Condemning the Dadri lynching, noted writer Nayantara Sahgal returned the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in protest against what she called the “vanishing space” for diversity.
Sahgal, the niece of the former Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, also said people were being “killed for not agreeing with the ruling ideology.”
She referred to the recent killings of rationalists and writers MM Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare and of Dadri resident Mohammad Akhlaq, who was lynched on suspicion of consuming beef and said, “…in this rising tide of hatred, India is being unmade, being destroyed.”
Claiming that she was anxious at the situation in the country, she said, it seemed to be getting “worse and worse” in the past 15 months. “I guess the death of this poor man in Dadri (Mohammad Akhlaq) was the final…the last straw,” she said.
Questioning Prime Minister’s silence over the issues, she said, “in all these cases, justice drags its feet. The Prime Minister remains silent on this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology.”
Denying that her decision stems from her political beliefs, Sahgal said, “I am not against any political party. India is a democracy, and in democracies every party has a right to be in power, but what we are seeing in India today is fascism. There is a vanishing space for diversity to the extent people are being killed for not agreeing with the ruling ideology.”
Sahgal famously criticised her cousin, Indira Gandhi, for actions during the Emergency in 1975.
Located in a dingy and dirty lane, there’s hardly any scope for the sun’s rays to penetrate into Surjeet Singh’s 50 sq yard home. The two room set is the only shelter for him, his wife, four children and widowed mother, to whom the house was alloted after his father was killed in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 — when he was just eight at the time.
“You can see how we are surviving. It has been now more than three decades of the 1984 riots, but seems our lives have remained stagnant. Forget justice, our condition of living has rather deteriorated. The riots shut our doors to a better life,” Surjeet, now 40, told IANS.
The Widow’s Colony in West Delhi’s Tilak Vihar was established by the government and alloted to the widows who survived as a part of the compensation to victims of the anti-Sikh riots that broke out on October 31, 1984 on the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. However, the present condition of the colony is extremely miserable; power lines hang low, garbage is littered over the narrow lanes and the drains are left uncovered.
Around 3,000 widows were alloted houses in Tilak Vihar but now only a countable are left. Many went back to Punjab while few have settled in other parts of Delhi.
Sixty-five-year-old Kuldeep Kaur, one a widow who has been residing in the colony since its inception, said that she has now learned to live with the traumatic and harrowing past pain but was worried about the future of her children and grandchildren
“I am old now and have accepted whatever was written in my destiny. The riots not just took away life of my husband but permanently closed the scope of leading a secured and decent life. My three children saw their father being burnt alive in front of their eyes; they didn’t attend school. And now, my son drives an e-rickshaw; what future will he give to his children,” Kuldeep Kaur lamented.
Surjeet Singh, who is a freelance photographer by profession, said he saw his father murdered by angry and violent mobs but was too young to understand what was happening. “Imagine a life without a father, how difficult it must have been for the widows to continue their lives with the sole earning member gone. At that time, women were not so educated to get a job. The situation after the riots was very bad,” he voiced.
The riots had majorly affected the children of the widows living in the colony; they got involved in addictions — started taking drugs and surrendered themselves to alcohol –and left schooling.
“Nobody could afford school, even though some went to school they couldn’t complete their education because the dreadful past was too difficult to forget and difficult to concentrate on studies. The boys of Tilak Vihar are actually useless but you cannot blame them,” Surjeet Singh pointed out.
Kuldeep Kaur recalled how their lives changed in a blink; she and her children had no roof to shelter them and had to spend many days hungery. Being less educated, she couldn’t get a job so took up a stitching work to continue her livelihood.
“And this is not just what I have gone through but tale of all the widows in Tilak Vihar. Kamane ka zariya khatam ho gaya hain (our medium of earning a livelihood is closed). Now they (the survivors of the riots) either run autos or have small shops of their own,” she further added.
The survivors pitched that despite knowing under what circumstances they live, there has been no help from the government.
“Its all gimmick by the political parties, whosoever comes to power. They leaders show their face either before the elections or during this time. They show their sympathy, give us false promises and then vanish, no sign of them for a year,” Surjeet Singh pointed out.
Kuldeep Kaur lamented that even the compensation amount which was offered by the government has not yet been fully given to them. She said: “Kishto mein milta hai (we get in installments). Had we got the money in time, our children could have at least completed their education, got a decent job and settled well.”
Surjeet Singh said that he doesn’t expect any monetary compensation — all that he wants is a better life for his children and doesn’t want them to struggle for a living.
“Only those who have gone through this knows the pain. But now, our hunger for justice have also died. We have lost all hope for the culprits to be punished. Every year many journalistst turn up, they talk to us, express their grief and gratitude, but nothing fruitful comes of it,” he replied.
“An earnest request,” Singh paused before adding: “Please do write something that forces the government to take up our case seriously.”
(Somrita Ghosh can be contacted at email@example.com)–IANS
New Delhi, October 26: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the government was in the process of enacting stringent legislation aimed at protecting consumers along with setting up a Consumer Protection Authority (CPA).
“Consumers’ protection is this government’s priority. We are in the process to bring a new law on consumer protection keeping in mind the need of the country and business practices here,” Modi said at an International Conference on Consumer Protection for East, South and South-East Asian Countries.
“We are in the process of forming a Consumer Protection Authority, which will have executive powers, for immediate redressal.”
The rules were being streamlined to solve consumer problems in less time and at less cost, he added.
“The stress is being given on consumer empowerment. Strict provisions are being contemplated against misleading advertisements,” Modi said.
He said India was among the few countries which had enacted a law a year after the UN adopted guidelines on consumer protection in 1986.
The Prime Minister also said the prices of commodities were set to go down and consumer protection for their interest effects due to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Due to the GST, the competition among companies was going to increase. So prices will go down. It will help consumers from lower middle class and poor sections,” Modi said.
“Earlier, transportation by trucks would take five days but it has come down to just three three days now as checkposts on borders have vanished after the GST. It means transportation cost has gone down. This is going to be transferred to consumers,”
Taking a dig at those opposed to the GST, he said: “Some people may be taking advantage of the lack of awareness. However, the benefits will be transferred (to consumers) in days to come.”
Talking about the conference, Modi said: “It shows how seriously we take the needs of our citizens and how we strive hard to solve their problems”.
“It is the first conference in the region, where everyone is trying in their own ways to save the interest of consumers. However, we have to keep in mind that the world is going towards a single market,” Modi said.(IANS)
New Delhi, October 26:The United States pledged its commitment to deepening strategic ties with India as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders in New Delhi during a visit that highlighted their strong emerging alliance.
Combating terrorism and expanding India’s role in helping Afghanistan’s development were key issues discussed by Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Tillerson, who arrived in the capital city after stops in Kabul and Islamabad.
At a news conference after the talks, Tillerson extended an assurance that “in the fight against terrorism, the United States will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with India. Terrorist safe havens will not be tolerated.”
The top U.S. diplomat visited the region after the Trump administration unveiled a new South Asia strategy calling on India to play a larger role in Afghanistan’s economic stabilization and on Pakistan to take more action against militant groups based in the country.
Indian foreign minister Swaraj said President Donald Trump’s new strategy for the region “can only be successful if Pakistan acts decisively against all terror groups without any discrimination.” New Delhi has long blamed Islamabad for supporting insurgent groups that carry out terror acts in India.
Tillerson, who last week said that he sees India as a key partner in the face of what he considers negative Chinese influence in Asia, reiterated that India could play a wider role in the region. Analysts say Washington’s overtures for closer ties with India are prompted by the need to counter China’s rise.
Tillerson told reporters “the United States supports India’s emergence as a leading power and will continue to contribute to Indian capabilities to provide security throughout the region.” He said Washington was willing to provide New Delhi with advanced technologies for its military modernization.
“We also look forward to further cooperation in the broader Indo Pacific region as we both promote a rules-based approach to commerce and a transparent and sustainable approach to economic development,” he said.(VOA)