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Analysis

How Sridevi died? Unraveling the mystery

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Sridevi

The sudden demise of India’s first female superstar, Sridevi has shocked the entire nation. The actress has left everyone grief-stricken, fans and Bollywood alike. This unexpected death of the veteran actress at Dubai’s Emirates Tower on Saturday night is something we are still trying to get over and we bet the nation is too. She suffered a cardiac arrest in the hotel’s washroom and passed away at around 11 pm.

Apparently, Sridevi had accompanied her husband Boney Kapoor and daughter Khushi to Dubai for her nephew Mohit Marwah’s wedding. As the new reports now suggest that Sridevi had stayed back after the wedding to spend time with her sister Srilatha and had checked into the famous Emirates Towers. Her husband Boney Kapoor, a leading film producer had to rush back to Mumbai to attend Manmohan Shetty’s birthday dinner party but subsequently returned to Dubai on Saturday to surprise Sridevi.

A source close to the actress recounted her final moments to a Gulf tabloid. Boney Kapoor reached her hotel at 5.30 PM and woke her up and invited her to a dinner. Sridevi was resting when Boney arrived and the couple must have chatted for 15 minutes when the actress went to the washroom. Sridevi did not come out after 15 minutes and a worried Boney Kapoor knocked on the door and when he failed to get response, he forced open the door to find her motionless in a bathtub. He tried to revive her and when he couldn’t, he called one of his friends. He later on also called the local police and the actor was rushed to hospital where she was declared brought dead.

Why did Sridevi, the heartthrob of millions of adoring fans died just before her daughter Jhanvi’s debut movie release, just like her bête noire, Boney’s first wife Mona, who died a few weeks before her son Arjun Kapoor’s debut release? Is it just a coincidence or a curse by Boney Kapoor’s first wife Mona Kapoor who always considered Sridevi as a real life vamp who destroyed her married life?

Was Sridevi suffering from guilt of breaking Mona Kapoor’ marriage which hung around her and took her life in its wake? Was Mona so hurt at being upstaged by Sridevi in her husband’s life that it ensured Sridevi too didn’t stay around long enough? Was it the destiny of Boney Kapoor to lose his life partner for the second time in succession? There are many questions which are begging to be answered.

Where should one begin looking for answers? Sridevi was one of the most versatile actors whose luminous and expressive eyes said so much- were they for real! How can they never sparkle naughtily or deepen romantically again?

We knew Sridevi only as much as every cinema-going Indian knew her. She was quite shy and reserved and was not seen in parties unlike her contemporaries. The moment camera was switched on, she used to become altogether a different person and thus in every sense she was a director’s actor.

It was around 1998-99 when the rumour began that Boney and Sridevi had been declared an item. I vividly remember one of her pictures which appeared in the Filmfare magazine. She was hanging onto Boney’s arm tightly with both hands in a party and looked very unlike her pulsating, full-of-life presence on the screen. Her beautiful eyes conveyed a wariness and stress that was far removed from their vivacity on screen.

I still remember wondering what she was so stressed about! Was it the public opinion she feared since Boney had walked away from his first marriage and two children to be with her? So, was she scared he may walk away from her too? That was not the only picture as most of the future pictures of couple conveyed the same desperation and insecurity in her eyes. And that is how they continued till the next 20 years! In just one stroke she gave up movies and devoted herself to Boney and her two daughters.

We will never know why she gave up movies and that too at prime of her career. She was only 34 and at top of her craft when she married Boney. She was one actor who carried film on her shoulders and it is rumoured that she was paid more than most of her contemporary male actors.

Sridevi was born for the silver screen and it was there that she looked most beautiful, most alive and most stunning. It was there that she was at her most beguiling, irresistible, charming self. Sridevi was special and nobody can doubt that as she made acting look effortless, and that is probably the greatest achievement of an actor. The God made her exceptionally beautiful but apart from that, she was a self-made success story, a legend of her own making by her own efforts and talent.

It is not easy for an icon such as Sridevi to live life normally. The adulation of the millions of fans can make that impossible. She may have quit movies to start a new life, but the camera and attention never left her and she remained in the limelight. It must have been tough for an ethereal beauty to develop wrinkles and grow old gracefully under such a scorching gaze. She was obsessed about her looks and continued to nourish her beauty even while she put her career on hold for several years.

Under the constant pressure to live up to their screen image, celebrities often go under the knife several times and Sridevi was no exception. Only God knows how many diets and exercise regimens Sridevi followed! She ate healthy and lived healthy as per her close friends’ accounts. Why then did she die the way she did – unprepared, suddenly and with no warning? She was a caring, loving

person and an extraordinary mother says her close workers. Does that count for nothing?

We don’t know what ultimately killed Sridevi. Was it the 24×7 stress as a celebrity who is constantly under the probing gaze of media or just one of those freak incidents that happen? Who knows! All we know is that the gorgeous, vivacious and lively Sridevi of the screen died a long time ago; today no doubt she still looked beautiful, but a beauty more of the porcelain kind.

It would have been much better to see a unique beauty like Sridevi to grow naturally into her own older and even more beautiful self… We would have adored her just as much. Sadly, we will not be able to witness that now ever…

Analysis

RSS chief sets BJP’s electoral agenda

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RSS volunteers

There was never any doubt about the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) anti-minority electoral gambits but the agenda has now been unambigiously and forcefully articulated by the party’s friend, philosopher and guide, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Delivering the organisation’s customary message on the occasion of Dussehra/Vijay Dashami, its chief, Mohan Bhagwat, has left no stone unturned about what the Narendra Modi government should immediately do — which is to start building the Ram temple in Ayodhya even by enacting an ordinance.

By pointedly ignoring the fact that the issue is currently before the Supreme Court, the RSS chief has taken the party and the Hindutva brotherhood to the days of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement in the 1990s when the saffron storm-troopers used to say that the courts can have no say in a matter of faith.

Apart from a reiteration of this aggressive “religious” stance, Bhagwat’s directive to the BJP to get down to business and not dilly-dally any longer on building the temple has scrapped Atal Behari Vajpayee’s decision in 1996 to put in cold storage the three “core” issues of the Sangh parivar — building the temple, doing away with Article 370 of the Constitution conferring special status on Jammu and Kashmir, and introducing a uniform civil code

That the negation of Vajpayee’s wishes has been done in the year of his death is not without significance. It remains to be seen whether the RSS will give any “advice” to the government on the two other issues — Article 370 and the uniform civil code.

But why the sudden hurry about constructing the temple? There may be two reasons. One is that it is the last throw of the dice by the party and the parivar in an election season to consolidate its vote bank of communal-minded Hindus at a time when the less than favourable economic scene may make sections of the liberal Hindus, who voted for the BJP in 2014, drift away.

The other is the realisation in the saffron brotherhood that it is now or never where the temple is concerned since the BJP is unlikely to get a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha in 2019. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by it may get it, but it will not be easy for the BJP to persuade some of its allies such as the Janata Dal (United) — which has opposed the BJP’s favourite triple talaq ordinance — and the Akali Dal to endorse a construction programme which cannot but alienate the minorities.

Notwithstanding BJP president Amit Shah’s conviction that the party will reign for half a century, there may be an awareness in the organisation that the 2014 outcome was the result of several unforeseen events — the Congress’s sudden and somewhat inexplicable collapse and Modi’s emergence (against the wishes of several in his party) as some kind of a messiah. From this standpoint, 2019 will not be the same as 2014.

Ever since the party and the parivar sensed that the mantras of neither “achhe din” (good days) nor “sabka saath, sabka vikas” (development for all) is evoking a favourable response, the focus of the saffron propaganda has been on Hindu-Muslim polarisation.

Whether it is extending the scope of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) from Assam to other states or the removal of long-established Muslim names in Uttar Pradesh like Mughalsarai and Allahabad, the BJP’s aim has been to send the message that Muslims will be under pressure to prove the genuiness of their citizenship and that India’s multi-cultural past will be erased as Hindu rashtra takes root.

Along with the direct and indirect offensive against Muslims, the parivar is also intent on confirming its Hindu credentials by opposing the Supreme Court’s verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala on the grounds it violates centuries-old beliefs.

The Sabarimala episode enables the RSS and the BJP to try and kill two birds with one stone. One is to project themselves as the standard-bearers of Hinduism, and the other is to flaunt a defiance of the Supreme Court.

The court has aroused the saffron lobby’s ire ever since it delivered a series of “progressive” judgments (of which Sabarimala is one) such as the one upholding the rights of privacy, which the government argued was an elitist concept, and the other was to decriminalise homosexuality in a case from which the government recused itself evidently because while the legalisation went against the BJP’s crusty orthodoxy, the party could not afford to be seen as living in Victorian times.

Sabarimala has given an opportunity to the RSS and the BJP to defy the apex court and suggest that it is not right all the time. The defiance may have also been motivated by the #MeToo movement which has claimed the scalp of a Union minister and persuaded another minister to say that those who support the movement are “perverted”.

Among the others who also answer to the description of being perverted are the so-called “Urban Naxalites”, a new form of abuse coined by the RSS and the BJP for the Left-Liberals who have always been called anti-nationals. Not surprisingly, another of the RSS chief’s advice to the government was to keep the “Urban Naxalites” under surveillance.

It will be interesting to know what those “secularists” who interacted with the RSS recently like former President Pranab Mukherjee and the business tycoon, Ratan Tata, think of the pitch for the temple and the castigation of “Urban Naxalites”.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])

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Analysis

Climate change will worsen disparities, may increase support for Naxals: Report

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Maoists Naxal

Bengaluru, Oct 16 : As the effects of climate change on livelihoods become more pronounced, especially for people involved in agriculture and fishing in South and South-East Asia, support for rebel groups and the Naxalite movement is likely to shoot up, according to a new report.

There is evidence that climate change will worsen socio-economic and political disparity in the region as those in power will get to decide who gets the limited resources and how much, the report, co-authored by researchers Pernilla Nordqvist and Florian Krampe while working for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), has said.

“The climate-conflict linkage primarily plays out in contexts that are already vulnerable to climate change and violence, and where income is highly dependent on agriculture and fishing,” Nordqvist told IndiaSpend in an email.

Human activities have already caused warming of 1 degree Celsius as compared to pre-industrial times, according to the latest report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). By 2030, or latest by mid-century, global warming is likely to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Close to 2.5 billion people live in South and South-East Asia, where poverty rates have been declining substantially, thanks to years of strong economic growth in countries such as India. However, the region is also prone to the fallouts of climate change, with glaciers in the Himalayas melting and several island-countries facing rising sea levels. Floods, cyclones, heat waves and droughts are now a frequent occurrence and are expected to intensify in the coming years.

“The region is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change and also has a recent history of political violence,” Krampe told IndiaSpend.

Nordqvist and Krame examined 2,000 peer-reviewed studies on the relationship between climate change and conflict and narrowed down on 21 of the most authoritative works for their report, which was published in September 2018.

Their findings from India show that rebel groups and government forces both find recruitment easier when drought is around the corner.

The IPCC report also adds that climate-related risks to livelihoods, food security, health, water supply and human security are projected to increase as the planet warms by 1.5 degrees. With a 2-degree rise, the risks will intensify.

In some areas affected by the Naxalite conflict, the worsening of livelihood conditions has been related to the increased intensity of ongoing civil conflicts. During a drought, or a potential drought, there is an increased risk that rebels and government actors recruit or cooperate with civilians in exchange for livelihood and provision of food.

Naxalites could use climate-related events to gain power in an ongoing conflict, and rebel groups more generally could increase their use of violence against civilians to ensure their groups’ food security, according to the report.

“They violently remove local farmers from their land to ensure enough cropland and agricultural supplies for their own use. The risk of violence seems especially high in rural areas, where government control is scarce and the local population is dependent on the support or protection of rebels or other armed actors,” Nordqvist said.

As climate change pushes up migration, it introduces the possibility of riots in urban areas over resources, the report said. Highlighting the case of riots in Tripura in northeastern India, it said the effects will be most felt in areas where there are already low levels of socio-political stability.

“Many of the climate change problems are trans-national. The Brahmaputra, for example, flows through three countries and is seeing frequent flooding. There is no question that countries will need to cooperate and tensions like the ones between countries India and Pakistan will make this difficult,” Krampe said.

There is some research on the relationship between climate change and conflict in countries such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the report said, adding that there is little understanding of how climate change could be driving conflict in places such as Afghanistan and Myanmar.

Elsewhere in South-East Asia, in some coastal areas of Indonesia the reduced income opportunities from fishing have been linked to a rise in piracy-related activities.

But the impact does not end there.

In Pakistan, for instance, the Islamist group Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) was able to increase its stronghold in Sindh province after the group participated in relief activities following extreme floods.

The IPCC report also warns that those living along coasts and populations dependent on agriculture will be the worst hit by climate change, which will push up poverty rates in coastal areas and in developing countries.

However, “Not everyone affected by climate change will join a rebel group but this also relates to the failure of the governments to respond to disasters,” Krampe said.

At the same time, not all areas will see conflict in the face of climate change. Some might even see a greater cooperation in the aftermath of a natural disaster. These regional dynamics are evolving, however, and their contours will only become clearer with time.

(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Disha Shetty is a Columbia Journalism School-IndiaSpend reporting fellow. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at [email protected])

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Analysis

An Indian-founded organisation rehabilitates Syrian refugees in Germany

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Syrian refugees

As Europe continues to grapple with the problem of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria, an organisation founded by an Indian is helping a small town in Germany in rehabilitating these people.

R Ventures Foundation, registered in Amsterdam, is helping the university town of Heidelberg in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg in rehabilitating the Syrian refugees by setting up an incubator to impart skills so that these people can become entrepreneurs and job creators.

Founded in 2017 by Shantanu Prakash, an IIM Ahmedabad graduate and a member of the Global Futures Council on Migration at the World Economic Forum (WEF), the organisation is focused on the intersection of refugees and entrepreneurship with the belief that refugees and displaced persons can help catalyse a new era of job creation and integration.

So what kind of skills are being imparted to these refugees?

“Currently, we are looking at more of the hi-tech area, innovation technology area, but it also depends on who it applies to,” Prakash, who was on a visit here, told IANS in an interview.

“Our idea is to really look at people who have a desire to become entrepreneurs, who are educated,” he said.

He said that a lot of these people are already well-educated, but being refugees, they have to start from zero.

In this connection, he drew a parallel with the situation during the 1947 Partition when many people migrating from newly-created Pakistan to India were highly educated but had to restart their life from scratch.

“Now, it would be a pity if a highly qualified engineer has to take up a job of a janitor or something,” Prakash said.

“So, the idea is that we provide them a supportive environment. We give them the skills, how to create a business in a different country.”

Pointing out that that there is the issue of cultural sensitivity and the rules of business being different, Prakash said R Ventures Foundation helps the refugees to create a business pitch.

“We have got a full curriculum for it, what to teach step by step, teaching them a whole variety of skills, how to build up a business,” he stated.

“Our idea is that the graduates of this programme will set up businesses in Heidelberg or elsewhere.”

Prakash said that once these entrepreneurs become successful, people will write about them and then Germans and people of the rest of the world will know that the refugees are adding value to the society.

So how did the whole idea of imparting skills while rehabilitating refugees come about?”

“There was no compelling reason for us,” Prakash said on a philosophical note. “Maybe it was a calling. Maybe it was something that we were meant to do.”

Prakash said that through his involvement with the WEF, he got to understand the contentious issues regarding refugees.

“When I got deeper into it, I got more fascinated about it,” he explained. “And I thought that people are referring to this as a crisis rather than opportunity.”

Though a lot of foundations are working for refugees, Prakash said that what is different about R Ventures is that it is trying to address the issue from a different angle.

“Our dimension is: Can some of them become job creators? For us, that is good enough,” he stated

So, how did a small German town and this organisation founded by an Indian come together?

Heidelberg City Manager Nicole Huber said that the idea took shape when she came in touch with R Ventures co-founder Archish Mittal sometime in 2017.

She said that the state government of Baden-Württemberg has made Heidelberg the registration hub for refugees in the whole of south Germany. There are around 1,000 Syrian refugees in the town with a population of a little over 160,000 while many have left for different places within Germany.

So, have there been law and order problems in Germany with the influx of such a huge number of refugees?

“We don’t see any more crime… than with an average German population,” Huber said.

(Aroonim Bhuyan can be contacted at [email protected])

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