The sudarshan chakra

Poisons that I vomited out.
Eons ago.
On you.
Have become a river of spleen.
Red/bloody/dripping drop by drop.
On my existence.
Shattering it away in bits and pieces.
Flying away from me.

The river of spleen.
Red/bloody/dripping drop by drop.
Glaciating from you.
A river of spate.
Full of whirlpools/whirlpools of hatred/aversion/detachment.
Residing on the black canvas of universe.
An Orion with a big cipher.
A sudarshan chakra.

Hitting me with the lightening speed.
Cutting me into bits and pieces.
Flying away from me.
There flew away me/my existence/my essence
Getting submerged into the river of spleen.
Red/bloody/dripping drop by drop.
And you.
Light years away.
Beyond my reached.
Shelved in a cocoon.
Like a black hole.
Ready to engulf the entire universe.
Around you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Protected: The Virgin Mother

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged

Terrorism is here to stay

These days, terrorism and national security has become the biggest talking points, especially after the terror attacks at Pulwama, New Zealand and now at Sri Lanka. Let’s first understand how the policymakers treated each incident. At Pulwama, we all know that instated of answering uncomfortable questions like how 350 kg RDX reached there and why the CRPF troop wasn’t given the airlift, our PM carried out a so-called surgical strike in the Pakistani part of Kashmir, didn’t take the opposition in confidence and declared all those asking questions as anti-nationals, while the New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, declared a national mourning and called the dead people &the entire Muslim population of New Zealand, ‘They are us,’ and not, ’They are like us!’

And, look at the response of the Sri Lankan policymakers: They accepted that they ignored a security warning that had cautioned for such an attack, their PM &President forgo all differences between them, took the opposition in confidence and then gave full freedom to their army, closed down all churches and mosques, no one could pay community namaz and wear a burqa. All terrorists were either killed or arrested in no time and kicked out all foreign citizens.
Clearly, both these smaller, much smaller countries can teach us a lesson or two on how to deal with terror attacks.

But, before that we must have a clear idea on terrorism.

In the United States of America, terrorism is defined in Title 22 Chapter 38 U.S. Code § 2656f as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents”. In general, terrorism is classified as:

  • The use of violence or of the threat of violence in the pursuit of political, religious, ideological or social objectives
  • Acts committed by non-state actors (or by undercover personnel serving on the behalf of their respective governments)
  • Acts reaching more than the immediate target victims and also directed at targets consisting of a larger spectrum of society
  • Both mala prohibita (i.e., crime that is made illegal by legislation) and mala in se (i.e., crime that is inherently immoral or wrong)

By this logic, acts like Kanwar Yatra, forcible shutting down of movies like Padmawat and intimidating young couples on Valentine Day etc all are acts of terrorism.
Moreover, as I’ve pointed out earlier that national security isn’t uni-dimensional as it is a sum total of along with physically securing our borders, economic, social and environmental security.
Along with is the question of secularism. Like democracy, secularism is also a Western concept and very much like democracy, it has been given the Indian shape. Secularism originally means separation of church and king, where religion is totally separate from state. But, in India, it means sarv-dharm sambhav (equal treatment to all religions). Now, as someone is always more equal than others, the majority religion is obliviously more equal than others!
Hence, secularism has been reduced to a joke in India, if a neta goes to a temple, s/he must also go to a mosque, a church and a gurudwara, and if there is Banaras Hindu University, there must be Aligarh Muslim University!

And, if Congress must ban the Satanic Verses, it must open the gates of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya and little said about the BJP in this regard is better!

This spectacle is competitive communalism and not secularism by any shred of imagination!!!

Can India learn a lesson or two from the much smaller countries like New Zealand and Sri Lanka on how to deal with terrorism?

In Sri Lanka, the backlash on terrorists and criminals by the Sri Lankan authorities continues and the police have arrested Amith Weerasinghe, a person belonging to the majority Buddhist community for targeting Muslims. Can you think of the similar approach in your wildest of your dream in India, where our PM sold the martyrdom of 47 CRPF personnel in an election rally, in a blatant violation of the model code of conduct and our Election Commission after remaining shamelessly silent for a month and then, gave him a clean chit!

So, the short answer is no and terrorism (as most people define) is here to stay, perhaps forever as the number of both security personnel and civilians has juxtaposed not just in Kashmir, but also in Maoists affected areas in Central and East India!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Day of Love turned into a day of hate

The Day of Love was turned into a day of hate, at least in this country, when terror was unleashed in Kashmir and 43 CRPF personnel were sacrificed at the alter of securing this paradise on earth. Terrorists belonging to the Pakistan based, supported and nurtured terrorist outfit Jaishe-Mohammad, but was executed by a local guy, who was also well-educated, although brain-washed, Adil Ahmad Dar.

That prompts us to take a re-look at the moot question: why this terrorism looms large in the only state of India, having a Muslim majority and that has always been a jewel of the country?

Already, TRP hungry news channels, indulging in a competitive show of patriotism, have started howling and shouting of revenge. But, revenge from whom and how?

One, you cannot attack the nuclear armed Pakistan and cannot take revenge from the local civilian population who already have a fair degree of anti-India feeling, as now more and more local and well-educated youths like Dar, are joining the rank& file of Pakistan based terror outfit.

And, in these super-heated moments, don’t forget that when this very same government had overlooked the protest by the very same retired CRPF personnel along with other retire para-military personnel at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi in February, 2016; demanding OROP like the army for them, all news channels, barring NDTV, also overlooked it.

There is no denying fact that Kashmir is a problematic region that the world outside India considers as a disputed area, hence the question is what could be its solution?

If we leave the history of this ‘dispute’ aside, there is no denying fact that Kashmir is a problematic region and as it is a political problem—problem of autonomy, representation and self-governance, it cannot have any unidimensional approach as India has been taking—the security and military approach, making this problem more and more difficult to be solved.

This unidimensional approach has been further strengthened under the current ruling dispensation that is pumping more and more military and para-military forces to Kashmir, making it the world’s heaviest militarized zone!

The oft-repeated quotes by this government is, “We will talk with Pakistan, only after it totally ceases terrorist activities,” and, “Whom to talk with in Kashmir?”

And, first, PDF, whom it has been accusing as anti-national party first, then joins hands to form a government in J&K and then walks out!

Then, if Britain and France could talk in 19th and early 20th Century, when they were staunch enemies, even the USA and Soviet Union could talk during the Cold War, why not India and Pakistan?

Or, Israel is our role-model, a terrorist state that has unleashed a rein on terror on Palestine and Occupied Territories, who whom it never talks and it remain a ‘problem’ unsolved since 1048?

As history tells us, no state is permanent in this world and we don’t have to look far away. Our neighbor Pakistan was one state in 1947, became two in 1971 as East Pakistan became Bangladesh!

And, Germany became two in 1945, again reunited at the end of the Cold War.

Then, think about Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia!

Therefore, it is a must that a political solution of this problem must be found and that can be found only by talking: talking to people of the state—students, teachers, professional, political representatives, media and civil society and take a definitive step.

The first immediate step is taking away Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA), that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces to arrest without a warrant anyone who has committed cognizable offences or is reasonably suspected of having done so and may use force if needed for the arrest and to enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests, or to recover any person wrongfully restrained or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances and seize it.

Self-declared ‘patriots’ and the so-called ‘nationalists’ will howl and shout on this. But, ask any civilian in Kashmir, or for than matter, in the North-East, about the Indian army and you will have the answer.

Just remember the instance where a man was tied to an army vehicle in Srinagar when he was returning after casting his vote, or Chittisinghpura massacre of 35 Sikhs on 20 March 2000, or thousands of unclaimed mass graves in Kashmir or the protest by the women of Manipur in 2004, holding the banner, Indian Army Rapes Us!’

That would be a crucial confidence building measure. The next step would be to give complete autonomy to the three sub-regions of the state: to Jammu, Kashmir Valley and Ladakh over crucial developmental issues: health, education, infrastructure, livelihoods, natural resource management and grassroots development. This doesn’t mean trifurcation of the state, but autonomy within one state!

This is not the advocacy of dropping security measures altogether. But, an optimal amalgamation of political and security measures is needed to address this problem effectively. The army should keep on guarding the borders and para-military forces must keep on patrolling the civil areas to keep them safe.

Also, if you want to see Kashmir as an integral part on India and think that it must remain untouched, undisturbed and unperturbed by the atmosphere of hate & animosity elsewhere in the country like cow-vigilante killing Muslims, rapes of Dalits and Muslims, even that of a baby girl in Kashmir’s Kathua and Hindu-Muslim narrative, you’re living in a fool’s paradise!

Not to speak of the hanging of Afzal Guru as the Supreme Court found no direct evident of his involvement in 2013, but only ‘circumstantial evidences’ for the 2001 attack on the Parliament of India, and the highest court of the land thought to ‘award’ him the capital punishment that is awarded in rarest of the rare cases, as it would satisfy the conscience of the people!

Finally, I, although being a VOP (Very Ordinary Person), can propose the ultimate solution of Kashmir Problem.

It is: Make Indian & Pakistani Kashmir as one state, who will be like Switzerland; it will have no armed forces of its own as both India and Pakistan would wake the guarantee of its security. Citizens of both countries would be free to travel, reside and work, but cannot buy a property and be its permanent residents. Citizens from other countries can also travel freely and get visa on arrival, very much like Indians get in seven countries at present!

I know, it sounds very utopians, but dreams are met of Utopia. Even the formation of the USA was once considered as a Utopia, so was the breaking of the Berlin wall!

Utopia or no, but it needs a very strong and exemplary, epoch making political will and the current or foreseeable near future’s political leadership of the neither country has it.

But there is no harm in having a dream!

Postscript: The classical definition of terrorism is: The use of violence or threat of violence in the pursuit of political, religious, ideological or social objectives, can be committed by governments, non-state actors, or undercover personnel serving on the behalf of their respective governments and the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” Going by this logic, acts of all right & left-wing groups like Bajarang Dal, Ram Sene, Hindu Yuva Vahini, Maoists etc on Valentine’s Day, hitting couples, Kanwar Yatra, violent protest against Padmawat and MF Hussain, killing of rationalist and journalist like Pansare, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh, burning of books and attacking libraries and attacking Dalits for riding a hose during his wedding procession or Adivasis (remember, Jalwa Judum), is also terrorism.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spiti is Warm in Summer & Lives Comfortably in Winter, Thanks to a Doon Girl!

Free flowing gush of sparkling blue water in the parched and arid landscape of Spiti, the high-altitude cold desert, tucked away in the far end corner of Himachal Pradesh, where only a few intrepid tourists used to visit until a few years ago, is now turning a unique hub of alternative and sustainable livelihood avenues for communities in this remote Himalayan region, that is just not help locals to responsibly use locally available resources to generate income, reduce costs and protect the environment, but is also turning tourists into travellers who come and stay with locals in their villages and carry back a thick slice of memories, enriched with its distinct art, culture and traditions.

Thanks to the single-minded grit and determination of a Dehradun born and brought up woman Ishita Khanna, whose love of mountains and desire to make lives of mountain people a bit better and sustainable, brought her here. She understood the link between livelihoods and conservation, “One cannot expect people to conserve their environment, unless their livelihoods are assured and local products can be gainfully marketed,” reasons Khanna, 39.

A product of Doon’s elite school; Whelham’s and a Delhi University graduate from its prestigious Miranda House, Khanna went to Tata Institute of Social Studies, Mumbai to accomplish post-graduation in Social Studies, has introduced a unique set of market-based incentives to promote eco-tourism opportunities environmental conservation in the region.

Her family has been a bedrock of support in pursuing her dreams—her elder sister, her parents and grandparents, everyone in the family. She and her elder sister were brought up like sons. My parents have always insisted that we have to stand on our feet and not be dependent on anyone. We were always brought up like that. And my grandmother who had served as a nurse with the British Army during the World War II and later came to India, “She was a source of inspiration for me while I grew up as she was a very adventurous person. She had these great stories about how she came into World War II and how she worked as a nurse in Shimla for a while and then in Calcutta.

Then she got married to her grandfather who was with the railways and was transferred to many places and everywhere they started a social project. While in Chennai, she and a friend of hers started a project for children’s’ health and education and is still functional in a place called Madlapalli.

In a nutshell, courage and social cause runs in her blood!

Her mother too always stood beside her as she insisted that she could do anything as long as it contained an element of adventure and she must complete both basic and advanced mountaineering courses that she did from Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi. “My mother took me out for treks and both have been instrumental in making me what I am today,” says Ishita.

After a frustrating stint with CAPART (Council of Rural Development and Advancement), at Chandigarh, the nodal agency of Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, where she had to fight rampant corruption in funding NGOs and the slow bureaucratic processes while with the Himachal Government in Shimla, although the young director was very progressive there. But, this work enabled her to visit Spiti and experience the raw beauty of Spiti and she was struck with it.

Upon leaving CAPART in 2002, she and her husband started Muse, an NGO, but disaster truck her when she lost her husband soon after in a freak accident in the area, but the lure of mountains and her commitment to protect environmental of India’s mountain and advance its culture continued unabated.

And, in order to realise their dream of ground, the team established Ecosphere in 2006 that is in fact, a combination of three non-governmental organisations—Muse, Spiti Trans-Himalayan Action Group (STAG) and Spiti Seabuckthorn Society (SSS).

began to look into various development and environmental issues in the mountains of Spiti. Then as was bowled over by Seabuckthorn, a wild berry rich in vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, grown abundantly in Spiti. She knew it was the link between income and conservation and must be marketed, on the same like Himachal oranges and apples are done. But, the bureaucracy again frustrated her, “The officials told me that they’ve carried out many tests on this berry and found this species totally useless,” she reveals.

But, a scientist. Dr. Virendra Singh of Palampur Agriculture University, was passionate about it, who was determined to use its nutritional and medicinal value as it is a rich source for vitamin C and essential fatty acids. With a stroke of luck, the organisation managed to get some financial support to set up a demonstration Seabuckthorn unit in 2002 and empowered the local community to harvest and pulp the berry, instead of destroying it, along with starting homestays in five villages, building solar passive winter rooms and building greenhouses to enable growing of green vegetables throughout the year. She won the much-coveted Ashoka Fellowship for her social entrepreneurship in Spiti, in 2008.

They explored the commercial viability of seabuckthorn– and then discovered other more sustainable areas of businesses. Efforts in areas such as eco-tourism ensured they survived to sustain their passion.
See, initially one if the main challenges was to get the people together to start working on it A lot of stuff had been done on seabuckthorn in the beginning and they tried to mobilize the community at that point in time and then it was sort of left midway.

initially, it was a challenge to convince the people about the economic viability of seabuckthorn as Himachal government officials had declared the berry useless and even the community wasn’t aware of its uses and it was difficult to get them on their side. So, first they discovered the ‘king’ of the Valley and approached him, “He was a very genuine and down to earth kind of a person who really wanted to do something for his place. He knew about seabuckthorn and wanted to do something with it and promised to support us completely. Then, we were funded by a German funding agency,” she tells.
The Spiti Valley is an unforgiving, arid region situated at about 10,000 to 17,000 feet above sea level where a misdirected winter vacation can land you with the rare experience of living inside the deep- freezer of a refrigerator at minus 30 degrees.

Heavy snowfall leaves the region separated from the rest of the country in a silent breakaway, without any insurgent efforts, for over half the year. The government has subsidized basic goods and services which are available for 50% of the price. The local communities have grown used to the subsidies and recent years have sometimes seen crops fail here. Ishita, through her organization Ecosphere, has worked towards improving environmental management in these villages. She has been on a mission, trying to make the local communities self-sufficient and less dependent on subsidies and government handouts.

She decided to chalk-out a holistic approach for realising her dream that was a combination of responsible travel, exploring Seabuckthorne products and marketing them at the national level, providing alternative sources of livelihoods by cultivating fruits and vegetables even in freezing winter months, promoting local handicrafts and providing clean energy by constructing solar passives homes.

Responsible tourism is in the core of her endeavour as snuggled in the Trans-Himalayan range are high altitude cold desert regions with barren landscape and sparkling blue river and fiercely cold winters with temperatures dipping below -30 degrees, is almost like a different planet where tourists and travellers love to come during the summer months, stretching from June to September, more so as it offers an insight into the culture, nature, history, ecology and legends of these valleys, while ensuring that visits to these pristine locales benefit their economy, conservation and development

She chose to make women the key stakeholders of this movement as she knew only women to knit tourism and ecology in a beautiful tapestry. Thus, were established home-stays that ensures conservation of the fragile ecology of the region alongside the equitable benefits between the rich and poor in the village. Ecosphere promotes a homestay programme that hosts travellers in five villages. It was a long road she has traded on since its start in 2002 when she tried to convince the villagers to turn their traditional homes into ‘traditional’ homestays, “Villagers were concerned over the very idea of constructing water based flush toilets in their homes given that water is a very precious resource in Spiti. However, our mandate was to stick to the traditional ways of life that were ecological conducive to the region,” she tells. Slowly, they saw the benefits of welcoming guests into their homes and today over 80 homestays operate in these villages. A village coordinator was appointed in every village to manage the process to ensure families host on a rotational basis, to ensure equity. Sadly, as the villagers started getting tourists and tasted the blood, “cooperation has led to competition”, says Ishita, except in Demul village.

Initially, when the villagers were ready to welcome guests in their homes. They chose to keep the rent at rock bottom, “But, then, they realized that doing so they will hardly make much money for all their investments and time and may attract the wrong kind of tourists, they agreed to increase the rentals,” tells Khanna.

Still many tourists found this rate: Rs. 600 in 2016 including stay and all meals, very rewarding, “We stayed here for two days in August 2016 and not just enjoyed the breathtakingly natural beauty of the area, but also natural warmth of the people here,” tells Gauri, from Pune who was with her family. Even foreigners love to be here, “I came as a tourist here, but became a traveller as I learnt about their way of life, art and craft and took part in the festivities here,” elucidates Phillip, who was here in September, 2015 from France.

“While tourism has its pros and cons, we are helping tourists with unique programmes and making them aware of responsible tourism, where they can work with the community to build solar-passive homes which retain heat inside the houses or green houses for growing vegetables. At the same time, the local community benefits with home stays. The home stays are conducted on a rotational basis so no one really competes with each other. Every house gets a chance to accommodate tourists,” explains Ishita.

Ecosphere has taken remarkable initiatives to ‘reduce, recycle and reuse’ products. To cut down the usage of bottled water, the tourists are provided with a water filter at the home stays. And, the waste materials like crushed mineral water bottles are being used in insulating solar passive homes in Spiti and waste tetra packs are recycled to make tissue paper.

Travellers are offered free drinking water from the Ecosphere shop at Kaza, the headquarters of Spiti. Tourists are sensitised about the delicate ecology and the need to preserve its rich heritage.

Ecosphere’s volunteers also offer glimpses of Tibetan Buddhism and culture and tourists enjoy staying in authentic homestays, mountain biking, treks and hikes, mountaineering expeditions and rafting. Many also indulge in birding, floral and wildlife expeditions in the region.

Exploring Seabuckthorn berry, popularly known as the ‘Wonder berry’, since it has a unique composition of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and essential fatty acids, and marketing them at the national level, alongside enabling locals to grow vegetables, even during the freezing winter months, is the second approach she took towards realising her dream.

Because of this unique initiative, the quality of lives of the 12,000 odd villagers in Spiti has improved a great deal as many families have begun cultivating seabuckthorn, selling it under the organic brand named called ‘Tsering’ (which means blessings for life), which is now available across India.

“Locals who were unaware of the potential of seabuckthorn were not growing it. We initiated a project to set up a processing unit to make juice, jam, tea and fruit drink concentrate. This project has increased income especially for women. We have been able to educate the community on the value of preserving this wonderful berry,’’ says Khanna.

People quickly adopt practices if it makes money for them. So, by marketing the seabuckthorn products, other cereals and pulses into useful and nutritional products, Ishita has been able to conserve Spiti’s scare and precious resources and made the villagers financially secure in the process. Also, the propagation of Seabuckthorn benefits this cold desert region ecologically, given its soil-binding and nitrogen-fixing nature.

Besides promoting the farming of seabuckthorn, Ishita has also trained people in technical aspects of food processing and linked the finished products through the right marketing channels. Ishita also promotes handicrafts and Thangkha paintings made by the locals.

That is her third initiative that is the promotion of Local handicrafts as the Himalayas are home to unique handicrafts like Thangkas (paintings on silken canvas), Zama (mud craft) and Lingzay (woven shawls with traditional motifs). Ecosphere has enabled local groups to preserve these traditional art forms, generate alternate sources of income and improve the quality and marketability of such products.

“By linking economics with conservation, we have been successful in preserving this plant. By promoting indigenous products, we ensure the conservation of Spiti’s diverse traditional crops and fruits, promote organic agriculture and enhance the livelihoods of the local population,” explains Ishita.

Another highly crucial feature of her endeavour is making Spiti homes energy efficient as due to the extreme winter climate, the residents of the Trans-Himalayan region burn a lot of coal, wood and dung to cook and keep warm in winters. However, using the abundant solar energy in the region, they can minimize fuel-wood consumption, and reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and health problems associated with excessive smoke. That’s the cold energy that keeps the Spiti homes warm during winters, as she has created solar-passive homes there!

Ecosphere’s green energy initiatives are also a set of finally inter-woven measures like establishing greenhouses so locals can access fresh vegetables round the year, generate additional income and improve their nutritional intake. Spiti today has energy-efficient homes that operate on Solar Passive techniques, which reduce fuel consumption by 60%, help to mitigate global warming, keep the inner air smokeless, reduce cold-related illnesses, and enable income generation via indoor activities like handicrafts and households grow vegetable even during winters. These homes have renewable energy options like Solar Geysers, Solar Passive Baths, Cookers and Lanterns, to reduce fuel-wood consumption and carbon emissions, enabling local homes and homestays to be more eco-friendly and improved hygiene levels.

And, locals are basking under the sun of ease and fame. Fourteen years ago, Sonam was one of the many unemployed youths in Spiti who did odd jobs for a living as he hardly knew the importance of Spiti’s rich flora or fauna, especially about seabuckthorn. Today, he like many other youths, is adept in extracting its juice and sell its pulp to buyers, “It is naturally drought-resistant and is a magic recipe for good health which tourist just love to drink,” says a smiling Sonum, 24, holding glasses of fresh Seabuckthorn juice.

And, a deep sense of observation along with, gave her a foundation to work in this god forbidden place as she observed that even this seemingly barren place is blessed with rich natural resources, the villagers were unaware. And, she went on to combine the ecology with economy so that this magical land could retain all its beauty, but can also provide sustainable livelihood opportunities to the locals and she started Ecosphere with a group of friends started Ecosphere. And, besides indirect livelihoods to about 12,000 people of the region, it also provides direct jobs as out of its 12 employees, only two including Ishita are outsiders.

“The idea of setting up Ecosphere was to promote eco-tourism, help the struggling local community with better income generation avenues and preserve the environment with renewable sources of energy and cut down on carbon footprint. Conservation happens best when their livelihoods are directly linked to it,” says Ishita.

Fifteen years ago, Spiti was not in any of the tourism itineraries. But now many tourists from India and abroad are discovering its pristine beauty.

Indeed, in the last 16 years, Ecosphere has transformed the lives of community in many ways.

Besides running responsible eco-tourism where travellers stay in people’s homes and enjoy the unique culture and tradition of the Valley, Ecosphere helps convert existing winter rooms into energy saving rooms to cut down carbon emissions and greenhouses which provide vegetables to families throughout the year.  Her renewable energy innovations address Spiti’s harsh climate and infrastructure challenges.

This has indeed created wonders in this cold desert where temperature dips to minus 30 degrees during winters and the region remains cut-off from rest of the country for six months, enabling people to grow vegetables as due to the adverse weather conditions, they could not grow the vegetables in the villages. Procuring vegetables from town which was 8-10 hours’ drive was one of the biggest problems for villagers. This made it expensive and also increased the carbon footprint.

Ecosphere’s initiative to set up greenhouses has been a path breaking initiative. Ecosphere has set up 100 green houses for the villagers and the monasteries, where people actively grow vegetables for the community.

Renewable energy projects have been another big success. Ecosphere has built 500 solar-passive houses. Ishita and her team’s relentless efforts have seen a drastic reduction in the usage of wood, which in turn reduced black carbon emissions.

“Ecosphere continues to work on economic empowerment with the sale of organic products, conservation of the environment and introduction of several environment-friendly products like solar lights, geysers, cutting down fuel consumption. The best part about the venture is that all the profits are ploughed back into supporting the people and sustaining the environment-friendly measures,” points out Ishita.

Life in Spiti is challenging but the simple life here is one of Ishita’s most prized possessions. There have been several unforgettable experiences for Ishita living in the remote villages.

Once she was stuck in a village due to floods and had to walk 50 kilometers to reach a safe destination. She was also held up in a village, cut off from the rest of the world for two weeks, when there was heavy snowfall.

For someone who loves adventure, these incidents only reaffirmed her capability and commitment to work more vigorously.

“Happiness and peace are the biggest gifts Spiti has given me. Money is important. It is the means to an end but not the end itself. Money can’t buy you everything. I would find it difficult to adjust in a city. I find life here more exciting and endearing,” says Ishita.

City life is too commercial and complicated, says Ishita. Consumerism and advertisements regularly bombard people creating new needs whereas life in villages is truly fulfilling without any of those products.

Life in Spiti also fulfils her spiritual quest as although, she doesn’t follow any organised religion, she regards herself as a spiritual person. “Yoga and meditation form a part of my daily life. Self-evolution and changing oneself for the better (to be the essence) in spiritual growth. There are numerous inequalities in this world and the more visible are of economic wealth as although money is important, but not everything, one’s  self-realisation and quest is and the need is to bridge differences, strengthen equality and value contentment, she says.

Spiti has also taught her how to value the precious resources, love nature and live in harmony. A group of nuns for whom Ecosphere installed a solar panel for lighting, told her that they remember Ecosphere in their prayers every evening, which is one of the biggest compliments, says Ishita as she has been exploring renewable energy options and solar passive homes and has been smart with communicating her ideas to the locals as it has set up 100 green houses for the villagers and the monasteries, where people actively grow vegetables and solar-passive rooms are constructed under the second programme and both are interlinked. “Ecosphere has also built 500 solar-passive rooms, where the winter room is made energy efficient enabling it to absorb the suns heat better and with insulation this heat gets trapped inside the room.,” tells Khanna.

She tells people how they can economically benefit from these new options whenever she has struggled to make them see reason. One of the interesting features of her work has been the way she has managed to connect with a host of diverse people – the locals, their issues and also the tourists and others who form an important part of her business and social clientele.

Villagers living in these solar-passive homes are growing vegetables, a rare commodity in Spiti, even in harsh winter months when the outside temperature dips to minus 30 degrees, but inside it remains warm enough for the vegetables so grow, “I grow cabbage, lettuce and spinach that I sell in local market and to the restaurants here,” tells Dorje Chhering, Kwang village.

Not just people’s homes, but also nunneries have such greenhouses like Pangmo and Morang nunnery where they actively grow vegetables for the between 30 to 40 nuns.

In fact, there are about 100 such greenhouses in homes and monasteries where vegetables are being grown as an added source of income for them, besides being a potent source of nutrition.

At an altitude of 12,000 to 15000 feet above sea level, Spiti in Himachal Pradesh is one of the most beautiful places in the world but too harsh a life even the basic facilities. for people living there as temperatures ranging from -30 degrees in winter to above 30 degrees in summer, the dusty and dry weather conditions make life tough and rigid for its people. Frequent power cuts which stretch across days together, bad roads and poor infrastructure are other issues that badly affect people. Little wonder, “Living in Spiti is an unforgettable experience”, says Khanna.

And, she, dedicated to the cold desert tucked away in the uterus of high Himalayas, is determined to make this harsh life of people a bit easy, by ensuring an enduring source of livelihood for them along with conserving its pristine environment and ecology. Arranging enough drinking water for the people is her next initiative as for nearly six months during winter, Spiti turns into a cold desert and is cut off from the rest of the world, gets no water, “In fact even during summer in 2016, we have severe water shortage, tells Andgui of Demul village.

To sustain its initiative, Ecosphere targets the gen-next as it goes on combining traditional Buddhist systems of healing and health with modern science and pursue Environment education in Spiti schools by targeting the young kids in schools to make environment education a fun subject plus make them aware of the web of life- what happens if there is a disturbance in this web of life, the significance and the role of each. It also get the kids to take up small projects in schools like garbage management or documenting the local flora and fauna, etc.

Ecosphere got inspired by the epoch-making work of Sonam Wangchuk in Ladakh, so it is working on it and hopes to solve it soon, “We have experimented by building an artificial glacier in 2016, and fortunately in the winter there was a lot of snow so the problem of water will be slightly less acute this year.” she reveals. A solar pumping water station is the next big project in the pipeline. This would need an investment of around Rs 500,000. “People have to walk long distances to get drinking water. With a solar water station, we plan to reduce the burden on people,” says Ishita.

Already, tourists are offered free drinking water from the Ecosphere run Sol Café and Taste of Spiti (restaurant cum guesthouse) and a solar pumping water station is the next big project in the pipeline. “We have to walk long distances to get drinking water after this solar water station, we won’t have to,” hopes a nun of Pangmo village.

Ecosphere’s solar passive rooms cut down fuelwood consumption by up to 60% thereby also reducing a lot of carbon emissions.

Fifteen years ago, Spiti was not in any of the tourism itineraries. But now many tourists from India and abroad are discovering its pristine beauty and locals are having a durable source of livelihoods besides conserving its nature, ecology and tradition. And, the world is paying attention to her by recognising her efforts as she Ishita was the MTV Youth Icon of the year for her work in 2008 along with Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award 2008, CNN IBN Real Heroes Award followed in 2010, The Sierra Club ‘Green Energy and Green Livelihoods Achievement Award’ and The Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy, both in the year 2009, Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award 2010.

And, she remains firmly standing on a firm ground and quotes, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

Very Gandhian thought indeed: First change thyself, before thinking of changing the world!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Quicksand. Under my feet.

Quicksand of a make belief world.

Hallowed. Outwardly.  Colorful.

Of seven plus colors.

But, a Quicksand.

Where the sunrays fell.

From time eternity.

Only to be broken in seven minus colors.

Into a blackholeish oblivion.

A nothingness of hopes.

A nothingness of desires.

A nothingness of apparition.

There disappears my existence.

In the quicksand.

Quicksand of lies.

Quicksand of deception.

Quicksand of trust.

Created by me.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gujarat Model: A role-model or a disaster?


Ever since Narendra Modi became Gujarat’s chief minister in 2001, Gujarat model is touted as the role model of development for the entire country because of its gleaming roads, good power supply, multiplexes, air-conditioned malls and off course, a relatively high Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) and eventually a higher per capita income makes it for the policymakers to tout a vibrant Gujarat model that must become the national model of growth and development.

While it is true that this large state, located on the western coast of India, having the longest coastline of 1,600 km in the country is one of the high growth states in the country with its average annual GSDP growth rate of Gujarat from 2004-05 to 2015-16 was 12.02 per cent that has achieved the distinction of being one of the most industrially developed states and contributes about a quarter to India’s goods exports, it is not the achievement of the BJP Government under the leadership of Modi as its chief minister from 2011 to 2014, but a legacy of previous regimes that just got furthered during his regime as the following table clearly shows it that  mentions the GSGP growth rates only for the years when in clocked more than ten per cent:

State Domestic Product (SDP) in Gujarat: 1969-to to 2010-11
Year Rs. in Crore Annual Rate of Growth
1969-70 997 10.04
1970-71 1150 15.35
1973-74 2202 22.33
1975-76 2439 28.50
1981-82 8205 25.32
1983-84 11280 30.06
1986-87 14022 15.86
1988-89 19496 40.18
1990-91 241.20 12.86
1992-93 35018 34.33
1993-94 39190 11.91
1995-96 72182 13.45
1996-97 86414 19.33
1998-99 105443 13.42
2003-04 149598 14.77
2005-06 173654 13.44
2007-08 213092 12.49
2007-08 281273 11.00
2009-10 330671 10.10
2010-11 365295 10.47
Source: Socio-Economic Review, 2011-12, Budget Publication No. 34, p: 33.

Even a cursory glance at the table will make anyone see and realize that Gujarat has always been a high growth state, hitting as high as 40.18 per cent mark in 1988-89!

In fact, during it registered much higher growth rate during the Congress chief ministers as it was:

1981-85 Madhavsinh Solanki 16.29
1985-90 Madhavsinh Solanki, Amarsinh Choudhary 13.63
1990-94 Chimanbhai Patel/Chhabil Das Mehta 16.73

And, just!

2001-04 Narendra Modi 10.30
2005-11 Narendra Modi 09.35
Note: The growth rate of 2001-09 is at 1999-2000 prices and the growth rate of 2005-11 at 2004-05 prices.

Note: It is very important to measure the GSDP as it means the monetary value of goods and services produced during the financial year of the state.

Also, much against the national scenario, secondary and tertiary sectors—industry and services—forms the much thicker share of the state GDP. While in 1960-61, agriculture contributed to 42 %, industry 26 and services 32 per cent, in 2008-09, while agriculture shrank to 17.10 per cent, industry jumped to 41.05 per cent, followed by services at 41.19, putting nearly 77.60 lakh persons who are directly related to agriculture, constituting 41.47 per cent of total work force of the state, at a highly precarious condition.

Today. there is a wide-spread rural distress in Gujarat as a NSSO survey carried out between January 2013 and December 2013, it found that the average monthly net receipt from cultivation per agricultural household was Rs 2,933, which was less than the national average, Rs 3,081. Ranking No 12 in a list of 21 major Indian states, this is less than 11 other states remarkably below that registered by the farmers of Punjab (Rs 10,862), which is thrice that of Gujarat, followed by Haryana (Rs 7,867), Karnataka (Rs 4,930), and Telangana (Rs 4,227). Even households in poorer states registered a higher net income from cultivation than Gujarat – Rs 4,211 in Assam, Rs 4,016 in Madhya Pradesh, Rs 3,347 in Chhattisgarh, and Rs 3,138 in Rajasthan. the average monthly income of a farmer in Gujarat is Rs 7,926. According to the central government’s Agriculture Statistics-2016, this is 40% of the monthly earning of a Punjab farmer (Rs 18,049) or 54% of a Haryana agriculturist.

The daily income of a farmer in Gujarat works out at Rs 264 per day, which is Rs 77 less than the national daily wage of an unskilled farm labourer (Rs 341 per day). The daily wage of a farm labourer in Gujarat is Rs 178 per day. Little wonder, Pattidars who were middle-level farmers once and then moved to small-scale enterprises are rebelling against the state policy and Pattidar Movement, led by a young Hardik Patel is demanding reservations in government jobs.

But, thanks to the ill-conceived Goods and Service Tax (GST) and its faulty implementation, even the small and medium scale industries, especially the textile and diamond cutting industries of Surat have registered a negative growth and many workers have lost their jobs. However, it is not a recent phenomenon, but continues since Modi days in Gujarat as unemployment rate in Gujarat in 2009-10 was 9.9% while the national figure was 9.3% and 5.8% for Tamil Nadu, 5.9 for Maharashtra and 8.6 for Haryana.

This is not surprising as there are 13 major industry groups that together account for around 82.05 per cent of total factories, 95.85 per cent of total fixed capital investment, 90.09 per cent of the value of output and 93.21 per cent of value addition in Gujarat’s industrial economy. Gujarat was always in terms of industrial investment as it ranked first in terms of issuing direct industrial license and financial investments have always boomed in Gujarat. Two years ago, a share broking firm in Rajkot, Marwadi Shares, was adding about 1,000 new customers every month. That is now up to 6,000 new customers a month. But, as far as jobs creation are concerned, it always was a job-less growth as it ranked seventh in employment generation; Tamil Nadu ranks seventh in investment in IEMs (Industrial Entrepreneur Memorandum) but ranks first in its share of creating employment from this investment. During 2006-10, Gujarat signed MoU worth Rs 5.35 lakh crore with potential of 6.47 lakh jobs. But Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu with Rs 4.20 lakh crore and Rs 1.63 lakh crore worth MoUs, expected to create about 8.63 lakh and 13.09 lakh jobs.

Gujarat is a leader in industrial sectors such as chemicals, petrochemicals, dairy, drugs and pharmaceuticals, cement and ceramics, gems and jewellery, textiles and engineering. The industrial sector comprises over 800 large industries and more than 453,339 micro, small and medium industries. As of December 2015, Gujarat ranked second in the production of crude oil (onshore) in India. It accounts for around 72 per cent of the world’s share of processed diamonds and more than 80 per cent of diamonds processed in India.

Industry and services got a major boost under the stewardship of Modi who promoted Special Economic Zones at a frantic pace, giving them major tax concessions, soft loans and immediate environmental clearance. Little wonder, the state ranks first in terms of total area covered under SEZs in India. It is also a leading SEZ state with the highest geographical area of 29,423.9 hectares under SEZ development. Gujarat, traditionally has been a high growth state, especially after the liberalisation began in 1991 and the growth rate remained the highest during those years. During this time, Chimanbhai Patel was the Chief Minister of the state who carried out the policies of his predecessor, Madhavsinh Solanki, during whose rule in 1981-85, growth rate was on par.  Hence, the claim that that Gujarat developed only during the regime of Narendra Modi is completely hollow and far from reality as the state experienced the highest annual economic growth rate of 19.5 per cent, even earlier as during the six-year period of 1988-94. Since then this much of high rate is never attained. And, the highest rate of growth during the Modi era was only 14.77 per cent in 2003-04.



Hence, it can be concluded that with or without Modi, Gujarat has always experienced an impressive growth rate and was almost never under the clutches of Hindu Growth Rate of as Prof. Rajkrishna had christened, and historically speaking, the growth rate of Gujarat has always been higher than the national average annual growth rate. So, it cannot be considered as an achievement of Narendra Modi’s regime as touted by the propaganda machine of Modi. The higher rate of growth in Gujarat today is nothing to boost about.

Now, let’s look at the second parameter to evaluating growth at traditional and conventional manner—per capita income. Doubtlessly, as a result of this development, the per capita income of Gujarat has remained higher than the national average. Here too, it is nolonger a dream state as in terms of per capita income at current prices, Andhra Pradesh crossed Rs 1 lakh mark for the first time during 2015-16, is preceded by Karnataka (Rs 1.45 lakh), Telangana (Rs 1.43 lakh) and Punjab (1.26 lakh). Even in the year 2011, in terms of per capita income, Gujarat ranked sixth among major states with at Rs 63,996, after Haryana (Rs 92,327), Maharashtra, (Rs 83,471), Punjab (Rs 77,473), Tamil Nadu (Rs 72,993) and Uttarakhand (Rs 68,292). Even in the year 2010, Gujarat ranked 10th in terms of per-capita income in the country. It means the people of Gujarat earn much less than those of Maharashtra, Haryana and Punjab.
Also, the per capita debt is on rise. The per capita debt in 2006-07 was Rs 13,371, which in 2009-10 went up to Rs 16,328.

Even if we talk about the amount of per capita deposit and per capita credit, another conventional parameter of evaluating growth, Gujarat is nowhere vibrant as for Gujarat they were Rs 37,174 and Rs 24,268; while for Tamil Nadu, Rs 42,580 and Rs 47,964; Karnataka Rs 49,598 and Rs 38,154; and Maharashtra Rs 1,10,183 and Rs 89,575. Even Kerala did better than Gujarat with Rs 43,890 and Rs 27,912 in the year 2011.
hard statistical facts, therefore, laugh at the claim of vibrant Gujarat and scoff at the so-called Gujarat Model as if we talk about the rate of economic growth, during 1995-2000 and 2001-10, Gujarat increased its annual rate of growth from 8.01% to 8.68%, but so other major states like Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu Uttar Pradesh and tiny after Uttarakhand that hit 11.81% mark. So, were other smaller states like Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh have registered growth of 11.01% and 8.96%, respectively!
What about industrial growth rate? Well, during 2001-04, it was 3.95%, and during 2005-09, it was 12.65%. But, it certainly wasn’t a Modi Miracle as during these sub-periods, industrial growth for Orissa was 6.4% and 17.53%; for Chhattisgarh 8.10% and 13.3%; and for Uttarakhand 18.84% and 11.63%, meaning hitherto industrially backward states surpassing Gujarat during his rule!

Everyone in this regime talks about foreign direct investment as a proof of economic growth, but here too, Gujarat has not been a leading state. During 2006-10, Gujarat signed MoUs worth Rs 5.35 lakh crore with potential of 6.47 lakh jobs. But Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu with Rs 4.20 lakh crore and Rs 1.63 lakh crore worth MoUs, expect about 8.63 lakh and 13.09 lakh jobs. To top it all, Chhattisgarh and Orissa have signed MoUs worth Rs 3.61 lakh crore and Rs 2.99 lakh crore more than Gujarat without much fanfare and Modi’s much-hyped industrial summits.
Another parameter of measuring economic wonder is credit-deposit ratio and here too, Gujarat is not a leading state. In fact, it is far behind other major states. In 2010, Gujarat’s share in total deposits of the scheduled commercial banks was 4.70%, as against 5.42%, 6.20%, 6.34% and 26.60% for Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra, respectively. The share of Gujarat in total credit disbursed by these commercial banks was 4.22%; while the same for Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tami Nadu was 29.75%, 6.71% and 9.61% respectively.
Human development is real development: No longer, economic growth rate, per-capita income, FDI etc. are considered as sufficient conditions for measuring growth as only ignoramus and ultra-conventional would take it as a milestone of growth as it must be inclusive and humane. So, internationally accepted parameters of measuring growth have human development yardsticks like rate of reducing poverty, access to schools & hospitals, life expectancy, infant and mother mortality rates, gender ratio, literacy and mean-years of schooling. Here, Gujarat cuts a sorry figure and falters at all parameters as the following table clearly shows, indicating Gujarat’s position in India in the year 2001 and 2011:


Parameter 2001 2011
Gender Ratio 18th 21st
Literacy 10th 11th
Life Expectancy 10th (2000-04) 10th (2010-14)
Infant mortality 10th 10th


In these parameters like in terms of people below the official poverty line; that’s in fact is the survival line, Gujarat, with 31.8% people below the ‘poverty line’ lagged behind Kerala, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, where poverty levels were 19.7%, 20.9%, 22.9% and 24.1%, respectively.
On three other important social indicators, viz life expectancy at birth (LEB), mean years of schooling (MYS) and school life expectancy (SLE), the picture in even murkier as Gujarat is far behind some other states. In Gujarat, the LEB during 2002-06 was 64.1 years and it ranked ninth among major Indian states. In the areas of MYS and SLE, during 2004-05, it ranked seventh and ninth, respectively. Kerala ranked first in all three indicators. Even Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka performed much better than Gujarat.

Gujarat remains a state where inequality with respect to income, education and health is widespread, in fact much higher than some of the major states. Shockingly, in terms of hunger — as revealed by the ‘State Hunger Index 2008’ — Gujarat ranked 13th among 17 big states and worse than Orissa.

Another shocking feature is the state having a high percentage of women suffering from anaemia that has risen from 46.3% in 1999 to 55.5% in 2004, that is even higher among children that rose from 74.5% to 80.1%. And, not to speak about the conditions of Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims that have worsened during the last decade.

In conclusion, we can safely say that with respect to Human Development Index (HDI), Gujarat’s story is devastating that stood at 11th position among Indian states, scoring 0.616, just slightly above the National average at 0616.

Here is the tiny Himalayan state of Himachal where election just took place and has been ridiculed by Modi-Shah duo as it was under the Congress rule for the last five years, shows a real contrast Between 1993-94 and 2011, Himachal Pradesh has clocked an HDI of 0.670, next only to Kerala.

It had a four-fold reduction in the rural poor – poverty levels that dropped from 36.8 per cent to 8.5 per cent during this period. The decline has been sure and steady since then and it has the lowest share of individuals with no education. In 2011, less than one-third of its rural population had no education, against two-fifths or half in the case of its neighbouring states. It also had the highest proportion of residents with post-secondary education across northern states.

Himachal also excels in health outcomes as well, ranking third after Kerala and Tamil Nadu in reducing infant mortality, child mortality and under-five mortality and second after Kerala in post-neonatal mortality.

Then, Himachal Pradesh has the highest rural female work participation rates among states (63 per cent), leaving the second ranking state Tamil Nadu with 43 per cent far behind. It stands second in urban female work participation rates (28 per cent) along with Tamil Nadu, putting Kerala at 29 per cent, just slightly above.

The state also has become a model of inclusive growth as it has a much higher level of – land distribution among castes that is more equal than in other states, so is the case of employment distribution, meaning there are very few Dalit and Adivasi landless farmers and jobless persons in these groups.

Even the national campaign of Swachha Bharat (Clean India) performed with excellent result in this Congress governed state as in 2005-06, only 40 per cent of rural households had access to toilet facilities; today Himachal Pradesh is close to becoming an open defecation free state.

This happened because a political consensus not only about the goals to be achieved but also in empowering the community existed in Himachal that sadly, may become a thing of past, as the acrimonious election campaign, just concluded, indicated.

Thus, Gujarat’s growth story as claimed by Modi is more a myth than reality. That only enriches mega-industrialists and super-rich like Ambanis (both brothers) and Adani as Reliance Petroleum of Elder operates the oil refinery at Jamnagar which is the world’s largest grass roots refinery. The company has also planned another SEZ (special economic zone), in Jamnagar. And, the Adani Group’s experienced a meteoric rise during the chief ministership of Narendra Modi in Gujarat. It has just started a big, gleaming Adani Port in Mundra. Apart from picking up over 7,000 hectares at rock bottom rates (some for as low as Re 1 per square metre), it is destroying thousands of hectares of rich mangrove forest.

It is time for the people of Gujarat of introspection and putting right efforts in the direction of making Gujarat a truly ‘vibrant state.’

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

BHU & JNU: A tale of two campuses

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Originally posted on Rirakesh's Blog:
When the Uttar Pradesh police mercilessly attacked the BHU girl students on the midnight of September, 22, when a girl was molested by two men who were at motorcycle and passed by her when…

Gallery | Leave a comment

BHU & JNU: A tale of two campuses

When the Uttar Pradesh police mercilessly attacked the BHU girl students on the midnight of September, 22, when a girl was molested by two men who were at motorcycle and passed by her when she was riding a bike at the twilight and when the harassed girl went to lodge a complaint with the security guard, he taunted, “If you roam around at this time, this will happen.” It was only 6:30 in the evening and she was rushing back to her hostel as a curfew is imposed at 7 p.m. after which no girl is allowed to enter or exit the high walls of Women’s College where girls up to graduation study and live in the four hostels that the university has.

But, the worst was yet to come. When she lodged a complaint with the hostel warden, she remarked, “Nothing earth-shattering has happened as they just touched you!”

This is the picture of the university where total gender segregation, in the name of protecting ‘Indian culture,’ is practiced.

On the other hand, its extreme opposite is JNU where no curfew is imposed and girls freely enters into the boys’ hostels anytime, even in the night, have fun and frolic with boys, also indulge into debate, discussion and dissent with them and no one even passes a demeaning glance at them!

Here is a tale of two campuses from the horse’s mouth!

As I was first in BHU, from where I did my M.A. in Political Science and then in JNU from where I earned a doctorate degree in International Relations.

When I joined JNU in 1988, it was a cultural shock for me as I could see girls entering my hostel, Kaveri, well past midnight, sometimes, smoking a puff, and no one even blinked an eye!

Besides, there wasn’t and I think, still, there is no curfew at all for girls’ hostels, there was also a co-hostel: Sabarmati Hostel that had one wing for boys and one for girls, with common mess and common-room.

Imagine, the existence of such a hostel in BHU!

Later I discovered it was diametrically opposite BHU culture as in every walk of life, be it sheer entertainment and time-pass or debating, discussing and protesting on any cultural, social, economical, environmental or political issue of local, regional, national or international importance or just plain and simple study in classrooms or library, girls were walking alongside boys!

I remember that in BHU, girls were always an enigma and youths being youths, it was impossible to keep the two poles apart. But, as there were no girls in the class when we were doing our graduation, we used to follow them after the class, keeping a safe distance from a ‘chosen one,’ but ‘careful’ enough that she notices us!

And, if she used to pass by, a friend who he was maaroing a line (tying to impress) would exclaim, “Aaj vah mili thi (today, I met her)”!

And, here I was in JNU, where even after having rounds of tea and discussing a whole lot of topics, no one could claim that he has fasaoed (entrapped) a girl and now she is his ‘property’ and no one else is allowed to eye upon her.

Here, I want to take you on a personal journey that describes the life in JNU—focusing on fun we had and issued we indulged in.

Soon after joining JNU, I became friendly with a few girls and many of them started to land in my room, where we could talk, cut jokes and play music. Then, go down to Godawari Dhaba to have tea and discuss the topic of the day. And, many a times, we would shoot off to Priya Cinema for a late-night show as this theatre used to show English films and when the films were over around midnight, we would cross its boundary and sit on the stone stools at Ganga Dhaba for another round of tea, before calling it a day!

Then, we used to throw raging parties that would go for the entire night in the vast and sweeping JNU campus of Arawalis. Our favored joints were Parthsarthy Plateau, an open rocky platform or the university’s campus wherwee both girls and boys would jive and dance on rock music and endless booze bottles were emptied.

We also celebrated all festivals—be in Holi, Diwali, Eid or Christmas, even the regional ones like Oman of Kerala, Bihu of Assam and Pongal of Tamil Nadu. I still remember, during Ramzan month as most Muslim students observe fast, breakfast used to keep outside their rooms early in the morning and they well made to wake up, although, there were many iconoclastic students like my best friend, Md. Asif Ismail, who lives in the USA now, would never indulge into these rituals and was happily breakfasting with us!

But, then we would observe Iftar and throw Eid parties and on Holi, all out get ‘high’ on bhang and there used to be a chaat sammelan (joking competition) Jhelum Lawns, where girls and boys all would come and compete to be a top joker!

The same bonhomie existed during cultural events as there used to be a series of pays, musical concerts and fil shows. Many plays like Adarakh Ke Panje, Mitti Ki Gadi and Ghasiram Kotwal were staged on the Amphitheatre and classical maestros like Ustad Zakir Hussain, Ustad Amzad Ali Khan and Pundit Birju Maharaj used to perform and their performance would have lost well beyond the midnight. Then, there was just one small auditorium in the campus, SSS Audi and once, Ustad Zakir Hussain performed there under a programme organised by SPICMACKEY and when he came, the Audi was jam packed. Holding the two tablas in his hands, he waded through the crowd and then there was just a sheer magic for hordes of girls and boys.

There were many films also that my friend, Rakesh Batabyal, now an associate professor with the Center of Media Studies, then  convener, ‘Film Club,’ exhibited like Chaudahavi Ka Chand, Kagaz Ke Phool, Pyasa and famous Appu Trilogy of the legendary film maker, Satyajit Roy. He later, came out with a book, ‘JNU- The Making Of A University,’ published by Harper Collins in 2014 that explores the idea, process and inputs behind the establishment of JNU, one of its kind as no similar book on any other university, forget BHU, exists in India.

In fact, we ‘occupied’ clubs. He was the convenor of the Film Club, another friend of the Mountaineering Club and I of Photography Club, organizing trips on the pretext of ‘teaching’ photography like we went to Jaisalmer in 1992 and to Dodital in dead winter in 1993!

And, no such show or trip was possible without girls and boys both participating!

From fun and frolic, let’s move to debate, discussion and dissent. I discovered the value of post-dinner discussions in the hostels there, when thinkers, politicians and activists and scholars like Sundarlal Bahuguna, Jean Derez, Sitaram Yetchury and Partha Chaterjee would come and deliver lecture after which a round of questions were a must as in JNU, be in class or in any lecture, it is never a one-way process, a monologue, but students and listeners are equal partners. Naturally, these post-dinner discussions were incomplete if only one gender participate and girls were used to attend these lectures in out hostels and vice-versa.

Then, there is the Central Library, having thousands, rather lakhs of books that is open until 10 in the night and 12 during the exam times and both girls and boys would study there together without any single incident of teasing: weather Eve of Adam!

A university bus would drop students after the library time was over to our hostels.

Now, come to debate. Discussion and dissent, something JNU is famous for. I remember, we used to gather at dabhas and library points to protest against pressing issues and incidents of that time— Tienanmen Square Massacre of 1989 and Babri Mosque Demolition in 1991.

And, a big difference was the way students’ union’s election was conducted in these two universities. While in BHU, it was a really big affair like that of an assembly election, where millions were burnt in the campaign by printing millions of posters, pamphlets and banners and making rounds on jeeps & feeding students, in JNU, it were all hand-made posters and hand-written pamphlets and banners no one has ever heard of any one offering any treat to any student. But, the big difference was a presidential debate conducted on the model of the US Election. I still remember, my friend, Amit Sengupta, who fought as a candidate of a newly created group, ‘Solidarity,’ won, demolishing the left bastion of SFI & AISF and an independent candidate, Sanjay Katia, tried to demolish him by passing a satire, ‘Solidarity means solid dirt!’

And, we all used to sing songs and shout slogans all night, while counting was going on. While in JNU, not a single cop was ever present, BHU was reduced to a police cantonment during the SU election and while counting.

The fact that we protested even against the communists like Tienanmen


Square Massacre and non-left candidates like Amit Sengupta then and more recently Kanhaiya Kumar, who defeated both SFI & AISF and delivered his presidential debate in Hindi is enough to demolish the stereotyped notion that JNU is a leftist bastion and English’s heaven.

I would also mention how we were and I suppose still are trying to reach out to the marginalised people, especially in an unfortunate event of catastrophe and disaster. I was crazy to go to the hills for treks, be it summer or winter we would pack up our rucksacks, tight the boot and shoot off to the hills—both girls and boys together.

Then, an earthquake struck our beloved hills of Garhwal in October 1991. Uttarkashi was rather very severely hit. We swung into action and collected hordes of clothes and raised money that was about Rs. 10,000 then and reached to a village where we were the first group to provide any relief after 8 days of the quake and met the legendary leader, Sundarlal Bahuguna while returning. Both girls and boys were in our team. The same attitude was visible during the horrific Nirbhaya Rape of 2012 in Delhi when girls and boys from JNU protested in a large number. I don’t think, BHU students can boast of a similar incident.

Lastly, let’s discuss the 2015 incident that made JNU ‘anti-national,’ for the current ruling dispensation. When the entire state’s might was let loose on JNU students, very much like it has just happened in BHU, the students responded. And, how did they respond?

Well, by conducting a series of lecture at the Administrative Block – now popularly called Freedom Square. The first speaker of the series is Ramon Magsaysay award winner Bezwada Wilson. For next 30 days, lectures were delivered by eminent academicians, intellectuals and historians including Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia, Tanika Sarkar, Jayati Ghosh, Prabhat Patnaik, Amit Sengupta, Mridula Mukherjee, Makaranad Paranjpe. P. Sainath and Apporvanand, have been compiled and edited in the book published by HarperCollins India, called ‘What the Nation Really Needs to Know: The JNU Nationalism Lectures

This was the aftereffect of the February 2015 event when Kanhaiya Kumar, Anirban Bhattacharya and Umar Khalid were arrested for sedition, although, the Supreme Court had passed the judgment in in Kedarnath case in 1962 that mere shouting ant-India slogans is not sedition at all.

He also gave a fitting reply to all, in typical JNU style, by writing a book, Bihar Se Tihar, his autobiography, detailing his journey from a nondescript Bihar village to JNU, published by Juggernaut Books in 2016.

Where is put the policy of segregation vs. aggregation? Although, is cannot be denied that there are certain ‘dangers’ of aggregation as many girls fall in love in JNU and marry the guy they are in love with, often cutting across caste and religions, thus causing a ‘grave danger’ to the Indian culture that BHU cherishes wants to protect and a few also have temporary alliances, but when a girl is supposed to choose our rule makers at the age of 18 that decide the future of the entire country, shouldn’t be ‘allowed’ to choose their own careers and partners and as often we elect wrong policymakers, they can also fall in the selection of their careers and partners, so could be their parents!

Clearly, gender segregation leads to gender discrimination and creates an unhealthy campus, against the claims of the current VC of BHU. Prof.  Girish Chandra Tripathi.

But, what to say about the short-sighted decision of the VC of JNU, Prof. Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar, took over as the VC in January, 2016, wants to install an army tank in JUU campus as he thinks that will insert the feeling of nationalism among the anti-national JNU students, forgetting that it was not the army tank on which nationalism arose and rode in India that kicked out the British, but the humble charkha of Gandhi, so why not a big charkha in the campus?

And, the BHU VC blamed it on the outsiders who threw petrol bombs in the campus as staged this protest to spoil the PM’s visit who was in his constituency when it happened, in a way, blaming and shaming the victim.

Clearly, both the VCs want to be in the good book of the current ruling dispensation and eying for a post-retirement placement.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment