, he interacted with more than one lakh college students and also conducted mass public meetings across 24 districts of the state. The third phase included daily 2-3 public meetings in more than 155 tehsil places. In this massive campaign, posters, banners were displayed and more than one lakh booklets of the provisions of the Act were distributed at a nominal price.



What is the aim of Anna Hazare’s fast? He says it is to bring about a Lokpal Bill which can effectively fight corruption at all levels. And what is the main opposition party, namely the BJP’s, agenda these days? To expose corruption in govt and ensure that guilty are punished. They’ve even said that they’ll take this fight to the streets and have already organized many rallies to highlight their case. So if the aim of both Anna Hazare and opposition parties are the same why are they not working together? Well, that’s because Anna Hazare says that BJP too is corrupt, or for that matter every political party is.
Well, he may well be right. There are indeed politicians on both sides of our political divide who may be guilty on this count. But didn’t the  BJP try to reach out to him to show their support in this fight against corruption? While BJP may not have overtly expressed their support to Anna Hazare as yet but the visit of Uma Bharti to Jantar Mantar was an indicator of that. In fact, she had just gone there to test the waters but came back disappointed.
And therefore the real question is- Is this just a fight against corruption or does it also has a personal dimension to it? If the aim is not personal gratification then I feel that Anna is just being naive in this endeavor because can he or for that matter even Congress, if it were to give in, bring about as important a legislation as Lokpal Bill without the support of the main opposition party? You got to be absolutely naive if you believe so. Please note that Congress has not been able to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill despite having the support of BJP on this issue. And don’t worry about the loss of face which BJP might have to face if they oppose this bill. They can always claim to support the call for Lokpal Bill but at the same time point out some reservations about it’s provisions.
courtesy: Hot Trends and www.annahazare.org 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Socialist & feminist?


JAYATI GHOSE
True emancipation of women requires a politics that has been shed of its masculinity to pave the way for socialism for women and men equally.
AJAY VERMA/REUTERS 

At a rally on International Women's Day in Chandigarh on March 8.
THIS year, March 8 marked a century of the celebration of International Women's Day (IWD). But aside from a few publications and websites of women's movements, this event went largely unremarked in the mainstream press and also in the public consciousness.
The idea of International Women's Day was born in the socialist movement in the first decade of the 20th century. Clara Zetkin, socialist leader and head of the Women's Office of the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – to be known as Women's Day – to recognise the social contribution of women and to press for their demands.
As a socialist and an early (but not self-acknowledged) feminist, Clara Zetkin saw this as part of a broader anti-capitalist movement that would also foster cooperation between women in unions, women's organisations and socialist parties so they would unite and fight jointly in the class struggle for a more progressive society.
This suggestion was accepted unanimously at the second international conference of working women in Copenhagen in 1910, which included over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women's clubs, as well as the first three women elected to the Parliament in Finland.
The first International Women's Day was honoured in some European countries (Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland) in 1911 on March 17. Rallies were held involving more than a million people (both women and men), raising demands for women's right to work and be given equal wages, to vote, to hold public office and to end other forms of discrimination. The Russian revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai described one of these rallies as composed of “one seething, trembling sea of women... certainly the first show of militancy (in Europe) by working women” (www.leftwrite.wordpress.com).
The demands raised at those first demonstrations still resonate today: an end to imperialist wars; better social and economic conditions for women and children; controls on rapidly rising food prices.
In the United States, in March 1908, socialist women and women workers from the clothing and textile trades had organised a mass meeting for an eight-hour day and women's suffrage. But less than a week after the first IWD in Europe in 1911, on March 25, the tragic “Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire” in New York City in the U.S. led to the deaths of more than 140 working women, mostly recent migrants into the U.S. This led to greater attention to working conditions and labour legislation for women in the U.S. and other developed countries, and these also became important rallying points for the demands made for women on IWD in later years.
The reason that the date was shifted to March 8 is of great relevance for the global women's movement. In 1917, in tsarist Russia, Russian women went on strike for “bread and peace”, partly in response to the death of over two million Russian soldiers in war. The strike began on the last Sunday of February (which was March 8 by the Gregorian calendar used throughout most of the world).
The strike continued despite state repression and personal hardship endured by the women. This was the catalyst for – and effectively became the first stage of – the Russian Revolution. Four days later, the tsar was forced to abdicate and the provisional government granted women the right to vote. Ever since, IWD has been celebrated on March 8 not only to press for demands for gender equality but, importantly, as recognition of the tremendous power that women can wield when they unite.
The association of IWD with broader struggles of working people has remained a critical part of its essence. The slogan most often used on IWD was “Class struggle is women's struggle – women's struggle is class struggle!”
It was, therefore, very much part of the activities of trade unions and workers' organisations, which recognised that women's emancipation cannot occur within a social and economy system that denies the emancipation of workers in general, and vice versa. But as IWD became more international (taken up by the United Nations in the second half of the 20th century) and even “official” in scope, this critical link between the emancipation of women and broader economic and social emancipation of all has often been sidelined.
This reflects a general tension that, unfortunately, still remains between feminism and other progressive Left movements – a tension that persists all the more because the Left is the natural and inevitable home of those aspiring to the liberation of women.
Women have been part of the working class since the beginning of capitalism, even when they have not been widely acknowledged as workers in their own right. Even when they are not paid workers, their often unacknowledged and unpaid contribution to social reproduction and to many economic activities is absolutely essential for the functioning of the system.
However, it did take a long time for women's struggles to be accepted as an integral part of working class struggles for a better society. For many decades, even after the first IWD was celebrated to highlight the demands of women, trade unions and other worker organisations tended to be male preserves based on the “male breadwinner” model of the household in which the husband/father worked outside to earn money, while the wife/mother did not earn outside income and handled domestic work.
It has taken prolonged struggle and determined mobilisation to generate greater social recognition of the role of women as wage workers in different forms, as well as to bring out the crucial economic significance of unpaid household labour and community-based work that is dominantly performed by women.
Even so, it must be admitted that a major problem for many women activists has been the fundamental inequality in the alliance between feminism and socialism. Donald Sassoon notes in his magisterial history of the European Left in the 20th century ( One Hundred Years of Socialism, The New Press, New York, 1996, page 419): “It was accepted by socialists only on their own terms, namely that the social struggle between capital and labour was to be recognised as fundamental; the emancipation of women as women depended on the victory of the working class.”
Partly this reflected a concern that “bourgeois” feminism would distract from the critical question of class struggle, which is why even someone like Clara Zetkin could insist that socialist women should avoid cooperating with other feminist groups. But the social reality of the experience of socialist countries in the 20th century has also shown that the breaking of gender stereotypes and domestic division of labour are not necessarily achieved through the dictatorship of the proletariat, even when significant strides are made in gender equality in other ways.
For socialist feminists, this has meant a dual and more complex process of struggle: the need to address and confront the unjust economic order that is expressed in class societies, and the simultaneous need to address and confront the constantly regenerated patterns of gender inequality and subordination that are expressed not just in economic terms but also socially, culturally and politically. The complexity is usually made more intense because the second type of struggle involves taking on not only opposing class forces but also elements within parties, trade unions and other organisations of the Left.
The fact that this second kind of struggle is happening more and more in India and elsewhere may appear to be divisive of Left and progressive movements, but it is actually a sign of great vitality.
True emancipation, obviously, requires a politics that has been shed of its explicit and implicit masculinity, to pave the way for socialism for women and men equally. For that reason alone, it is probably important for socialist men to remember and celebrate International Women's Day.

courtesy: FRONTLINE (Fortnightly) 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

End of Nuclear Dreams


End of Nuclear Dreams: Fukushima warns us about the threat of atomic greed. We have one at Koodankulam which is close to tsunami vulnerable area. Our state may have its mechanical justifications to go on with this type of projects. But people, judging factor in democracy, must rise up against unscientific and inhuman developmental strategies. Technocrats and the people who are wrongly tuned by media and state campaigns may disagree with me. But the ones who are hopeful about humanity will not disregard my word. Once India government had a plan to start a nuclear project at Peringom, Keralam with the support of Kerala state. Even recently Mr. A K Balan just shared his supporting attitude to construct a plant in the same place. Once we people had collected signatures statewide against the project. Now this is a right time to rethink about the dangers of nuclear plant. What you say?
O V Vijayan once told: I would rather become superstitious than a rationalist if the former does not support nuclear power and the latter support the same.

What we have to say?