1971 WAR’S FOUNDATION WAS LAID TODAY

The article’s Hindi version appeared on iChowk.

Though the India-Pakistan war of 1971 was fought between December 3 to December 16, 1971, its ground was prepared on November 21.

The day is marked with history defining incidents that completely changed the geopolitics of South Asia. A nation was again divided and a nation was again born in this corner of the world and it gave Pakistan a sore point that it will have to survive with as long as it continues to be ruled (and riled) with the same mindset that its ruling military and political dispensation of the moment has.

We can rule out any change. It doesn’t look possible in the foreseeable future because Pakistan’s ruling elite including its military and feeble polity derive their sanction from the anti-India propaganda they propagate and hysteria they create.

The Bangladesh Armed Forces (its army, navy and air-force) was formed on November 21, 1971 and Bangladesh celebrates November 21 every year as its Armed Forces Day. It was a more organized form of the Mukti Bahini, the grouping of Bangladesh freedom fighters formed in March 1971.

The Indian Army and the Bangladesh Armed Forces (Mukti Bahini) formed an alliance against Pakistan on the same day, November 21, 1971.

The Indian Army, with the Mukti Bahini, had launched attack on strategically important Garibpur Village 7 Kms deep inside East Pakistan on November 21, 1971. India’s 14 Punjab Battalion and Squadron 45 Cavalry tanks faced Pakistan’s army and its tanks. And how hollow Pakistan’s big claims were can be gauged from the fact that India and the Mukti Bahini conquered the village only in two days, on November 23, while inflicting heavy damage on the Pakistani side. This unmatched bravery of the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini is now known as the ‘Battle of Garibpur’.

And the rest – as we all know – is history. The Indian Army that was so far supporting the Mukti Bahini in its freedom struggle openly launched offensive against Pakistan and the whole war affair got over in just 13 days with the declaration of Bangladesh’s liberation on December 16, 1971 wiping out East Pakistan from geographical and geopolitical map of the world. The images are inscribed in history – Pakistan’s commander Lt. Gen. AA Khan Niazi along with 93000 Pakistani troops and civilians laying down arms and surrendering before India and signing the ‘Instrument of Surrender’ with India’s commander Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora.

That is the reason the final stage of Bangladesh’s freedom struggle of 1971, that began on an organized scale in March 1971 with the formation of Mukti Bahini, is known as the India-Pakistan war of 1971. Bangladesh celebrates March 26 as its Independence Day, the day on which it had declared its independence from Pakistan in 1971 while both India and Bangladesh celebrate December 16 as Vijay Diwas (Victory Day) – the day when Bangladesh won its freedom in 1971 – or we can say India won the freedom for Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is celebrating its 45th Independence Day and Victory Day this year and is planning to honour 1971 war veterans from India including the veterans of the ‘Battle of Garibpur’.

©SantoshChaubey

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.”

PrimoLeviCollage2

©SantoshChaubey

ELIE WIESEL, BIGGEST CHRONICLER OF THE HOLOCAUST, IS NO MORE..

The article originally appeared on DailyO – as – Life and times of Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and chronicler. 

Elie Wiesel (1928-2016), the 1986 Peace Nobel Laureate and a Holocaust survivor, is no more with us. He passed away last night. He was 87. He was a Jew born in Romania, was forced to the horrors of an Auschwitz life and became a US citizen and a Boston University professor.

Elie Wiesel will always be remembered as the most haunted voice of the Holocaust years – the years when he somehow survived the concentration camps run by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany during the Second World War from 1939 to 1945 – the concentration camps that exterminated millions in a systematic manner only because Hitler and his people considered them inferior human beings. They saw them as the problem and the only final solution was to wipe them out.

Elie Wiesel was the biggest chronicler of the Holocaust days – writing over 50 books – based on his haunting memories. His autobiographical book Night came to me as a soul-stirring experience.

Before it, I was largely focused on documentaries, visual media, news reports and studies on the Holocaust to know more about the largest pogrom of modern human history, to feel its pain, to realize its message. But the experience after Night transcended all and made the Holocaust memoirs the major part of my Holocaust reading, of the past, as well as the ongoing ones.

The sudden change, from the peaceful childhood days to a life of utter debasement, where there were no children, no adults, no males, or no females, just living human corpses, waiting to be gassed and burned, brings poignant thoughts that shake your very existence. His life and work remind how debased the humankind can become and how resilient the humanity can come out to be.

WHAT ELIE WIESEL’S TIMELESS CLASSIC ‘NIGHT’ TELLS US: DARK SIDE OF THE MAN THAT CAN KILL MILLIONS

Writing about the book Escape from Camp 14, biography of a North Korean concentration camps survivor Shin Dong-hyuk written by an American journalist Blaine Harden, reminded me about Elie Wiesel’s Night, the memoir that details THE DEGENERATION OF LIFE in the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War

While Escape from Camp 14 is about the journey of a man, born and forced to live an animal life, and how he finds the human in him; Night is about how a man, born to lead a human life, is forced to a life that is worse than of animals.

At over 120 odd pages (the Penguin India edition), the ‘slim’ Night numbs you by the simple words of confusion about life, faith, death and relations as told by a young Elie Wiesel reflecting on the tormenting days of his life in different concentration camps including Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Night begins normally with observations of a teenager about a quiet Jewish countryside in a remote town Sighet, under Hungary’s occupation then. It tells how a typical Jewish family lives there, how a boy dutifully tries to be religiously observant, how the community there feels insular to the outside world’s activities and concerns, under an ongoing world war then, believing that it cannot reach them.

Night-ElieWiesel

(Image courtesy: Night book cover; Elie Wiesel’s photograph from Nobelprize.org)

Night exposes the inherent human weakness – clinging to the very last of the failing hope that the God would come and exercise some miracle – we see it in Elie’s father when he believes that something can still be worked out when almost of the Jewish community is already sent to Auschwitz; we see it later on as the memoir progresses when the Jews in the concentration camps think every now and then about the world war coming to an end while praying to the God; we see it in the escapist thoughts when the Jews of Sighet initially take German soldiers as the good Samaritans even if their every freedom is curtailed the very day German soldiers arrive in the town; we see it on every such occasion when the characters of this memoir think that they are not going to be gassed whenever they get a comparatively lesser fiendish security guard.

Night is representative of the dark side of the man that can poison and kill millions. Millions of Jews were gassed, burned and exterminated in furnaces and ‘Night’ tells that sordid tale through the eyes of teenager Elie who struggles with his conscience first, about his trust in the God that he finds incoherent with the acts that begin the day they board the cattle train to Auschwitz, and grows on to degenerates into the cattle mentality of surviving anyhow even if it means sacrificing your father and shapes ultimately into a distrust in anything like the very existence of the God. What else can be expected when someone becomes a mute spectator to the Nazi killing machine of Hitler’s Germany – the ‘Selection’ of humans as animals – gassing and burning them in thousands daily. Elie survived months in the concentration camps while living near to those crematoriums.

Night is not just a memoir from the Holocaust literature; it is also a sensitive book on father-son relation. Night tells us about the internal struggle of the human conscience when Elie writes about that ‘night’ that changes all. The night they board the train makes their human comrades inhuman at the very go – the way his community people beat a old woman crying consistently after her family is taken away. No sympathy – just the savagery of the jungle to survive – that ‘night’ began it. Elie watches himself becoming a different person, a debased survivor. Though he remains very much a father’s son, with his father being the only symbolic emotive quotient and support throughout his captive life in the concentration camps, at times he thinks of him as burden, only to blame himself the next moment. There come moments when he watches his old, frail father being brutally beaten by the guards but he tries to avoid the eye contact.

And teenager Elie was just one out of the millions in the concentration camps, who were forced to think like this; who inherited this internal struggle for years to come; who got unending ‘night’ hours imprinted in their conscious to haunt them as these words of Elie Wiesel during his Acceptance Speech for the Nobel Peace Prize sum up:

“Can this be true?” This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent?”

©SantoshChaubey

ELIE WIESEL’S NIGHT: DARK SIDE OF THE MAN THAT CAN KILL MILLIONS

Elie Wiesel is dead. They all were the #Holocaust survivors but he was it’s biggest chronicler. RIP.
#ElieWiesel
#RIPElieWiesel

SANTOSH CHAUBEY

Writing about ‘Escape from Camp 14’ reminded me about Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’, the memoir, that details out THE DEGENERATION OF LIFE in the Nazi concentration camps. A classic that I visit to, again and again.

While ‘Escape from Camp 14’ is about the journey of a man, born and forced to live an animal life, finding the human in him; ‘Night’ is about how a man, born to lead a human life, is forced to a life worse than of animals.

NightWiesel

Book cover of ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel, sourced from the Internet 

At over 120 odd pages (the Penguin India edition that I have), the ‘slim’ ‘Night’ numbs you by the simple words of confusion about life, faith, death and relations as told by a young Elie Wiesel reflecting the tormenting days of his life in different concentration camps including Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

‘Night’ begins normally with observations of a…

View original post 549 more words

YES, HE WAS THE MAHATMA..

Communal riots date back to the ancient times in the history of India. Hindu-Muslims riots began during the medieval period. And since then the travesty has been unabated – with varying degrees of terror and its aftermath.

And that is a major reason among some defining elements due to which India is still not among the most forward nations in the world – in spite of being the world’s largest democracy.

In fact, India’s independence, its partition and the birth of Pakistan in 1947 saw the worst Hindu-Muslim riots in India – unparalleled so far then – a massacre that remains unparalleled still.

And these riots that preceded and followed India’s independence and Pakistan’s birth tell why Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was revered as the ‘Mahatma’ or ‘Bapu’ – the ascetic, the sage, the father figure.

Yes, there are varying accounts and there are historical records and claims about what happened to the Hindu-Muslim riots, especially the most heinous of them in Noakhali in Bengal where the Mahatma camped for around four months touring villages to calm down tempers.

We know, on the whole, the warring factions, that then included the whole population of an aspiring Pakistan and an equally sizeable chunk in India could never be reconciled and one nation became two and ultimately three in 1971.

But one fact is indisputable clear – that – the Mahatma did calm down the tempers there. Yes, he could not bring the warring factions to the final solution of reconciliation but he stopped something that could easily have become one of the worst human massacres in the history of civilizations.

And we know that is a rare feat – in fact an unparalleled sentiment he commanded. Hindu-Muslim riots have continued even in the independent India – but right from its beginnings in the medieval India – there never was a person like the Mahatma who could stand among those ready to kill and be killed to ask them to stop and in fact convinced them to do so. And there will no else like him in that sense we can say. Yes, he was the Mahatma who did this unthinkable job because history again tells us that the people blinded by faith refuse to listen to anyone. 

These are difficult times. Bapu was questioned even then. But now is the time when history is being worked upon. Ideologies are clashing. And we need our Mahatma – his thoughts, his teachings, his vision, and the spirit that he embodied. India, in fact, always needed it. And now is the time when the need is desperate. Now is the time when we need to reach out to say yes he was the Mahatma who set us on the path to independence and the best tribute to him would be to be make an India where we all would be ‘really free souls’. 

Bapu

October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE MAHATMA WILL ALWAYS REMAIN THE CONSCIENCE OF HUMANITY..

Mahatma Gandhi will always remain great because he was one among us – and he will always remain ‘the one’ among us.

And for that reason – and for that reason alone – October 2 will remain the universal day of humanity – not just in India – but across the world.

And the world is celebrating this spirit – the UN has declared October 2 – the birth anniversary of the Mahatma – as the ‘International Day of Non-Violence’.

The movement was initiated in 2004 and the UN had adopted it in 2007. The UN page on the day says – “The International Day is an occasion to “disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness”. The resolution reaffirms “the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence” and the desire “to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence”.”

Yes, non-violence is the only universal principle that can guide the humankind to an egalitarian world – where each human life has same scalability.

And non-violence is the only guiding principle that can ensure equal distribution of opportunities to each human life.

The Mahatma will always remain great because we know the world, in spite of realizing the ‘inevitability’ of non-violence, has failed to build a ‘humanitarian world’.

History of human civilization is replete with violence – men killing men. The world is still plagued with ‘man-created’ violence in many parts of the world.

The modern day world – with its contemporary times – is best chance for humanity to aspire for a world of ‘universal humanity’ – and that world can only be built by eradicating wars and other forms of terror.

But, in the prevailing geopolitical circumstances, that looks a ‘far-fetched’, hypothetical concept.

Well, when the Mahatma had started practicing non-violence, first in South Africa and then in India, to oppose, and then to uproot the mighty British Empire, people had dismissed him first. Gandhi used to be a subject of mock initially.

And we all know the might of ‘Satyagraha-non-violence’ today.

It was the might of ‘Satyagraha’ only that could ‘successfully’ take on the might of British Empire. We recently witnessed this ‘might’ again – not just in India – but in many parts of the world. The underlying theme of every mass protest in the recent history – the global ‘Occupy’ movement, the Arab Spring, anti-corruption movements of India and Pakistan, universalization of Guy Fawkes masks as the symbol of mass protests – has been the principle of non-violence.

Strengthening democracies and minimizing wars are the basic needs of the day – and non-violence is the basic tenet, the guiding conscience behind every such thought process.

And life the Mahatma is its best manifestation – and a robustly functional Indian democracy is the best tribute to him.

The Mahatma

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

INTERNATIONAL YOGA DAY: CLAIMING THE LEGACY

It’s a new beginning for India – in its new pursuit of promoting a confident identity – using its age-old culture that has assimilated different incoming shades and has survived for centuries and is still going strong.

Yoga is a gift from India to the world. It is an art, a science, and a transcendental philosophy to realize our spiritual quotient. And in India, if we leave politics aside, its acceptability goes beyond religions.

And the annual International Day of Yoga (IDY), beginning this year today, on June 21, the Summer Solstice day that brings to us the longest day of the year (Summer Solstice day can fall on any day between June 20 to 22 but June 21 is common), should be seen in this context. There will be debates on why ‘Narendra Modi’ proposed June 21. Reasons range from scientific like the Summer Solstice to sociological like celebrations associated with the day to mythological like Lord Shiva taking note of the seven people in meditation for 84 years to seek him as their ‘Yoga Guru’ (as Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev writes) to political like June 21 being the birth anniversary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar but let’s not go into that.

Yes, Yoga is a healing and wellness gift to the world from India – from ancient times. And it has continued to be so, spreading throughout the world, through travelers coming to India, through Indian texts and religions in other civilizations, like Buddhism spreading in many parts of the world, through cultural exports like art, sculpture and tradition and through linguistic influences, like influence of Sanskrit can be found in languages and scriptures of countries which shared historical trade routes with India, like Swami Vivekananda found during his voyage to the United States of America in the last decade of the 19th Century. It was Swami Vivekananda who introduced Yoga to the Western world in an organized way. He gave shape to an un-thought process that had started with European colonization of India.

Yoga has been there since ages. And its spread throughout the world has taken place gradually, in every age, based on its merits, more so in 19th and 20th Centuries. And it is continued even today with India being the leading light for gurus and teachers of Yoga worldwide.

Sages and ascetics developed the art in India and so naturally, the spiritual elements of Yoga have religious texts of Hinduism of the day or whatever we want to call (the religion). It was natural when the ascetics meditated enchanting names of deities (we follow them; we find in our religious texts) and taught their followers to do so. Doing so was practical and not religious. If religion had anything to do with it, it was about the God, the common link between ascetics, sages and other people. God was the central and common point of concentration of all. And it has remained so.

And that pragmatism is applicable across religions – in India, and outside India.

Yoga is an art that scientifically improves the mind-body balance of a person and, if willing, takes him to the higher realms of spirituality. Practicing it is not a must but a lifestyle with Yoga as its inseparable element brings qualitative changes in practitioners. And a large-scale adoption has potential to create healthier societies. Obviously, thinking that Yoga alone can do it will be daydreaming and more so in a society like India where multiple problems like poverty, quality illiteracy and poor civic amenities still beset societies across the country. To address the issue here, we need a political willpower to work on all these issues holistically.

But it doesn’t belittle on the factual benefits of Yoga – physical, meditational and spiritual – something that has taken it to beyond India – in every part of the world.

What Narendra Modi did should have been done by the political dispensation of India much earlier. It had to claim to be the origin-place of a legacy that was already global in appeal and outreach. But every political dispensation in India had failed to do so, so far. We cannot say if they even thought about it.

And Narendra Modi did it. He realized the potential of projecting soft power globally by claiming this legacy.

We may debate the quality and outcome of the governance so far by the government of Narendra Modi but we need to give him the credit for IDY.

India is the world’s largest democracy. It is the fastest growing economy of the world. It is the third biggest economy of the world in terms ‘purchasing power parity (PPP)’. Harvard University study report says India’s middle class will be the largest one in the world by 2030. The country is among the top military powers of the world with many firsts to its space programme.

If politically handled well, the country is slated to go up in the world order on human parameters as well. That requires efficient governance not just on core issue but on other important issues as well – like projecting cultural strength of India and using soft power as a policy tool to further the nation’s interests.

An international day for Yoga established by the United Nations and endorsed by its member countries including the Muslim ones on a proposal moved by Narendra Modi is a positive step towards that. Narendra Modi proposed IDY in September 2014. The United National General Assembly declared it in December 2014. And we are celebrating the first IDY today – all in a span of nine months.

The US has been using ‘soft power’ projections for decades and is quite successful there. If America is seen the world over as the right place for democratic values in a free and just society, we need to give due credit to its soft power projections as well. We all see that theme in Hollywood films – an industry with global export scale – even to the countries where dictators run amok. Russia was a natural villain in many big productions during the Cold-War years. In recent times, North Korea and China (though to a lesser extent) have also taken that place.

And China is trying its hands on projecting its soft power too though it has not much to talk about as the country is one of most repressive societies where one is free as long as one toes the government line there. That leaves China to promote its culture as the selling point, sans any political element. Projections of Chinese martial art, Chinese culture in ancient, medieval and modern times and China’s resilience during its occupation by Japan have been the main elements of this soft power projection.

India fares much better than China in having acceptable elements of soft power and the country should use such elements as a policy tools to enhance its global image like it has done with IDY. Yes, there will be controversies and criticisms and some loopholes in the execution of the developments associated with the projections, but sending the larger message will subside all that.

The world celebrated this global day today – from India to America – from many European countries to Latin American countries – from Asia to Africa – from predominantly Muslim countries to the democracies having predominantly Christian population.

And India led the show, led the way. The day was celebrated on a wide scale in India and abroad. Government wings including its forces and foreign missions were preparing for the day. Ministers and teachers were sent in many countries to organize events there. Spiritual and religious guru Sri Sri Ravishankar and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj led the event at the United Nations in Washington. And in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi culminated his ‘daily Yoga tutorial through videos’ with a grand event at Rajpath in Delhi where more that 35000 people participated. Guinness says two world records were made today – 35,985 people made the world’s largest Yoga class in Delhi – and they were of record 84 nationalities.

And the right images from India met with the right images from the world over. Many in the global media covered IDY naming India as the country behind the move.

June 21 is also the birth anniversary of Jean-Paul Sartre, the French philosopher Existentialism is synonymous with. Individual existence is central to Existentialism and social developments are seen from the perspectives of human subjects. Hope policymakers in India also work on the core issues related to the human subjects – alleviating poverty, improving education and healthcare, ensuring Constitutional rights and removing corruption – in addition to the successful public relations exercises like the International Yoga Day.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/