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Padmavati’ protests much ado about nothing

It is this version of the story that has become an indisputable fact of history in the minds of the ones who are hurt by Bhansali’s depiction of Padmavati.

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It’s that time of the year again when our sentiments are hurt, and it is acceptable to temporarily suspend liberal democracy because of it. The latest victim of the now-ubiquitous tyranny of hurt sentiments has been Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Padmavati”, which has been accused of twisting historical “facts”. After a series of unfortunate events over the last week pertaining to the movie, which involved a couple of death threats, its makers have been left with no option but to “voluntarily defer” the release date.

Moreover, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab have been happy to oblige the groups issuing death threats and inspiring violence by banning the film from their states. Likewise, Uttar Pradesh has urged a delay in the release of the movie fearing law and order problems. This begs the question whether the onus of law and order lies with the government or the creative community? Should filmmakers limit their freedom of expression and contemplate the law and order consequences of their work?

The situation seems even more ludicrous and bizarre when it is realised that the protagonist of the movie around which the controversy is centred is, in fact, a fictional character based on a half-fantastical epic poem of the 16th century by a Sufi poet. Rani Padmavati makes her first appearance in history in poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s “Padmavat”, which narrates a tale of Alauddin Khilji’s siege of Chittor that had happened in the 14th century.

In the poem, Khilji, upon hearing of Padmavati’s beauty, marches towards Chittor to demand her hand in marriage and manages to defeat her husband. But, before he could reach her, Padmavati commits jauhar (self-immolation).

Now, Khilji defeating Rana Ratan Singh of Chittor in 1303 is a historical fact but there is no evidence of the existence of any one by the name of Padmavati back then. There is also no historical evidence that the desire for a woman played any role in Khilji’s attack on Chittor.

This figment of a poet’s imagination was told and retold over centuries, slowly becoming a symbol of Rajput glory and defiance in the face of external threats. Initial translations of the poem showed Khilji courting Padmavati with the intent of marrying her. However, during the colonial period, in order to inspire patriotism, the translations gradually evolved into that of a heroic queen choosing death over a lusty Muslim invader to save her honour.

It is this version of the story that has become an indisputable fact of history in the minds of the ones who are hurt by Bhansali’s depiction of Padmavati.

It is becoming worrisome that the tolerance levels of the country have fallen so low that a group merely needs to make a violet display of disaffection for freedom of expression to be curtailed. The demands of the disaffected group are first met before any reasonability behind them is understood.

The Indian constitution also imposes some restrictions on freedom of speech but those can be imposed only under certain circumstances and “hurt sentiments” is certainly not one of them. It needs to be understood and ensured that curtailment of freedom of expression can only be done on objective grounds and not based on sentiment. The courts have repeatedly made that clear.

When the Uttar Pradesh government banned Periyar’s “Ramayana – A True Reading” in 1976 because it was an alternate narrative of the epic and hurt Hindu sentiments, the Supreme Court quashed the ban and reprimanded the government for catering to supporters of the ban instead of being objective and supporting a measured criticism of faith. The government’s acting out in response to the “Padmavati” row makes the same error of pandering to subjective demands.

Apart from repeatedly violating fundamental rights, the low tolerance level of Indians is also problematic from a developmental perspective. A society which is tolerant towards a diverse set of ideas becomes a hotbed of economic growth and innovation. The growth story of United States is the best evidence in modern times of how acceptance of different ideas and an environment that is conducive to questioning can spark a developmental revolution. If India sacrifices creative freedom at the altar of sentiments and emotions connected with fictional entities, innovation will easily take a back seat and growth will become ever-elusive.

This trend of growing intolerance can, therefore, prove to be dangerous at many levels. The unreasonable controversy around “Padmavati” and the litany of others preceding it need to condemned and, most importantly, not receive government support. Instead, governments need to be intolerant of intolerance. In case people displaying emotional connect with fictional characters are continued to be gratified, we might as well create a generation of people that are no different than children waiting for gifts from Santa on Christmas morning.

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This antiviral drug blocks Covid virus within 24 hrs: Study

The scientists infected ferrets with SARS-CoV-2, and initiated treatment with MK-4482/EIDD-2801 when the animals started to shed virus from the nose.

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remdesivir antiviral drug

Treating novel coronavirus infection in ferrets with the antiviral drug Molnupiravir completely suppressed virus transmission among the mammals within 24 hours, reports a new study which may lead to a new therapeutic to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.

The researchers, including those from the Georgia State University in the US, originally discovered that the drug — also known as MK-4482/EIDD-2801 — is potent against influenza viruses.

In the study, published in the journal Nature Microbiology, the scientists repurposed MK-4482/EIDD-2801 against the novel coronavirus, and used a ferret model to test the effect of the drug in halting virus spread.

“This is the first demonstration of an orally available drug to rapidly block SARS-CoV-2 transmission. MK-4482/EIDD-2801 could be game-changing,” said Richard Plemper, a co-author of the study from Georgia State University.

Until mass vaccination is available, the scientists believe interrupting widespread community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is paramount to managing the pandemic.

“We noted early on that MK-4482/EIDD-2801 has broad-spectrum activity against respiratory RNA viruses and that treating infected animals by mouth with the drug lowers the amount of shed viral particles by several orders of magnitude, dramatically reducing transmission,” said Plemper. “These properties made MK-4482/EIDD-2801 a powerful candidate for pharmacologic control of Covid-19,” he added.

The scientists infected ferrets with SARS-CoV-2, and initiated treatment with MK-4482/EIDD-2801 when the animals started to shed virus from the nose.

“When we co-housed those infected and then treated source animals with untreated contact ferrets in the same cage, none of the contacts became infected,” said Josef Wolf another co-author of the study. By comparison, all contacts of source ferrets that had received placebo became infected, the study noted.

If these ferret-based results translate to humans in further studies, the scientists believe Covid-19 patients treated with the drug could become non-infectious within 24 hours after the beginning of treatment.

They noted that the drug is currently in advanced phase II/III clinical trials against SARS-CoV-2 infection to check for its effectiveness in curbing the transmission of the virus.

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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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