Friday, June 23, 2017

Tripura NewsLetter: Challenging the Marxist power base

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is clearly pursuing an ambitious and aggressive quest for power in the hilly, northeastern Indian state of Tripura that is bordered on three sides by Bangladesh.
Despite growing acceptability for the pro-Hindu outfit in the state, which is home to substantial Christian and tribal populations, the party's expansion plans face multiple challenges ahead of the legislative assembly elections in 2018. Nearly 80 percent of the state's 3.7 million people are Bengali-speaking Hindus, mostly migrated from Bangladesh
.

Tribals, once a majority in what is Tripura, now comprise less than a third of the state's population. Most Christians are tribals.
The BJP, with its hardcore pro-Hindu philosophy, is in a perpetual state of conflict with the Communist Party of India (Marxists) and Christian groups in Tripura. How the BJP performs in Tripura is a litmus test of how it can perform in other Indian states where it is not in power. Tripura has been ruled by a communist government since 1998. The BJP party strategists know this well. Tripura is not like the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where pro-Hindu issues such as the banning of beef, cow vigilantism, were under the political spotlight. In Tripura, they need to tackle more pressing issues like unemployment, women empowerment, and industrialization.

Voters in Tripura are essentially pro-left. Many possess an intellectual affinity to Marxism and the communists have wielded power long and often in the state.
"The BJP leaders need to break the umbilical cord between the voters and pro-Marxist intellectualism," a BJP official said.
 

In Tripura, where Marxist leader Manik Sarkar has held onto power for the last two decades, the BJP strategists understand that even upper-caste Hindus do not necessarily relate to the "Brahminical appeal" put forward by their party.

More than 60 percent of the country's population now lives in states either ruled directly by the BJP or in an alliance with regional parties.

Hence there has to be a change of strategy. Bengali voters in Tripura will never entirely reject the "power of Marxism" as intellectual food for thought or as the foundations of their political reasoning. In the past, it would have been unthinkable for an opposition challenger to the incumbent Marxists or leftists to gain sufficient support in the region.

However, rural workers, such as Sapna Das, the BJP women leader in Tripura, said: "There is a gradual change and many young voters are readily rejecting the left's ideology." Drawing confidence from this, BJP leaders have designed a few electoral strategies that aim to capture the minds of voters in areas heavily populated with Bengalis, particularly in areas where the pro-Hindu slant would find easier acceptance.

Ashirwad Dey, an educationist in Tripura said: "The idea is to capture the Bengali mindset, especially among those whose forefathers had to leave Bangladesh during partition in 1947 and later in 1971 [during the Bangladesh war of liberation]."
Due to the extensive numbers that fled Bangladesh (formerly Eastern Pakistan), today's population of the Bengali Hindu community in Tripura is significant.
The BJP is aware of its challenges and inherent weaknesses. BJP leaders claim the party is trying to sell Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "developmental card", even among tribal and Christian sections. 

"The overdose of the Marxist regime in Tripura has weakened religious affinities. This applies to both Hindus and Christians. Today, this is, ironically, helping the BJP's cause," one BJP leader said. 
"Due to many factors, including the overwhelming leftist influence, the institution of the church has always been weak in Tripura," Pastor P. Konyak, a Christian leaders in the region, said.

"Today, BJP is trying to make inroads in these areas largely riding the perceived popularity of Modi and the influence of power at the center."

On the other hand, many voters think that for the first time in two decades, the Communist Party will face a real electoral contest. But that remains to be seen.

ends


Monday, June 19, 2017

My short story: AGONY OF A FATHER ....appear in ebook and print edition of HEART ALONE - A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES

He wiped his nose as his tears subsided. The pain was still in his heart. John Samuel’s feet burned from the unaccustomed walking in the sun. Perhaps he was trying to run away.. run away from his house, his family and perhaps the large mirror in his room. It was framed well in Italian marble or so as his son Vijay had told him.

Samuel’s face was stern as he walked into the house, now almost looked like a bungalow in the well to do urban-village. He should have been a happy person, nothing seemed to have changed in last 12 hours or so. But much has changed. The news of his cricketer son Vijay’s arrest was flashed on television. It was a bolt from the blue. The thought of it almost chilled him. 

Story teller Dev

Vijay has been arrested on the charge of match-fixing. It was just matter of hours that life of a celebrity cricketer has been doomed. There was some chirping of the birds around. To Samuel, as if the voices of unfamiliar birds began to rise from the trees. He walked inside and sat underneath the shower and unknowingly wept for a while. Perhaps he won’t be able to recognize himself again. Father of a ‘match fixer’, a greedy cricketer’s parents – the thought appeared dreadful.

Why Vijay had to do all these? Why? The details of the gory episode were still not clear. Is that girl, Vijay’s fiancĂ©e to be blamed? That girl’s family did not have good reputation. Her father was a middle level politician – better known as ‘middleman’ or go between among netas!At last, he thought his son has fallen victim to this greed. 

A scheming father’s daughter, who wanted to make big as a politician, was in hurry also. Perhaps Vijay has been forced by that girl. Vijay perhaps saw money not as a goal in itself, but definitely as a by-product of his cricket; and hence the tragedy.

Cricket was known as a gentleman’s game. Samuels too are gentlemen. But alas!
Coming out of the bathroom as he toweled himself dry, all of a sudden Samuel thought of pulling the old family album. He saw his wife blinking at him in moist eyes. He told her to bring the old wooden box. She looked puzzled but walked away and returned in no time. She made an attempt to dust the box. Seeing their son’s name and photograph on television screen in action and in newspapers gave them immense pleasure once ….. a sense of proud; but today everything has been washed away.
§
The sun had completed its day’s journey. Samuel’s wife switched on the light. Samuel dressed himself in traditional Malayali attire, walked towards the study table and picked up his glasses. The wooden box lay on his bed.

He saw his wife going away slowly. Life has almost come to a standstill. By now, his usual coffee would have come, but probably not today. His wife must have forgotten about it wondering what her son was doing inside the jail. Samuel too did not have the appetite.
In the neighbourhood, one young boy played music loud:
Life is old there Older than the trees Younger than the mountains …… Samuel pulled the box and sat on his cot, opened it and pulled out the album. The brown album has all photographs of Vijay since childhood.

True to that song coming from the neighbour’s house: ’All my memories gathered 'round … Samuel thought the same about his son. Tears welled up momentarily yet again after long time. Suddenly his attention focused on a snap of high school going Vijay. They were in far off northeastern state of Mizoram then. Samuel was a civil servant and was posted for a while in Mizoram. Vijay had one day come to his office to find out what his papa was doing- a normal curiosity of any young boy or girl of his age. Samuel was lost in his ‘office work’. 

He was pleasantly surprised to see his son but had a tight schedule. He promptly telephoned Vijay’s mother and told her about Vijay’s visit so that she did not worry. Mizoram was still reeling under insurgency and on odd occasions children were being kidnapped by groups to demand either release of their fellow militant-cadres or ransom. Samuel was in a ‘good government department’ and thus that chance was not altogether ruled out. Having assured his wife, Samuel ordered for some ‘jalebis’ for his son from the office canteen and got engrossed into his work. He started clearing files.

And as jalebis came in, Vijay had dished out a genial smile…almost sage like – who knew what’s stored in for him.
The state of Kerala hardly knows the winter chill. So Samuel room’s window too was not shut. The soft moonlight seeped through widow and fell on the floor and bed. His attention from Mizoram days was distracted. He found the moonlight outside lovely though the pangs of pain in him did the usual churning. A few night birds were crowing. He stared outside and wondered what his son could be doing now.
His wife came in asking when will he have dinner. The coffee has been given a slip. During the day both Samuel and his wife could not relish lunch too. He simply blinked towards his wife rather helplessly. “This is all my fate,” said Samuel’s wife cursing herself for the folly and the punishment meted to her son. Samuel sat calm and after a pause simply remarked, “call me when its ready; I won’t have much”. There was a long pause in the room. His wife did not ask him even what he was doing with the old album. Of course, she knew the obvious.
Suddenly she was walking out of the room briskly, stopped for a while and then told him rather in terse manner, “you remember the story from Mahabharata .. the poetic journey of the Pandava brothers towards heaven and a dog accompanying them. Everything is in this life” – and she walked away faster. Samuel stood in silence for a while and again sank himself onto the bed staring helplessly towards the wooden box and the old album. A sense of guilt was lurking in his mind. He remembered that on that fateful day when his son Vijay had come into his office room in Mizoram, something had happened. It was not unusual either in the life of a civil servant or in a government office. Files are cleared in probably all offices with some grease of bribe.
Similarly that day, a contractor had walked in and handed over Samuel a bulk size of currency notes. Samuel recalled Vijay had stared in utter astonishment towards his father and the contractor uncle as the businessman spoke crudely, “so Mr Samuel sir, here is what I promised… my files should not be delayed any longer”.

Vijay was not young enough not to know that it was a bribe and at the same time he was not grown up enough to tell his father, “papa please return the money”. Samuel recalled seeing a lot that day in the young eyes of Vijay. Truth is truly like a flowing stream. Samuel had thought about this incident time and again. He had even told his wife about it. But none had any clue how to resolve this puzzle or whether there was any puzzle in the entire episode or drama that unfolded in the office chamber that day, years back.

Samuel perhaps knew now, what he should have done years back. And as tears rolled by his aging cheeks, he lost the count of time as the unseen Time and the wall clock moved on.

ends

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Disputes persist as India, Pak enter SCO: PM Modi builds 'terrorism' pressure on Islamabad,

At the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit at Astana, the differences between India and Pakistan came to light when contrary to Narendra Modi's assertiveness on terrorism, his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif rather gave a push to the economic benefits and said, the global leaders, should not leave a legacy of "toxic harvest of conflict and animosity".
Mr Sharif went onto say that Pakistan is "diligently implementing" the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is already a bone of contention with India.

India made entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on June 9, 2017 with the Prime Minister Modi taking a dig at Pakistan on terror front and said the rejuvenated Eurasian forum should make coordinated efforts to fight terrorism including radicalisation, recruitment and financing of terrorists.
"Mujhe pura viswas hae ki Bharat-SCO sahyog, atankvad ke khilaf ladai ki ek nayi disha tatha shakti pradan karega (I have full confidence that India-SCO cooperation will give the fight against terrorism a new direction and new prowess)," Mr Modi said in presence of heads of nation of SCO including Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

PM Modi also sought to build up pressure on Pakistan vis-a-vis terror front and said
the fight against terrorism cannot achieve success unless there are concerted efforts on the issue of radicalisation and recruitment of terrorists.

"The fight against terrorism is an important part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Whether it is the issue of radicalisation, recruitment of terrorists, their training and financing, unless we take coordinated and strong efforts, it is not possible to find a solution," Mr Modi said.

"Terrorism is violation of human rights and basic human values," he further said.

On the sidelines of Summit of Shangahi Cooperation Organisation, where India and Pakistan got berth as members, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also pursued his diplomatic skills in establishing dialogue at the highest level with the Chinese President Xi Jinping and both sides agreed that they have "great interest" in working together. Modi was quite emphatic in telling the Chinese leader that even as India too favoured push to the connectivity projects vis-a-vis Eurasian region, the Chinese initiatives like OBOR and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
had certain issues to be addressed.
"For connectivity initiatives and for success and approval of the projects, sovereignty and regional integrity must be respected while inclusivity and sustainability are essential," Prime Minister said.
Modi with Chinese Prez

India had abstained from the conference on the One Belt and One Road, a Chinese initiative as the proposed CPEC link would pass through Gilgit and Baltistan, both falling in Jammu and Kashmir and is forcefully occupied by Pakistan.

The crucial engagement between two Asian players also came on the backdrop of Beijing stalling India's admission into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group and also eloquently expressing its reservation on designating Pakistan-based and Jaish-e-Mohammad leader as a global terrorist by the United Nations. In his brief speech at the SCO Summit, Prime Minister Modi without making any specific reference said, "Fight against terrorism, extremism and radicalization was one of the main tasks before the organization".  Both India and Pakistan - which were enjoying 'observer' status to the SCO since 2005 - were today granted admission into the body that was founded largely at the initiative of China in 2001.
The founding members of the SCO are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
On Modi's bilateral engagement with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Foreign Secretary Dr S Jaishankar said, "It's also understood that where India-China have differences they shouldn't become disputes and if handled well these can become opportunities".
During the meet, Prime Minister told the Chinese President that India is grateful for China's support to ensure India's admission into the SCO.

"In the time of global uncertainty, India and China are the factors of stability. As the world becomes more multi-polar, India and China should work together," Dr Jaisankar said. India has maintained that in the SCO there are several member nations who are in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan and the SCO berth would help India establish important dialogues with such nations and establish peace in Afghanistan and in the rest of the region.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

My short story 'Chaitali's Father' appear in book HEART ALONE ,,,,, (print edition)

(the print edition of Heart Alone can be ordered online
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1517534356?keywords=heart+alone+-+whispers+in+relations&qid=1444203025&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1)

At the end of five years and more they were married; my mother was surprised into it. Not the one to believe in feminism of the kind that had come to stay, she always thought a woman is a puppet whose strings are held in one man’s hands or the other. For the present and probably her future she was blaming my father. She blamed her fate, but if she had the little courage to protest; well her life as well as mine would have been different. For my father on the other hand, Contempt for women was a symbol of true manhood – Purushwata. It had come to stay as a minimum virtue in my father’s family to underestimate woman or to find fault with them. Well, feminine traits were like a disease they would be more careful than any other malady in the society. 

Actually, my father had inherited that. 

Four of them, my father, my grand father and two of my uncles were more than convinced that only in ‘vinash kaley’--- when your end is imminent- men would listen to women, especially the wives. The better half was a misnomer; as a consolation they could call it – bitter half.

On this backdrop came in my life – first the birth and then my upbringing.
I was born in Chait month and thus named Chaitali.
Right from childhood, I could understand that my father had acquired the reputation of being a difficult man to stay with. My mom would consider him an ambitious intriguer, who never gave my mother his confidence.
Sitting in my 2-tier Rajdhani Mail berth on way to New Delhi, I was thinking about all these. My life of 25 years and my parents.
Just then the engine hooted as if to signal that it is catching up the speed and so should I; may be.
Story teller

The train was fast in motion and as I craned my neck trying to peep through unclean glasses of the compartment, I saw we were passing across the platform of a tiny railway station in onetime governance-starved Bihar.

But the platform was crowded. The people pouring into these stations to move on to concrete jungles of Mumbai or Delhi always intrigued me. So many of them. Every time where do they go in these cities to get lost in the sea of humanity, where elementary humanly values hardly existed.

Lost in myself and as the train moved on; memories of early childhood spun before my eyes. My father changing my clothes, giving me bath once in a while during weekend. Sometime patting my head and calling me his ‘special daughter’. As I grew up, my mother would recall some of these tales even angrily often screaming, “it is your father who spoiled you”.

Then, how my father rejoiced my piggy bag collection of coins. How I used to count 50 paisa and one rupee coins -- after the other – one- one – one and one. Time had flown by. But slowly those days of family laughter – small family of me, my mother and my father also had passed by.

Neither my childhood remained nor those innocuous days.
The train hooted once again. I was wondering how the relation between my father and my mother was getting complicated because it was becoming more and more difficult to keep secret.


They probably started quarreling over everything. My mom refused to get snapped with my dad. My father discussed literature and good old values – often impractical and backdated ones – something probably only to tease my mother. My mom – pretending to be a worldly-wise lady egged by her sister – once questioned my father about the very wisdom and utility in writing short stories. “What do you get out of these sheets of paper and what’s our gain?”
My father perhaps guessed that my mom would not have dared to ask such a ‘pragmatic’ question unless egged by her sister, otherwise a too clever worldly-wise person at least I knew.
“For me living and breathing and eating is to write. Once a collection of short stories is out, I know the dream is a reality. What next came became a subsequent point of focus. Whether or not my work will move the readers or fetch me few thousands rupees did not really matter much,” my father replied.
As expected, my mom was angry at such reply. She also thought – my father had tried to insult her sister and her parents.
She gave an angry look – her face turning angrier at the sight of graying hairs along my father’s temples.
My mom always thought her marriage was a true case of miscarried justice. She deserved a much better paying husband and also someone with more sober outlook as her sister’s husband. More dutiful towards his in-laws. Someone devoid of that 3-letter tag: MCP (male chauvinist….
But in the midst of getting angry and disturbed, she also hoped one day she can rearrange my father’s outlook on life, and probably also change him as an individual. But that was not used to be. Far from getting himself as a good son-in-law; my father would scream at the peak of his voice: “For me father-in-law is not father, he can’t be……a man has only one father in this life”.
What more prescription one required to push the marriage to a brink?
Resting my head on a thin pillow as provided by Indian Railways in Rajdhani Mail, I was trying to sleep.
The engine of the locomotive was too often breaking the sweet monotony of silence. As the train halted outside a platform waiting for the green signal: I could hear a few night birds chirping. Staring outside the glass, I could feel the movement of a calm moon moving silently up in the sky – oblivion of my pains and the story of my parents.
The silent nights know a lot, I had read somewhere in a folktale of tribesmen from the northeast; yet the nights are always silent, they say.
I then opened my Facebook account on the laptop.


Dried and fallen leaves --- can be little autobiographical, one of the postings read. It also reproduced a few touching Hindi lines: 

- Woh haas kar pucchthi he humse, Tum kucch badal badal se gaye ho…aur Hum muskara key jawab deten haen ..tutey hue patte ka aksar rang badal jata hae
(She/He asks me whether I have changed a bit: but I reply with a smile on my face, a fallen leaf always loses its original colour)


I felt disturbed further. Out of anguish I tried to take a glance at my mother’s berth and found her virtually snoring. I was happy, at least she was sleeping. Any sleeping disorder could harm her health.
But I knew, my mother also had her role in ensuring her long separation from my father.
Tears welled up in my eyes threatening to spill, but to my utter astonishment, I could keep my head cool and ultimately withdraw my anger against mother. I felt sorry for her too. She too had her share of the tragedy, may be.
My mother’s married life was not on sound footing.
My father’s flirting with writing stories was unable to make impact both commercially and for namesake. Critics dismissed his writings rather easily and regularly. He was unable to sustain the interest of readers beyond few pages, they said. One publisher in fact also wrote a brief letter that landed on my mother’s hands. It was too simplistic and ruthless. The publisher said my father was unable to sustain the interest of the readers especially in the second half of the novels.Thus in the meantime, in the midst of his soul searching my father’s life made leapfrog from light comedy to sentimental melodrama to grim tragedy. And in no case he had any strength nor my mother could get any satisfaction of a married life. The drift between them was telling. Even my presence could not sustain them as one unit.
The term ‘we’ had vanished long back and both of them started living with ‘I’ and ‘you’. Sadly, I, their only offspring did not figure much. Thus when the time came the separation was easy.
The train halted again adjoining a paddy field. I could see a cut down tree under the focus of full moon night. How did it matter to me whether the tree used to have delicious fruits or it was a towering large banyan tree hanging from the branches? In the ultimate it was a cut down tree in an abandoned corner.



By now my mom too was awoke. She was sitting leaning on her left arm. Disturbed sleep was not good for her. Moreover, for last one week my father had begun to come to her in dream. Actually we were rushing to Delhi to meet my ailing father. This was my first trip to Delhi in last 15 years. During this period I have traveled from Bangkok to Mumbai; but my mother ensured that ‘unsafe’ Delhi was not in itinerary.

The dream would burn my mother’s heart. She would complain too. But the disobedient husband in my father often came – rather frequently these days.
I knew this was one such occasion. The bad dreams had again disturbed her. I could make out from her face in the dim light in the compartment my mother felt a kind of inflamed passion – something that had always been there. The passion and pains were as if coved by a huge pile of blankets. “Will you need the tablet?,” I asked mom. She nodded – that only meant the trouble was serious. She was thinking hard about the ‘man’ in her life and how both of them had handled things. The youth hood in life and initial years in marriage do not last long. My mother had lived the past – mishandled it as well. But now she thought about the future with trepidation.
The locomotive had started moving again. Gradually, both of us slept.

Next day, we reached Delhi on time. The East Delhi locality where in my father stayed was not very far off. We were still late.

As we entered the flat and my mom saw the photograph hanging, I saw her moving around with a vacant look in her eyes. She almost looked lost and forlorn. She recalled that about 15 years back, my father had once asked her over phone whether she felt ‘lonely’. 

Not surprisingly I was with my mother, so she had shot back, “I am not alone”.

But I knew today was different. The loneliness had enveloped my mother. Suddenly I also could realize her pain. I also realized that no one was now left who would address me ‘special daughter’ or provoke my mother into a quarrel. No one will cheer me over phone and email in particular – to scale higher peaks.

ends