Vision of ‘new India’?

Hate Speech & Hinduism
By Insaf

Where is India headed? The hate speeches at Haridwar’s Dharam Sansad, religious conclave, and right-wing activists stalling Xmas celebrations in Karnataka, Assam and Gurugram should make many a head hang in shame. The Haridwar conclaveunabashedly indulged in open Muslim-baiting and incitement to Hindus to take up arms, there were calls for genocide and violence. Neither a single person arrested nor the ruling BJP reining in the sadhus, which it fosters. Worse, it smacks of double standards wherein a stand-up comedian is arrested for statements attributed to him, social activists’ languishing in jail under the draconian UAPA law for speeches, or for that matter an young activist arrested for an NGO toolkit, to mention only a few. Is the right to freedom of speech and expression a given for those speaking for a ‘Hindu Rashtra’? And only because the battle of the ballot is upcoming in UP and Uttarakhand and such speeches will woo the BJP’s vote bank, that it is brazenly ignored? Sending notices for appearance or lodging FIRs against one or two hate speech perpetrator is making a mockery of the system. Will the Supreme Court heed to a letter by 76 of its lawyers to take suo-moto cognisance of the events?
It doesn’t stop here. There are instances of right-wing activists targeting the Christians this past week. The group ‘Hindu JagaranaVedike’bullied and heckled aChristian convent Nirmala English High School’s management in Mandya district in Karnataka, over Xmas celebrations. ‘Why Hindu festivals like Ganesha festival were not being celebrated!, it asked. The Head Mistress said the groupasked us to hang a photo of Goddess Saraswathi in the school and accused ‘us of converting students which isn’t true.” In Assam’s Silchar district, members of Bajrang Daldisrupted a Christmas programme in the town demanding Hindus must shun the celebrations and in another incident a group forced its way into a church and demanded it be shut down because Hindus could not take part in the festivities! In yet another incident a group of men claiming to be right-wing activists barged into a church premises in Gurugram’s Pataudi disrupting the prayers, raising slogans ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’.Well, if the Dharam Sansad and these incidents are examples of the kind of society we are building, then God bless ‘New India’!

Naga Conundrum
Has the Union Home Ministry made matters worse in Nagaland? Extending the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act for another six months by issuing a notification on Thursday last, declaring the entire state a “disturbed area”, is being seen as an ‘insult to all Nagas.’ More so its timing – amidst a growing clamour for AFSPA’s withdrawal following the botched army operation which led to killing of 14 civilians. Worse, the move puts a big question mark on the Centre’s sincerity to make amends and heal wounds as just days before Amit Shah set up a committee to look into the possibility of its withdrawal, following a meeting with Chief Minister Rio and his team in Delhi. The Ministry’s justification it was necessary as the committee would submit its report in 3 months and the June extension was expiring on 30 December, has no takers. Rather there is condemnation: An ‘aghast and affronted’ National People’s Front (NPF), a constituent of State government slammed Modi government’s “utter disregard” for “voices of smaller states” and “it added salt to injury’; the Naga Students’ Federation reacted, the notification claiming whole of Nagaland was “disturbed” was an “insult to Nagas at this time of grief” and it has decided to come all out against the notification through a ‘series of democratic agitations’. Has the Home Ministry bitten more than it can chew and isn’t it versed with the idiom ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’?

AAP’s Chandigarh Debut
There’s good reason for jubilation in AAP’s camp. It’s made a stunning debut in Chandigarh Municipal Corporation polls, winning 14 of the 35 seats, including that of the Mayor’s by its dhaba owner candidate. BJP came close by bagging 12 seats, Congress 8, Akali Dal staying at one. An upbeat chief Kejriwal, who campaigned vigorously for these city polls tweeted: “AAP’s victory points at imminent change in Punjab. People have rejected corrupt politics and have chosen AAP…Punjab is ready for change,” with its party spokesperson Raghav Chadha adding: “The Chandigarh election is a trailer, Punjab will be the full movie. The mood in Chandigarh is the mood in Punjab.” Perhaps. For AAP’s entry is bound to have a chilling effect on BJP, SAD and Congress, just months before the ensuing big Assembly battle. The BJP in particular, seems to be showing signs as the same day it announced a poll tie up with Amarinder Singh’s Punjab Lok Congress and SS Dhindsa’s SAD (Sanyukt). The Congress, though raised its share, continues to struggle with infighting and needs to find more ways of keeping its flock together, with two more MLAs and a senior leader leaving the ‘sinking ship.” How the SAD-BSP alliance fares is anybody’s guess. One thing is certain; the city elections have provided AAP leaders and cadres a stimulus and ignited hope.
Relief For Delhi
The national capital, Delhi can heave a sigh of relief. The Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA) has ended its 15-day long strike early Friday last, following assurances of their demands being met. These were: To get NEET-PG counselling expedited; an apology from authorities for police manhandling the doctors and withdrawal of FIRs registered against protesters.Patient care should limp back to normalcy asOPD services, wards and emergency services were impacted, worse at a time when Delhi’s covid cases are drastically on the rise. And while Union Health Minister Mandaviyatoo should be less stressed, the big question he must address is why do doctors, the ‘frontline workers’ applauded for their stellar work during the pandemic, have to get on to the streets? Their demand for expediting NEET-PG counselling is justified, for the government’s delay has left medical college hospitals ‘short-staffed’ with outgoing batch of 3rdyear PG students having already left and many resident doctors are ending up working 100 to 120 hours a week due to the shortfall. This when nearly 45,000 NEET-PG aspirants across the country are waiting to join the workforce! The Ministry would do well in future to take the cue from ‘A stitch in time saves nine’.

Innovative Jharkhand
Jharkhand shows the way. Petrol will be subsidised for the poor! On Wednesday last, marking two years of the JMM-led government Chief Minister Hemant Soren announced that petrol will be subsidised by Rs 25 per litre for ration-card holders with two-wheelers, among other schemes. However, there may be a cap of 10 litres per family per month, once modalities are finalised to the scheme to begin from Republic Day. This as Soren said: There are motorcycles in poor’s homes, but people can’t ride these because they don’t have money for petrol… the person is unable to go to the market to sell his crop. We hear that people are mixing kerosene and petrol to ride motorcycles…” Like other States, petrol and diesel prices are Rs 98.52 per litre, and Rs 91.56 respectively, a pinch for the middle and lower-middle classes. According to data, there are 61 lakh families that have ration cards, and of these 2 lakh to 20 lakhs would have motorcycles, so the scheme is expected to make a difference, a feather in its cap. Other States’ may consider riding the tide too. — INFA