Gujarat Poll

Mired in caste, religion

By Insaf

Religion and caste have sadly become the talking point in Mahatama Gandhi’s Gujarat. With the poll campaign reaching a crescendo, substantive issues are simply not in play. Worse, the two principal parties, the BJP and Congress and their leaders have stooped to a new low with personal barbs flying thick and high. What is making headlines is the star campaigners, Modi and Rahul busy outdoing each others at the temple rounds—who is more sensitive to Hindu sentiments. The BJP wants a discussion on religion and a political row erupts over Rahul’s visit to Somnath temple where the saffron party alleges he signed the “non-Hindu” visitors. Hits back Rahul saying he and family are shiv bhakts but he did not want to use his religion for political gains, in reference to Modi. Then the concentration of both parties is which caste is their sure vote. The two are seeking to attract influential castes, and there is renewed dynamics around the Patidars, the Kshatriya, Harijan (Dalits), Adivasi (Tribals) and Muslims. With polling less than 10 days away, the voter is blank what is it that the parties are offering them in governance. Whoever may be the winner, will this election be remembered as only bickering and of no value at all?
Kashmir Outreach
As the winter sets in, it’s time for a healing touch in Kashmir. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has decided to apply balm on the bruised youth, facing cases in incidents of infamous stone-pelting protests in the Valley. On Wednesday last, for starters she ordered withdrawal of cases against over 4,000 youth, till 2014 and issued a directive to look at those related to 2015, 2016 and 2017 within 10 days and report back. While the decision is said to have been taken following advice of a high-level committee, formed by the PDP-BJP government last year, the grape wine has it that the action taken follows the advice of the Centre’s interlocutor: “first-timers”, minors and women be let off. However, the thrust is on the boys, who officials realise “need to concentrate on career and job opportunities rather than being labelled criminals for life.” Is it an end itself to rebuild the youths’ lives, is a question rightly asked by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
Jittery Assam
Assam government is on tenterhooks. So is the Centre. Both fear a law and order situation, as the date for the publication of the draft National Register of Citizens draws close—December 31. The exercise for citizens to prove they have settled in India before the cut-off date of March 25, 1971 (as per the Assam Accord of 1985) and are not illegal Bangladeshi migrants has become contentious. Some 47 lakh-odd people who applied for inclusion in the new list are found to be ‘suspicious’ and another 29 lakh married women, who gave gram panchayat certificates as citizenship proof, were told by Guwahati HC that it cannot be a principle citizenship proof but a supporting document only! Seized of the matter, the Supreme Court on Thursday last sought to dispel the Centre’s fears, saying names of people in the two categories won’t be included in the draft NRC, but on a later date after verification. But the Centre is wary and has dispatched CRPF companies to the State. On its part, the Sonowal government has started a campaign “Our NRC, Fair NRC.” While some see the preparations as unnecessary, others agree it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Maharashtra’s Slums
Will Maharashtra ever be able to get the tag ‘India’s slum capital’ off? Unlikely. Though there is loud thinking among Chief Minister Fadnavis and team to do away with the cut-off date for eligibility for re-housing slum-dwellers. The proposal is that all residents of slums in Mumbai would soon be entitled to rehabilitation under the slum redevelopment policy. Till now, only residents of slums in dwelling units, prior to January 1, 2000, are entitled to rehabilitation. However, on Thursday last, the housing department proposed modifications to the Maharashtra Slum Act, 1971. This could add further pressure on the existing infrastructure available, but Fadnavis may not be worried, thanks to the Centre’s initiative of “Housing for All”. It provides residents living in pre-2000 dwelling units to remain eligible for free rehabilitation, and those found ineligible to be accommodated under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. However, there is a catch. The latter would have to pay the construction cost. Can they be convinced ‘there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’?
Unsafe Delhi
Delhi, the nation’s capital is most unsafe for foreign tourists! Not Kejriwal’s taunt to the Home Ministry, but a fact stated by none other than the National Crime Records Bureau. According to its latest data, Delhi accounted for almost 40 per cent of the crimes reported against tourists across the country last year. Of the 382 such cases, 154 were from Delhi (a rise from 147 in 2015), followed by Maharashtra and Puducherry with 38 and 33 cases respectively. The safe States with no such cases reported included J&K, all of North-East, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, and the UTs of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep. In fact, the capital is the most unsafe among 19 major cities, accounting for nearly 40% of rapes reported, 33% of crimes against women and the highest crime rate. It also has the dubious distinction of topping the NCRB list in cases of kidnapping and abduction, murder, juveniles in conflict and economic offences. Reason enough for Kejriwal to use the damning statistics to buttress his case for the handover of law and order to his aam admi government
States Filmy Twist
The song and dance over the magnum opus Padmavati is far from getting over. Nitish Kumar’s Bihar is the latest entrant to the States banning the film. BJP States of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh took on the mantle of being saviour of history. Then there have been protests in Rajasthan and UP. Add to this the MPs too have stepped in to have their say. The Parliamentary Standing Committee of Information Technology summoned Sanjay Leela Bhansali on Thursday last questioning him on various aspects of the film. These included whether the film maker can depict sati, can the film be screened abroad without clearance from India etc. How soon will this controversy that the film hurts the feelings and sentiments of several communities, including the Rajputs, get over? The film, which was due to be released December 1, has gone into oblivion. Cinema history will certainly remember this epic.—INFA