PRIMO LEVI: “I AM CONSTANTLY AMAZED BY MAN’S INHUMANITY TO MAN.”

BORN: JULY 31, 1919
DIED: APRIL 11, 1987

“I am constantly amazed by man’s inhumanity to man.”

PrimoLevi
(Image courtesy: Wikipedia)

Primo Levi was one of the foremost Holocaust voices who had lived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps and had chosen to tell it to the world.

Yes, there have been a deep research and a wide range of the Holocaust literature and documentation available now – but the voices who saw it firsthand are leaving us.

Earlier this month, on July 2, the most profound voice of the Holocaust trauma, Elie Wiesel, left us.

But like all of them, their works will always remain there to tell us those stories, to remind us our basest instincts and that how low humanity can go.

“Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea.”

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MUNSHI PREMCHAND: OUR LITERARY GANDHI

Munshi Premchand is considered the Indian literature’s Mahatma Gandhi – and that is not without reasons.

Leaving a frugal life, he gave India (and the world) literary works (novels, short stories and essays) that were for everyone – speaking for the people on the margins – and speaking of the people forming the exploitative hub of societies.

If he portrayed social sensitivities in a language that the people spoke, he also tickled their funny bones with situational comedies much before their formal inauguration by the entertainment industry.

Without any doubt we can say that he was the biggest among his contemporaries that the modern Indian literature (Hindustani literature) produced. His grip was in the fact that he was the people’s writer who didn’t need decorative metaphors to prove his mettle.

And he remains the greatest of his field – with his unique skills and works. Yes, we are fortunate that we have had many luminaries of the Hindi literature since the 18th Century but Munshi Premchand stands tallest among them.

India realized that a long ago. And Premchand ji was a craze even outside India – in countries with socialist bent of mind like Russia. His anti-feudal writing was like an eye-opener. You can easily identify where his works belong if you are not among the few super-elite of India and the pseudo modernists.

And the thing is – his writing remains relevant even today – because the basics of Indian social weaving have not changed much. The social malaise that he focused on in his writings – feudalism, poverty, corruption, humiliating condition of women and girls, class divides and social layers – still form the distorted spinal cord of our society.

Like our Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, connected the dots and transformed us into a strong cohesive unit to fight the British colonialism – inspired by the Mahatma’s Non-cooperation Movement, Premchand ji went on to reflect on social issues of the time in his writings, connecting to the readers of his works – provoking them to think. He established himself as the parallel of Mahatma Gandhi in the Indian literary landscape of the time.

And he still he provokes us, stirs our souls.

While Premchand ji has been translated in almost every Indian language and many foreign languages, it is the Hindi speaking belt of north, east, central and west India that must feel indebted to him. And he has a special place in hearts of the people from Varanasi, the city he belonged to. His birthplace in Lamhi is a must visit for any proud Banarasi and I know I am a proud Banarasi.

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When I woke up this morning and saw the Google doodle paying tribute to our literary Gandhi on his birth anniversary on July 31, it was like summing up my all those feelings. We all know Google does some sincere things and it was one of them. I loved the image and the idea that went behind it – a doodle focusing on the central settings (the rural India) in most of the literary works written by Munshi Premchand – in this case his last novel Godaan published in 1936.

Google says about Munshi Premchand – “Today’s homepage celebrates a man who filled many pages (of a different kind) with words that would forever change India’s literary landscape.”

Thanks Google – from a proud Indian (and Banarasi).

©SantoshChaubey

Feature Image Courtesy: Google Doodle on Munshi Premchand 

THE SHADOW THAT STOPPED ME TODAY WAS BELYING THIS..

The shadow that came across today
Looked as someone known to me
Though he didn’t stop me en-route
My soul refused to move
Saying it wanted to have some conversation
I said I didn’t have time
Life had become so spontaneous
That when a day became so routine I never knew
I would chart my ways, visit places
Sometimes, I would have introductions
Sometimes, it would be about exploring things
But more or less,
It was all in the known and familiar realms
Realms that would be in conversation
Sometimes mutual, sometimes solitary
And a shadow would always stay with me
That I so spontaneously thought was mine
I was where I thought I needed to be
It was as my days were
I always thought there was a silent commitment
Between my soul and my shadow
And that we all were in harmonious coexistence
But the shadow that stopped me today
Way belying this
My soul today refused to hear me
While talking to that shadow
That looked like a past connection
Raising questions,
That the shadow following me could not answer..

©SantoshChaubey

AAP LEADERS ARRESTED, BJP MEMBERS LET OFF FOR SIMILAR OFFENCES IS LOPSIDED JUSTICE

The article originally appeared on DailyO.

Some Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs are in jail. Some are out on bail. Some are in the imminent threat of being put behind bars.

If the law is catching up with them, it means they would have committed some criminal activities.

Lady Justice has often been depicted wearing a blindfold. So the law is bound to catch up with them, or in fact everyone who is found on the wrong side of it, irrespective of affiliations and influences.

But is it so black and white?

We all know it isn’t so. We know our legal system has taken different reincarnations based on affiliation and patronage and its most brazen consequences are seen in our policing and criminal investigation systems.

That is why our premier investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), has been called a “caged parrot” by the Supreme Court.

That is why the courts don’t believe in the testimony recorded before the police and prefer the one delivered in the courtroom. That is why terms like “police reforms” or “CBI independence” have become so debatable that we don’t know if they will have logical conclusions at all.
The hunger for power and the penchant to stick to that power make our policing and criminal investigation systems mere pawns in the hands of those who form the government.

These pawns are used at will – to promote one’s interests, or to settle scores, or to rein in elements that make noise or pose threats. Yes, some form of honest policing is still there but it is limited to policing the common man where no one is interested to intervene.

The trouble that the AAP leaders are in is a case in point.

Some AAP MLAs like Mahendra Yadav and Akhilesh Tripathi were arrested on charges including rioting and preventing public servants from discharging duties.

BJP’s Faggan Singh Kulaste, who has been made a Union minister in the latest Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has also been accused of rioting, armed with deadly weapons, wrongful restraint and many others (including charges related to obscene acts), an analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) finds. The ADR analysis is based on his latest self-sworn affidavit.

Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das who belongs to the BJP is also accused of preventing public servants from discharging duties and wrongful restraint. The ADR analysis of his self-sworn affidavit shows a total of eight cases registered against him including under two sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that deal with serious offences.

AAP MLA Manoj Kumar was arrested in a land grabbing case and was later released on bail. He was slapped with sections 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating) and 471 (using as genuine a forged document) of the IPC.

BJP’s Naba Kumar Doley, who is the panchayat and rural development minister of Assam, has allegations under three IPC sections that deal with serious offences against him, the ADR analysis says. Charges against him include “making a false document (IPC section 464)”, “charge related to forgery (IPC section 463)”, “charges related to giving and fabricating false evidence (IPC sections 191, 192, 193) and so on.

Haryana’s animal husbandry minister Om Prakash Dhankar has declared in his affidavit that he is facing charges under section 147 (charges related to rioting) and section 341 (wrongful restraint) of the IPC among others.

Former minister in the Maharashtra Cabinet, Eknath Khadse of the BJP, who was forced to resign in the Dawood Ibrahim call case and was later given a clean chit, had declared charges under IPC sections dealing with serious offences like section 354 (charge related to assault or criminal force on woman with intent to outrage her modesty) among others in his self-sworn affidavit.

AAP Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan was recently arrested under the IPC sections 506 (criminal intimidation) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman). Later, section 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) of the IPC was also added. The judge, while releasing Khan on bail, said that keeping him in jail would not serve any purpose and that Khan was not needed for investigation.

Former Union minister of state of panchayati raj, Nihal Chand Meghwal, who is a BJP MP from Rajasthan and who was dropped in the latest round of Cabinet reshuffle, is accused in a rape case. Though Meghwal was given a clean chit earlier and the courts refused to entertain the woman’s plea, later the same was admitted and is being heard by an ADJ court.

They all are free men, in spite of the serious charges against them. And they are just few names from a long list spread across parties and states in the federation of India.

So it is still basically about which side of the law you are but with a distorted paradigm to it – whether you are in power or you are in Opposition.

If you are from the establishment or from the party in power, you are clearly treated above the law. On the contrary, if you are from the Opposition benches and in the cross hairs of the ruling party, you are likely to be made an example by the law enforcement agencies – of their swiftness and efficiency.

©SantoshChaubey

BEHIND RAHUL GANDHI’S COMING OF AGE STORY LIES THE HUMBLE POTATO

The article originally appeared on DailyO.

Today, while speaking on price rise in Parliament, Rahul Gandhi again revisited his favourite metaphor – potato – and thankfully his background team had supplied him with a logical and well-researched dataset this time.

While taking on the Narendra Modi government left, right and centre, and saying that the prices of the essential commodities have increased multi-fold during the first two years of Modi sarkar, he reined in his temptation to get longwinded with his most-loved weapon of comparative criticism – the good old potato.

He said the price of potato was Rs 23 in May 2014 and that has gone up to Rs 28 in July 2016. Well, that is the prevailing market price and has been hovering somewhere in the range of Rs 20 to 30 a kilo in Delhi’s retail markets.

We can understand that Rahul Gandhi could not set aside his temptation to insert potato in his high-voltage Lok Sabha speech today, but we should appreciate that he didn’t go on exaggerating about its price. The truth is Rahul had plenty of other data to bolster his claims, including the sky-high prices of lentils, a real worry for all.

The “Arhar Modi” jibe has really caught on, to his credit.

Rahul loves to use metaphors in his speeches. Like “Kalawati”, “Girish” and others, potato, too, is an important (and recurring) metaphor in Rahul’s speeches.

He reinserts these words like leitmotifs to express his concerns on the misery of the farming community in some pockets of India (especially in the non-Congress ruled states).

It seems, with time, he has worked on it and has learnt his lessons – and is gradually ratcheting up his elocution skills – from one event to the next.

Even the last time, when Rahul Gandhi had used the “potato” emphatically in his speech, it was quite clear that his speechwriters had worked diligently on the background behind his chosen words. The data to back up his claims reflected Rahul’s genuine concern for the poor, of which the “potato prices” were an important and sincere marker.

It was a Monday, October 7, 2013. The audience had come to hear the Congress vice-president during the stone-laying event of Uttar Pradesh’s first mega food park in his parliamentary constituency, Amethi, that was being set by the Aditya Birla group (a project that was later junked).

It being an agricultural event, the ambience was apt to come back once again to the potato metaphor, in order to contextualise how the farmers suffered in the non-Congress ruled states.

And he made good use of it. He got the clear tab on the prevailing potato prices in the area this time (unlike in Amreli in December 2012) from the crowd and juxtaposed the low potato prices with the high potato chips prices, while laying out the factors responsible for farmers’ misery.

Okay, if the potato was retailing at around Rs 20 a kilo in urban centres then, the Rs 10 a kilo price tag in rural areas was acceptable. So, Rahul’s potato wisdom sounded somewhat logical. No Monday blues.

When we see the genesis and progress of Rahul Gandhi’s “potato metaphors”, we can clearly how he has beefed up his knowledge base about his favourite idea and the difference from then to now is for everyone to see.

During campaigning in Amreli for Gujarat assembly elections on December 11, 2012, Rahul Gandhi had got confused over potato pricing while connecting it with the potato chips economics. He asked the audience about the potato price there and went on quoting it at Rs 3 a kilo. Making a pitch for FDI in retail, he said while potato was being sold at Rs 3 a kilo, while a small potato chips packet was sold sold at Rs 10.

The fact was – in Amreli, when Rahul Gandhi was delivering his speech, the minimum price for a kilo of potatoes was Rs 10 at the wholesale market, and much higher in the retail market.

Rahul Gandhi’s Congress was in the Union government in Delhi then and was trying to introduce the retail FDI, which the BJP, then in opposition in the Centre, was vehemently opposing. Rahul Gandhi and his speechwriters, in their zest to prove the FDI logic, didn’t bother to crosscheck their numbers.

Potato, for Rahul Gandhi, got cheaper than even Rs 3 a kilo in December 2011. At the Farrukhabad and Kannauj rallies on December 17, 2011, Rahul Gandhi told farmers that while the potato was being sold for Rs 2 or less a kilo, a potato chips packet fetched Rs 10.

He reiterated his stand the next month – sticking to his claim. At a Tarn Taran rally in January 2012, the potato price quoted by Rahul again came out to be Rs 2 or less than Rs 2 a kilo. While pitching for FDI in retail, Rahul said that farmers should support it as potato chips made from “half a potato” were sols at much higher price points that the potato itself. Rahul asserted that a free market sector can only be the answer to such huge price differentials where the farmer would get more and fairer options to sell his produce.

From December 2011 to December 2012, for Rahul Gandhi, the potato price had gone up by Rs 1 only, and that too, from the paltry figure of Rs 2 to Rs 3 a kilo.

Illogical, unacceptable were these outlandish claims.

And what added more to the aura of scepticism around Rahul Gandhi’s statements was the issue he was focusing on – a policy measure, FDI in retail, on which the country and its politics was visibly divided.

Gone are the days when any vegetable would be available at such low prices. Potato at Rs 2 or 3 a kilo used to be the thing of the last century, at around late 80s and early 90s.

So, from that trend, the potato price of Rs 10 a kilo from 2012 to 2013 showed a logical improvement in Rahul’s deployment of data. It was more or less acceptable given the localisation factor of the place where the speech was being delivered.

And with the Parliament speech Thursday, it seems the course correction process is complete.

Rahul Gandhi’s address in Parliament today has given us hopes that from now onwards we will see a better rationalisation of his potato metaphor whenever he chooses to use it in order to target the political opposition, particularly the Narendra Modi government.

©SantoshChaubey

MADAARI POWERFULLY CONVEYS WHAT IT WANTS TO CONVEY

Madaari is a powerful film because of the message it conveys – an element that effectively counters flaws that we may discuss in the art of filmmaking here.

And it does so sensitively, touching cords. The film is not just a sensitive portrayal of a father-son relation but is also an apt expression of a common man who is crushed by the system. It is a vengeance story with no personal vendetta. It is as variegated in portrayal as the human thought can be, especially of a man who has lost his everything including the will to live and who wants to avenge his loss at any cost but who, at the same time, is bound by the larger cause of ‘what is right and what ails’ the system.

A vigilante thought process underpins the character developments in the movie – a thought element that we all have in our lifetimes. It is its leitmotif.

The main protagonist in the film loses his son in a flyover collapse which is caused by irregularities and corruption in its construction. The film explains well the internal struggle of a man who fails to accept this loss and chooses to concentrate his anger on the corrupt system that is plaguing the society – that caused the collapse.

A vigilante film is basically about uncommon heroics of someone from among us. The good thing about Madaari is, that though it’s basic premise is far-fetched, it tries to look real – like the reflection of peace and innocent happiness that the main protagonist’s character displays when he finally succeeds in telling to the masses that he has kidnapped the home minister’s son and why he has done so – something that the whole machinery is trying to keep under wraps.

And the film does it with élan. Character development is a high point of this film – every character that is a stakeholder here contributes with heart – the main protagonist, his son, his wife, the captive who also happens to be the son of the home minister, the home minister and his wife, the cop, the corrupt politician and so on.

A home minister who leaves his son in a minimum security school hostel to seek political mileage, a dejected father who abducts that son and roams across many states throughout the movie, a cop who decides not to kill him after knowing his real story and indirectly helps him, a cop who aspires to get the plum posting of some state governor after retirement – unbelievable, unreasonable premises – but then isn’t it not about the most vigilante movies – and, in fact, with all the superhero movies?

Yet we love them – be it ‘The Equalizer’ or the Batman movies of the Superman movies or the Iron Man movies or our very own ‘Krrish’.

It is because of the human psychology – where we all, more or less, at some point of time or regularly – face its brunt – and the main protagonist of the movie is shown taking on such (rogue) VIP elements.

It is because such films give wings to our fantasy that craves (and at times cribs) because of the fundamentally feeble nature of human beings who have been harassed by a corrupt system – something that we all face – and find ourselves forced to compromise.

Madaari portrays that.

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©SantoshChaubey

Featured Image Courtesy: Madaari’s Official Facebook page

CAN CHANGE IN THE SYSTEM BE BROUGHT WHILE BEING OUT OF IT?

Can change in the system be brought while being out of it?

It’s obvious answer is both – yes and no.

It all depends on the prevailing circumstances in the system – whether the system still has the elements who care for the conscious voices – or it has got deaf enough to block them on the periphery – if throwing them out is not an option.

The classic case where the centre or the core or the ‘haves’ sections of a society rule it with sheer domination – keeping the critical or hostile voices or the ‘have nots’ at the periphery – and the vicious circles of hegemony continues.

Unfortunately, it the second category that defines our prevailing socio-political system where even the world’s lengthiest written constitution has not been able to ensure the proper implementation of all its tenets – and its spirit.

Like it is always said that even if we got our independence from the British, we are yet to see a flawless democracy ruling the systems in the country. Though we are the world’s largest democracy – and a robustly functional one – the Global Democracy Index, annual ranking the Economist, finds us a flawed democracy – placing us at 35.

And it is not without reasons.

We have a transparent electoral system but the political corruption vitiates the whole atmosphere – so much so – that now the political class is considered and seen as a class apart – the elite who themselves feel and behave like supremacists. The deeply percolated VVIP culture (VIPism) has now become a part of even the smallest governance units of our country. And when you political class stars acting like it owns the country, it is the beginning of the process that starts killing the democratic spirit of the society – that starts contaminating every aspect of the society – so much so – that corruption has become a way of life for us.

The second biggest political reform movement of India, after the JP movement of 1970’s, the anti-corruption agitation led by the veteran activist Anna Hazare in 2011 was fuelled by anti-corruption sentiments only.

But like the JP movement, it, too, was co-opted by the people ruling the mainstream of the society.

If we have to set it correct, we need to overhaul the system – and to do that – we need to change the way we do politics.

To continue..

©SantoshChaubey

LET THEM HAVE AS MANY SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS AS THEY FANCY!

The Kashmir separatists are one resolute lot. At least in propaganda and on social media!

Now that is another thing that it reaches to how many – that how many follow them.

Because it reaches to too few of them – certainly not enough to make their lies truth. But if you see their social media feeds, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Periscope, it’s like they have brought some revolution sort of thing.

Some days back, I was sifting through the videos of Hafiz Saeed spewing venom against India during his so-called ‘Burhan Wani martyrdom-cum-funeral’ rally. His team of so-called cyber warriors were feeding them live through Periscope.

And you know how many users those live feeds were attracting – around 100 only. It is similar with all these militants, terrorists and separatists.

Let them live in the make-believe worlds. Let Hafiz Saeed have dozens of Twitter handles. Let SAS Geelani have as many Facebook pages as he wants to have. Let them tweet as much as they please.

Today, Geelani let the world knew that Facebook had deleted his account because he had posted Burhan Wani’s photographs. Soon, he came up with his Instagram account.

All these separatists/terrorists are so principled that they sell their ‘principles’ for material gains like getting a visa or educating their children abroad or giving their families a settled life or establishing a web of terror network in the veil of charity to keep their funding channels lubricated that ultimately funds their royal lifestyles.

©SantoshChaubey

MAYAWATI’S ANTI-DALIT HEAT MAY BE ON BJP, BUT SP IS GOING TO PAY IN REAL TERMS

There have been more than enough incidents to give the political opposition ammunition to portray the BJP as an anti-Dalit party but what is interesting is how it is going to play out in Uttar Pradesh.

In the prevailing political circumstances, we can safely say that Uttar Pradesh is going to see a dual battle again, as usual, between the two main political parties of the state – the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) – as the Congress is effectively out – and the BJP has lost the opportunity – though both of these parties will not leave any stone unturned in campaigning and canvassing.

That would add more colour to the atmosphere as the days to the upcoming assembly polls approach near.

But the core battle would be between the SP and the BSP only. And the BSP has clear edge this time – with caste equations, social engineering and anti-incumbency against the Akhilesh Yadav led SP government of Uttar Pradesh – slated to play out well for her.

Any development on the caste equation scenario, anything that would help Mayawati’s social engineering formula, that is going to be Dalit+Muslim combination this time, would hurt the SP more than the BJP.

If the BJP is facing the heat on the reports of anti-Dalit acts in the BJP ruled states and by the BJP leaders, Mayawati is going to be its beneficiary in the UP’s electoral politics, especially after a senior BJP leader of Uttar Pradesh compared Mayawati with prostitute. Initially Mayawati dismissed the issue but soon started ratcheting up her pitch terming it the attack on the Dalit identity. The senior BSP strategists would have advised Mayawati the Dalit politics potential of the issue after she initially dismissed it. That’s why we saw a changed Mayawati when the Rajya Sabha decided to debate the issue later in the day.

She was roaring. And she has kept roaring. Even if there have been clear debacles after the abusive behaviour of her party leaders came out in open who used derogatory language against women family members of Daya Shankar Singh, the expelled BJP leader who had used derogatory remarks against Mayawati and who is now on the run.

Even if Mayawati was forced to cancel his party’s statewide protests tomorrow, there was no sign that Mayawati was going to leave the issue. She, in fact, defended the language used by her party members.

Because she knows what she can get by playing the victim card to the hilt – consolidation of the Dalit voters behind her – something that the SP would like to scuttle at any cost.

To continue..

©SantoshChaubey

UNPREDICTABLE! BIZARRE!

Life is unpredictable. Life behaves in bizarre ways.

Routine experiences in life – yet disturbingly new in their shock value – that make our thought processes so sick that we feel like resigning to our fates.

You never know what is going to happen the next moment yet you plan for it. That is human nature. Building you future on your perceived permutations and combinations is human nature. We all do that.

We pass. We fail. We feel stuck.

Sometimes, life walks along with us. Sometimes, it chokes our vision. Sometimes, it simply goes blank.

Routine experiences in life – that make us question our existence – or simply co-opt us to get along with the flow.

But come what may – a life we all have got – to live.

It is unpredictable. It is bizarre. Yet it is the only life that we have got – that we will get.

At times, it shocks you and it is true that no one else can do anything for you. It is only you who can find a way. It doesn’t matter how sick you are feeling, you have to find a way out of it.

You have to live them as routine experiences – being always conscious that they are not going to dictate your thought process – that they are not going to be the person for you.

Yes, that is always unpredictable – a shock’s shock-value – yet you have to find the threshold of it.

It’s bizarre – yet imperative to live your life here.

©SantoshChaubey