SIGNS OF TIMES
IN THIS ongoing battle between the Centre and West Bengal over the chief secretary tussle, one wonders why the IAS Association didn’t speak up. Yes, in defence of the chief secretary and the mindless stress put on him in the tug of war between the sarkar at the Centre and the state level?
It’s extremely disappointing to realize that a great majority of the civil servants in the country speak up only after they have long retired. Curled up well and safe, in that safe positioning! There could be only a handful who dare put forth their stark views, critical of the political rulers of the day and the communal poison they are unleashing all around.
In fact, the name of one such brave bureaucrat that comes up rather too spontaneously is that of the former District Magistrate of Bareilly, Raghavendra Vikram Singh. He had dared to speak out in the backdrop of the communal rioting in 2018, in Uttar Pradesh’s Kasganj, when hooligans carrying BJP’s saffron flags compelled and bullied Muslim men to chant Hindutva slogans. …Raghavendra Vikram Singh, had written this on his Facebook post in the backdrop of the communal rioting at Kasganj: “Ajab riwaz ban gaya hai. Muslim mohallo main julus le jao aur ‘Pakistan murdabad’ ke nare lagao. Kyun bhai, woh Pakistani hain kya?” (a strange tradition has come up. To visit the Muslim areas and raise slogans against Pakistan. Why, are they (Muslims) Pakistanis?). He had the grit to come out with the stark truth, along the strain that there is a growing trend of mischief-makers taking out processions in the particular areas where Muslims reside. In fact, Singh had earlier written a similar post, when in the Khelam area of district Bareilly, kanwariyas walked through a Muslim-dominated village, raising provocative slogans …In fact, not just Singh but at least two officers posted in the Kasganj district, had stated on the small screen, that when Muslim residents of a Muslim dominated locality of Kasganj were readying to unfurl the National Flag, several men arrived on bikes — said to be affiliated to the VHP and other Hindutva brigades — and they not just disrupted the flag-hoisting function but raised provocative slogans.
Brave of these officers to have fearlessly commented of the ground realities, unbothered about the aftermath, which could mean rounds of mindless transfers or political harassment heaped on them to an extent that they could be compelled to resign.
I have been siting wondering: Today, can the district magistrates and divisional commissioners posted in the states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh sleep in peace, without their souls nudging, when they see bodies afloat in the rivers and also the semi-buried human forms pulled apart by dogs and other creatures on the prowl. Can these civil servants not speak out at the political treachery spreading out to such an extent that even the dead are not spared.
In every family, poor or rich, a whole lot of bandobast gets lined up to welcome the birth of a baby. But see what horrifying departures our dead have received. Flung out, here and there, to be torn apart by vultures of the day.
Naïve to have even expected to see any better treatment for the dead, when the alive are killed and deadened every single day. Yes, I’m more than hinting at the news just coming in from Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr where a qasai/butcher, Aqeel Qureshi, was assaulted in one of the most brutal ways by the cops. This butcher’s young children witnessed the cops assaulting him with their rifles and then throwing him down from the rooftop. All this taking place right in front of their eyes. They also say the cops were asking for money from their father, which he was unable to give as there was no money in their home! Even as his neighbours and family carted his bleeding fractured form to the nearest hospital he was declared dead. Murdered and killed by the policemen!
And as the video has gone viral, the police quip that the cops had gone to arrest him as he was a bad or notorious character! Should the so-called notorious or bad characters get assaulted and then flung out, so that they die, fractured and bleeding! Shouldn’t the district magistrate and the divisional commissioner of Bulandshahr step in and see to it that the family of Aqeel Qureshi gets justice and security and assistance! Shouldn’t the police theories get countered by facts and more facts! Or are we all going to be fed and over-fed with police hand-outs and briefs!
Human tragedies are compounding by the day. Mute spectators, we can do very little to awaken souls of those manning the very governance. What governance, you could rightfully ask. As misrule and treachery seems spreading out, as never before. And in the midst of it all, rising number of victims of torture and extortions and much more!
Remembering MF Husain
Celebrated artist MF Husain, had passed away several summers back, on June 9 …
I interviewed MF Husain twice. Putting together some of the details of my two interviews with him …The first time was around 1984 when I’d started my career as a journalist. At that time the woman who’d invited me to interview him was Rashida Siddiqui, his friend and companion for years. And what I found disappointing was that Husain wouldn’t take to answering all queries, showed irritation and obvious displeasure at being queried on a this and that.
And the second time I had interviewed MF Husain was around the Spring of 2004, when his film – Meenaxi: A Take Of 3 Cities, was set for release. And during the second interview too there seemed a repeat exercise. That is, he showed signs of irritation cum impatience when during the course of that interview I’d asked him the very obvious: his reaction to the latest round of attacks on his art forms. His reaction was simply this: “Kuchh bhi chalta hai. Theek hai.” No, he didn’t want to comment on the incident nor on the related incidents where his works had been targeted. He’d also brushed aside any notion of those incidents upsetting him. “No, such incidents just don’t bother me, I am not one bit perturbed or upset.”
I moved ahead with the interview. And had asked him that with the who’s who of the country opting for one political party or the other, whom could he think of joining or campaigning for. “No political party. I just believe in the individuals of this country.” Okay, which individuals he will be vote for? He’d frowned and looked uncomfortable. “No politicians. I believe in scientists like Dr Bhargava.”
Okay, did he feel that the artists of his calibre should counter the decay spreading around. “Kaam ho raha hai. Aap kahan hain. Aapko pata nahin hai. The media doesn’t know!” Could he expand on this, so that the likes of me are also enlightened? “Artists are doing things in their own way… I have held two exhibitions on this and artists are countering all this in their own way, and it’s the media to be blamed. Aapko kuch pata nahin!” About what, Sir? And he’d mumbled: “Did Einstein keep talking about what he was doing all through his life?”
I’d thought that shifting focus on his late foray into films and film stars would help in the flow of the interview. And asked him about his new passion for film-making and young heroines. He’d nodded: “Film-making is my passion. I ‘m not a lazy man. Din raat working.”
What about distractions in his life?
Like women…how does he manage to do the balancing act?
“Tell me one man who isn’t attracted to women. Let there be ten thousand women and I can make each one of them happy. Yes, each one of them very happy.”
And then he had paused …probably after sensing and seeing a grim look on my face, for I hate men bragging about their so-called prowess, as though taking women to be cattle. He went about quipping: “Yes, I can make any woman happy.”…How does he do it — that is, manage ten thousand women, and that too at that age or stage in his life ?
“It’s just a matter of clicking, depends on your rapport, all a matter of rapport.” He’d given that side glance look towards me, with that obvious footnote that there could never ever be any rapport between him and me! And along with that, he’d said rather aloud: “Par aap se rapport ban nahin pa rahi hai…no rapport developing with you!”
Thank God for that, I countered. Putting on a thick-skinned façade for the sake of the interview to be somewhere near completion (in fact, the interview would never have been complete if I was at my sensitive best to his one-liners) I’d proceeded and asked him whether there’s another film in the making. “Yes…yes”, he’d said, with this elaboration: “Yes, this time it would be a comedy, a subtle comedy which will be part of our culture. You see it’s a misconception, again brought about by the media that our people can’t appreciate comedy. I would say that 80 per cent of the people in rural India do know about our culture and about comedy, it’s some of the elite who are actually ignorant.”
But our rural folks have to think about their basic survival, so can they actually think in terms of comedy and films? Here Husain lost his cool. And then tried to explain that the rural folks are close to the ground realities of the land. Its inborn in them .They don’t have to go and get admitted in schools and formal training centres to learn the arts and crafts and the classical moves to the traditional arts…
And when I asked him another related question, he’d almost exploded: “What sort of questions are you media people asking me these days? Some of you ask me about Madhuri and here you are asking all these questions. Talk to me about this latest film I have made and not all this. Do you know that this is not a commercial venture for me. Just made it. For I really wanted to make a film on this subject. But here you are not asking about the film, but about these other things.”
With that he vanished … left the room un-announced, all too suddenly without even saying a formal goodbye.