Signs of the times

No, I can’t get over the picture of the little Syrian boy, 3-year old Aylan Kurdi, lying dead by the sea shore. Each time I look at it, tears continue trickling and a huge sense of helplessness cum sorrow overtakes…The innocence of a helpless fleeing refugee child, compounded by the pain of his father and that of the thousands of fleeing refugees…fleeing into a nowhere of sorts. No country wants to accept these refugees. European political heads and tails coming in way, sealing the fate of hundreds and thousands of Aylan Kurdis.

And though till date Syrian refugees haven’t reached this part of the subcontinent, possibly because of geographical barriers, but if they do they would experience another set of the dark realities. Foremost, their entry would be banned, as ban is the new happening thing here ! But if they manage to somehow sneak in, they could be hounded as suspects of the ISIS or any other outfit. Those fringe elements, together with those so called senas - official cum unofficial - will not let them survive.

Ironical it is that though more than half of New Delhi’s population had been refugees at some age - they themselves, if not their parents or grandparents fleeing from the undivided Punjab during the Partition - yet their third class attitude towards refugees. In fact, last year hundreds of fleeing Burmese refugees - the Rohingyas - reached this capital city, in a condition that is hard to describe. They hadn’t eaten for days, most looked weak and malnourished and as though about to perish. Their condition remains unchanged, surviving they are in one of those disease infested locales of New Delhi - near Kalindi Kunj, close to the exteriors of Okhla. They are surviving in that highly polluted atmosphere. Living like outcastes, worse than animals. As though banned to move out, here and there.

Whilst on bans it comes as another of those bizarre moves of the Maharashtra government - to ban the sale of non - vegetarian fare during the 4 days of Jain ritual practices. Its not just bizarre but it carries dangerous offshoots, not just in terms of economics of survival but in terms of religious tilts and biases.

Each single day hundreds are dying, thousands semi - dying yet this government insists on killing many more by its lop - sided policies. Terrorizing cum killing cum murdering tactics of the State.


Last fortnight, the editor of the Mainstream news magazine, Sumit Chakravartty, turned 70. His wife, Gargi, invited some of his close friends and relatives for dinner on August 24 … a warm and informal get together where some of friends - Badri Raina, Nirupam Sen, Sagari Chhabra, Anil Nauriya, John Dayal, Harsh Kapoor spoke with an abundance of nostalgic strains …I couldn’t speak that evening as it was getting late and I had to catch the Metro for Gurgaon… thought I would write about my association with Nikhil da, with Sumit and the Mainstream …

It was around the Spring of 1987 I had first met Nikhil Chakravartty. I was working as a features editor with a magazine and was assigned to do a feature on ‘old men’! In fact, before I had actually met him for that interview, I had heard him at various meets. There was something about his personality that left a definite mark. He was always forthright and direct in his views and viewpoints. He spoke with a strong sense of conviction ; in that bold, fearless way. He could be termed as one of those journalists who wrote and spoke fearlessly against the political establishment. His analytical essays focusing on the human rights violations in and around the Kashmir Valley were laced with stark facts. He was one of those veteran journalists who believed in delving right into the causes, detailing all possible aspects. In fact, his features /essays on the then situation in the Kashmir Valley should be preserved - they hold out some hard hitting realities of that traumatic period, a phase what could be termed the turning point in the recent history of the Kashmir Valley.

In 1987, Nikhil Chakravartty was chairman of NAMEDIA, editor of the weekly Mainstream, and his column in the Sunday Observer was said to be ‘the pulse of the country’s political scenario. ’ …He was residing in New Delhi’s Kaka Nagar - a typical government colony but his ‘ D11 type’ apartment looked ‘different’. The outer gate was painted in Post Office red …that PO red painted gate had stood out, breaking the monotony, relaying positive vibes … I was left impressed to such an extent that the very next day I went rushed to the nearest market to buy PO red paint and had all possible doors and windows of my home coated with that paint!

 For that interview Nikhil da had spoken on a whole range of issues. Standing out his comments on modern India – ‘In Modern India society has less taboos and individual freedom is encouraged. But do let me add, with emphasis, that with all our modern living a great amount of insensitivity has crept in. Norms have been shattered. There is no concept of Indian-ness left, only the RSS and Arun Shourie’s views thriving in this so called Modern India ….We have not developed culturally and that’s the root cause of our decay. ’

Nikhil da had started Mainstream to relay the concerns, the ongoing struggles, the ground realities of this subcontinent. Today his son, Sumit, is as determined as his father to focus on the realities of the day... Mainstream carries pieces which hit, which reflect the dark cum turbulent times we are going through.