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Books as political tools: Opposition builds up in publishing space

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New Delhi, Oct 24 : The literary space has emerged as one of the major playfields in the run-up to the 2019 general elections as several books vehemently critical of the dispensation under Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been published, or are slated for release in the coming months.

In many ways, Shashi Tharoor’s “Why I Am A Hindu“, and the ferocity with which senior leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reacted to it, terming the author as a “mental” and a “bad Hindu”, encouraged opposition leaders to carve a niche in the culture space. What emerged as a result seems like a well-planned strategy of the opposition to counter Modi’s popularity through books and appeal to what many call the “EVs” — enlightened voters.

And then came Kapil Sibal’s “Shades of Truth“, in which the Harvard law school graduate examined the many actions of the Modi government since 2014, concluding that it “revels in the past without seeking to grapple with the problems of the present and prepare for future challenges”.

Publishing insiders say that, apart from exposing the truth behind the government’s rhetoric, such “book bombs” also provide opportunities to “speak out loud” against the ruling regime. It was seen at Sibal’s launch when former Vice President Hamid Ansari, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and senior opposition leaders P. Chidambaram, Sitaram Yechury, Chandan Mitra and Sharad Yadav together took a dig at the Modi dispensation, claiming that the 2019 general elections will be a “Modi vs India” affair.

These were followed by “The Sarkari Mussalman”, by Lt. General Zameer Uddin Shah (retd), who led the Army in quelling the 2002 Gujarat riots. In the memoir, he claimed that there was a delay in deployment of the Army because of which “crucial hours”, and “at least 300 lives” were lost.

When looked at in their entirety, these books may have contributed to the changing narrative in the country, as pointed out by surveys like the “Lokniti-CSDS-ABP Mood of the Nation”, which found the BJP and Modi losing popularity at an alarming rate.

Even if the past is to be left behind, the Modi government has quite a few salvos coming its way as new books by Shashi Tharoor, Salman Khurshid, Omar Abdullah, Manmohan Singh, former Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian and former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, along with some major surprises, are all set to release, one after the other, before April 2019.

Tharoor will go personal, for the first time, in “The Paradoxical Prime Minister”, divided into five sections and comprising 50 chapters on Modi. “Economics for Political Change: The Collected Works of Manmohan Singh” documents the evolution of his thought over more than half-a-century as an academic, policymaker and politician.

Manish Tewari’s “My Ministerial Years” will tell the story of the struggle to string together a narrative “as the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government in its second term faced a barrage of both unwarranted and, more often than not, motivated criticism from an extremely belligerent media driven by corporate imperatives”.

Omar Abdullah’s upcoming book, his first, is billed as “one of the most important books” about the beautiful and troubled state “that was born in fire and blood”.

“The Idea of India” by Salman Khurshid, is a compendium of what constitutes India’s past, present and future, “an exhaustive account of what India truly stands for”. Another book by Khurshid, “The Indian Muslims“, will also release before the elections.

In “Of Counsel: The Challenges of the Modi-Jaitley Economy”, Subramanian will open up about his tenure, which saw the controversial demonetisation of high-value currency notes and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). And then there is Subramanian Swamy, who never fails to surprise, and those in the know of business say that he will do so again in “India’s Economic Performance And Future Projections”. Rajan will pen another book after “I Do What I Do”, also slated to release before the elections.

Tharoor, with his massive fan following on social media, will also star in a Web Series releasing in 2019 and based on his “Why I Am A Hindu”, urging the viewers to reclaim Hinduism from the “Hindutva Wadis”.

Along with these are some major upcoming surprise releases, the “book bombs” in the true sense. Everything about them, including the authors’ names and the “explosive subjects” of their books, leading publishers said, will be revealed just prior to their publication.

Notably, PEN International released a report last month titled “India: Pursuing Truth in the Face of Intolerance” that outlines how dissenting voices — of journalists, writers, academics or students — “face intimidation, harassment, prosecution, online abuse, and physical violence”. The 15-page report is highly critical of the Modi government and opens with a poster of the firebrand journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh.

It said that India has witnessed “a rising tide of violence, impunity, extended pre-trial detentions, and surveillance” and called upon the Indian authorities to safeguard freedom of expression in the country.

PEN International President Jennifer Clement told IANS that it is going to be vigilant about any instance of coercion that writers and journalists may face. The international writers’ body elected two dissenting voices from India, Tamil writer Perumal Murugan and multiple award winning Nayantara Sahgal, among its three new Vice Presidents.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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Once dreaded ‘queen of outlaws’ Phoolan now a ‘veerangana’

Phoolan Devi emerged as an icon for the Nishad community (boatmen) but after her brutal death in 2001, the community was not given adequate representation by political parties.

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phoolan devi Bandit Queen

Bandit queen-turned-politician Phoolan Devi has been conferred the title of ‘veerangana’ (a brave warrior) by the Eklavya Welfare Society in Jalaun district.

Phoolan’s native village Garha Ka Purwa is located in Jalaun district and the Eklavya Welfare Society represents the Nishad community to which Phoolan belonged.

“The title of Veerangna has been conferred on Phoolan Devi because she was a true warrior — she fought for her honour and later, for the welfare of the oppressed.

“She deserves her and the young generations need to be told about her contribution. We will soon install her statue here,” said Gopalm Nishad, a member of the Eklavya Welfare Society.

Phoolan Devi, a bandit in the ravines across Uttar Pradesh and present Chhattisgarh and also Madhya Pradesh, had hit the headlines when she massacred 22 Thakurs in Behmai in Kanpur in February 1981 to avenge her sexual exploitation by a Thakur gang led by Lala Ram and Sri Ram.

In 1994, then Chief Minister Mulayam Singh withdrew the cases against Phoolan and she contested and won the Lok Sabha elections from Mirzapur in 1996 on a Samajwadi Party ticket.

Phoolan Devi emerged as an icon for the Nishad community (boatmen) but after her brutal death in 2001, the community was not given adequate representation by political parties.

The Nishad community constitutes about 4.5 per cent of the state’s population and are known to be among the Most Backward Castes (MBC).

The Nishad community has a sizeable population in about 40 assembly segments. Since the past one decade, they are trying to be included in the Scheduled Caste’s category but their demand has been caught in legal hassles.

An attempt was made to install Phoolan’s statue in Gorakhpur in 2016 but the attempt was foiled by the district administration that claimed that requisite permission for same had not been obtained.

The issue had revived an intense caste war between OBCs and MBCs in Uttar Pradesh.

Last year, Phoolan’s mother, Moola Devi, 90, who still lives in the village in abject poverty, had released the Chambal Manifesto on the eve of Lok Sabha elections to press for development of the Chambal region.

The 4-page manifesto was a compilation of the demands for the region which included the formation of the Chambal Commission for a scientific study of the issues and challenges faced by the people living in Chambal region along with solutions.

More than 40 years after she picked up the gun and turned into a bandit, following a dispute over four bighas of land with her cousin Maya Din, Phoolan Devi’s family in her native village in Jalaun district is still waiting to reclaim that elusive piece of land.

Meanwhile, the land that was initially owned by Phoolan’s father, Devi Din Mallah, and after his death, it still eludes her mother Moola Devi as the rightful owner.

Maya Din, son of late Devi Din’s elder brother allegedly grabbed the plot and did not allow Phoolan’s mother to till the land. Maya Din claimed the land was passed on to him as legacy.

Moola Devi said, “My daughter Phoolan fought with Maya Din for this land. Maya Din and his men ridiculed her and hurled abuses at her. She got together some girls from the village and staged a dharna on the land. The village elders tried to remove her from the land but failed. Then Maya Din hurled a brick at her and she fell unconscious. After this, she became a ‘baaghi’ (rebel).”

It is said that Maya Din ‘sold’ her off to Lal Ram and Shri Ram — heads of a Thakur gang of dacoits — who not only raped her but also held her captive.

A few years later, Phoolan Devi fell in love with another dacoit Vikram Mallah, who was later killed by the Lala Ram and Shri Ram gang.

To avenge the wrong done to her by the Thakur gang, Phoolan Devi gradually built up her own gang and the rest, as they say, is history.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Theme, Date and history of the day

International Day of Persons with Disabilities: It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an international observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992. It is celebrated on December 3 all around the world. It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

IDPD mobilizes support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, promotes awareness-raising about disability issues and draws attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all.

UN agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector are motivated to support IDPD by collaborating with organizations for people with disabilities to arrange events and activities.

International Day of People with Disability: Theme

The theme for IDPwD 2020 is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”.

Every year the UN announces a theme to observe for International Day of People with Disability. The annual theme provides an overarching focus on how society can strive for inclusivity through the removal of physical, technological and attitudinal barriers for people with disabilities.

This has been occurring since 1992 when the General Assembly announced 3 December as the International Day of Disabled Persons.

National Disability Strategy 2010–2020

In Australia, the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 commits all governments to a nationwide approach aimed at improving the lives of disabled people, their families and carers.

The Strategy’s ten-year national framework for reform concentrates on better inclusion for people with disabilities and seeks to create a society that enables people with disabilities to fulfill their potential as equal citizens.

On the 2012 International Day of People with Disability, the United Kingdom government introduced mandatory work for disabled people who received welfare benefits in order to “Improve disabled peoples chances of getting work by mandatory employment”.

A program is also launched on December 3 across India to serve the differently-able community of the country as an initiative called Accessible India Campaign under the Article 9 of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

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BJP leaders brainstorm for second day, say govt ready for talks with farmers

Union Home Minister Amit Shah met Agriculture Minister Narender Singh Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam.

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Farmers on Protest

Eager to break the deadlock with famers who are agitating for scrapping the new farm laws, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership held meetings for a second consecutive day on Monday and sent out the message that the Union government is ready for talks.

Union home minister Amit Shah met Union minister for agriculture, NS Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam. A senior party functionary said, “The message from the top is clear that the laws are not anti-farmers and that the farmers are being misled. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reiterated that laws will offer better opportunity for the farmers.”

The functionary said the government is ready to sit across the table and discuss the new laws and “address whatever concerns” the farmers have.

Speaking in Varanasi, the PM on Monday said the laws have given farmers new options and legal protection. He lashed out at the opposition for “misleading” the farmers and said earlier decisions of government were opposed now rumours have become the basis for opposition and propaganda is being served even though the laws favour the farmers.

The party has also opted for a cautious, measured response to the agitation. Even though it is pinning the blame on the opposition for provoking the protest, it is taking care not to rile the farmers. “The farmers are innocent. They are being misled by those with vested interests. The laws have barely been implemented and their impact is yet to be ascertained, so how can people rush to call these anti-farmers,” said Rajkuamr Chahar, head of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha.

He said the Punjab unit of the Morcha has been communicating with the farmers’ representatives and has relayed the government’s willingness to address their concerns.

On Monday, even as the party tried to diffuse the anger against the bills, its ally the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) joined the chorus for the rollback of the laws. Rajasthan lawmaker and RLP chief, Hanuman Beniwal, shot off a letter to Shah, seeking the reversal of the laws.

“….In view of the countrywide sentiment in support of the ongoing farmers’ movement, the recently introduced three bills related to agriculture should be immediately withdrawn. (The Centre must) implement all recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, and immediately hold dialogue with farmers in Delhi,” he said.

The BJP, however, played down the ally’s demand. Its national spokesperson on economic issues, Gopal Krishna Agarwal said, “We assure all, including our NDA partners that farmers’ well-being and welfare are in our heart. Large scale market reforms are needed and that has always been the consensus.”

He went on to add that while the BJP opposes misgivings about the APMC mandis being dismantled and MSP being withdrawn, the opposition is politicizing the issue along with the Arhtiyas (commission agents) and middleman.

“We have offered all the basic facilities to farmers, drinking water, toilets, shelters and medical facilities. They have been given permission to protest and also been invited for dialogue. We are open for all discussions on the merits or demerits of the three bills. If farmers have certain serious concerns, we are ready to listen to them,” he said.

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