Kerala On Edge
They did it, throwing Kerala into a tizzy. With two women in menstruating age making an entry into the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala on Wednesday last with the help of police escort, and creating history of sorts, all hell has broken loose in God’s Own Country. The Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an umbrella organisation of various pro-Hindutva groups, promptly called a dawn-to-dusk 12-hour hartal the very next day, which saw protesters and believers blocking highways, forcing closure of shops and markets, stone-pelting and number of incidents of violence and vandalism being reported from across the State. Hundreds have been injured in the scuffle and some BJP workers stabbed. Expectedly, political parties joined the mayhem, with BJP supporting the shutdown, and its workers clashing with those of the CPM and the Congress-led UDF observing a “black day”. Media persons covering the protests were not spared either.
While Chief Minister Vijayan blamed the BJP-RSS combine for the violence and warned of stern action against the protestors, the law and order machinery has failed him once again.His saying the battle is between belief and tradition and his government’s constitutional obligation, does not mean anything. Worse, when his government successfully organised a ‘women’s wall’ across 14 districts backing its decision on the entry of women into the temple and for protecting their rights. The wall had over 2 lakh women participating and all was in order. Scoring political points against the Sangh Parivar is not going to help matters and resolve the issue amicably. Guess, the Supreme Court would need to step in earlier than later even as it refused to hear a contempt petition urgently against Sabarimala temple authorities for closing the shrine for purification after the two women had entered it, saying it would be heard along with the pending review petitions. The turmoil must end. Prayers alone is not an answer.
Endless NRC Exercise?
A big question mark lingers over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise undertaken in Assam. With the 31 December deadline over on Monday last, about 31.2 lakhs of the 40-odd lakh people, who were out of the draft list have filed their claims for inclusion, though this still leaves out 9.80 lakh people, who didn’t file their claims! What will be their fate is anybody’s guess. At the same time, authorities say they have received 2.6 lakh objections to the names included in the final draft, which was published last July. Civil society organisations fear that several indigenous communities would be left out as they did not participate in the ‘tough’ process of claims and objections and it would be grave injustice. Plus the objections filed would open another window claims and counter claims. Would the Supreme Court, monitoring the exercise undertaken to detect illegal immigrants on the basis of the Assam Accord (March 24, 1971 being the cut-off date for identification and expulsion of foreigners in the State) consider another extension? A former Chief Minister told Insaf it is far from over, as there will be a tussle over voters’ list after 71, for which only the Election Commission should have the last word. The lid on the Pandora’s Box will remain open.
MP, Raj Stress
Newly-elected Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are under pressure. BSP supremo Mayawati is demanding and wants withdrawal of all ‘politically motivated’ cases filed during Bharat Bandh on April 2 last year, against the alleged dilution of the SC/ST Act, and in which many Dalits were victims. If not, she would reconsider outside support lent. While Chief Minister Kamal Nath has readily agreed to oblige, he seeks to couch it saying all such cases in past 15 years (BJP regime), be it of BSP, SP, Congress, Left parties, Narmada Bachao Andolan activists, farmers, employees and even journalists, will be withdrawn, as these were already ‘under consideration’. His Rajasthan counterpart Gehlot however, says ‘we will examine the cases as her demand is natural…” Obviously, he is better placed than Nath as while he managed getting his majority with independents (not the 6 BSP MLAs), the latter would be wary as he fell short of the 116-majority mark by two and has support of two BSP MLAs, one SP and four Independents. While the fear of the rug getting pulled may not be there, a good working equation for future plans would be worthwhile.
SC Raps Meghalaya
Meghalaya came in for a sharp rap from the Supreme Court over its handling of the 15 miners trapped in an illegal coal mine for the past 20 days. Though the government’s lawyer told the apex court on Thursday last that they have taken adequate steps in rescue operations and that New delhi too was giving a helping hand, the apex court said “We are not satisfied. It is a question of life and death.” The two-member bench sought to know why the government was not successful in rescuing these people and asked that an officer of the Centre be called so as to pass and appropriate order. Since December 13, the miners have been trapped in the rat-hole mine, at top of a hillock fully covered with trees in East Jaintia Hills district, which got flooded with water from the nearby river. The ruling National People’s Party-BJP combine in Meghalaya has indeed cut a sorry figure as search operations had to be suspended for lack of high-powered pumps to flush out water from the pit as well as there were not enough personnel to deal with the problem!
UP’s Cow Cess
Cow welfare fever reaches Uttar Pradesh. Citizens will now need to shell out money to fund the building and maintenance of cow shelters under the Yogi government’s “gau kalyan” (cow welfare) cess i.e. an additional 0.5 per cent levy on excise items. The cess will be introduced on toll tax, profits made by public sector ventures, government construction agencies, on mandis (local markets from one to two per cent) as well as perhaps liquor, as decided by the Cabinet on Tuesday last. It also set out to plan setting up of and running temporary ‘gauvansh ashray asthals’ under the urban and rural civic bodies to ensure the stray cattle are taken care of, which has led to serious concern. Apparently, the Government’s strict implementation of cow slaughter ban, crack down on cow slaughter houses and cases of people getting lynched, have forced farmers and others to simply dump the cows. Sadly, as usual it’s the citizen’s who end up paying for the Government’s folly.— INFA