Issue :   
February 2020 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:Feb' 2020


This brute force !

Humra Quraishi

Shouldn’t all possible Commissions for Women and also those for the Human Rights sit up and take note of the fact that in these very recent protests against the CAA and NRC and NPR , the police force has been not just blatantly brute?
I’m quoting from this news report of Hugh Tomlinson and Saurabh Sharma, published in The Times ( UK ) dated January 10, 2020- “The crowd scattered and word spread up the street in panic: ‘Police, police.’ While the protestors scrambled to flee over the rooftops of the block in old Lucknow, dozens of officers burst in below, raining blows on women and children. The Muslim families cowered from their attackers. ‘Take off her veil, check if she’s a man,’ one officer yelled, pointing to Salma Hussain,29, who wept as she recalled the humiliation.

The women were groped and officers commented on their breasts as they beat them. ‘One man put a gun to my head’, said Tabassum Raza, 26. He said: ‘Tell me where the men are hiding or I’ll shoot you.’"

Even in this capital city, New Delhi, there have been reports of burqa and hijab clad women who were participating in the protests, targeted by the cops.

And there’s this entire statement of the Lucknow based activist Sadaf Jafar, where she details how a particular male police officer in the Lucknow police thana pulled her by her hair, kicked and punched her in the abdomen and went on doing so till she started bleeding – blood soaking the clothes on her, blood trickling down … Of course, not to overlook the “Go to Pakistan” communal- dripping taunts throw at her by the so called protectors of the masses – the police force.

Not sure what havoc must be taking place in smaller towns and villages, when this level of brutality is witnessed out there in the open, in cities. Also, its a known fact that the women molested and groped and even savagely treated by the cops during dangaas/ rioting, cannot pinpoint the culprits for fear of the aftermath.

A modest artist

Shabnam Anand Singh Almost three years back whilst attending a Literature Festival in Dehradun, I saw an attractive woman making a quiet entry before sitting all too quietly. Till, of course, with introductions over, we asked us to join us for tea or snacks or whatever was there to munch or crunch. As far as I can recollect she ordered only lemonade, explaining that she was coming straight from the dentist’s so wouldn’t be able to eat a thing …And before she left we exchanged contact details. And whilst I scribbled mine on an untidy piece of paper, she handed me a visiting card with red poppies or hibiscus splashed cross it.
She didn’t speak much of her artistic prowess and its only later, after she’d left, I realized that she was the well - known Dehradun based artistShabnam Anand Singh, who also happened to be the former spouse of Peter Mukerjea.
I was destined to meet her once again, at the India Habitat Centre. I’d gone there to meet a friend and as I was rushing inwards, I saw her exhibiting her beautifully attractive works – flowers in those varying hues and colours.And once again she spoke very little of her works – as though making sure that her works did all the talking!

And as I went about the art gallery where her works were displayed, I saw this contrast – water colours and acrylics bringing about life on the canvas, though she herself looked sad, her eyes carrying definite strains of sorrow. And that’s when I asked her to detail what’s made her paint with such enormous intensity so as to liven the canvas with life, whilst her own life seemingly saddled with struggles.

Yes, she’s been through challenging times. Yet standing on, carrying on, with much grace and fortitude. Perhaps, her artistic prowess coming to her rescue. “In 1978, having completed college education from Delhi, I started out as a textile designer in a design studio in London . Two years later, with the arrival of my first son, I decided to work from home and continued with textile designing specialising in the floral theme. Life moved on and my second son was born in 1982. with my hands full with home and a young family, and unable to spend the required time for specific projects, I decided to paint and exhibit my art whenever I was able to, which freed me from time bound restrictions.

Held my first exhibition at the local art gallery, Gallery One Eleven in Berkhamsted…Over the following years continued to paint and exhibit in Herfordshire and London.In 1988, we decided to bring the boys to India so they would have the chance to become familiar with their Indian culture and grow up knowing their family in India. That brought my art to India too, and in 1989/90 I exhibited at the Shrishthi Art Gallery at the Sheraton in Delhi and then a solo show at the India International Centre.

While in Delhi, signs of personal stress started to show in small but significant ways, and my painting took on a peculiar style. Unaware and thus unable to guide my thoughts, I painted to release emotions, often painting late into the night, subconsciously selecting colours that felt soothing to me.

“As with every high, there is usually a low that comes in, and i was no exception! My personal life was not as bright and cheerful as my flowers, taking a rapid downward slip. Arguments were had, tears were shed, pain was felt and decisions were taken. My art took another tumble, but it remained my faithful friend to get me out of the dark times, help me see the positives and release any negative emotions of the time.”

As she further details – “A brief return to Mumbai and Dehradun in 1993 helped reorganise my thoughts and rearrange my life. I moved back to England, with my sons back in their old school and me in my new role as mother and father rolled into one. I painted with a different energy. Bright reds and fiery oranges on the one hand and pure whites and gentle blues on the other. My flowers looked bigger and bolder, friends loved and appreciated my new style of painting, which encouraged me to find exhibition spaces yet again.I returned to my local art community in Berkhamsted and exhibited in group shows.

Shabnam has been busy exhibiting in India and abroad and this coming Spring her works will be seen in London …her flower paintings holding sway.

Books holding out !

Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Premchand Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Premchand are the need of the hour! And there land these two books on them, on their works…Zaheer Ali’s ‘Romancing With Revolution - Life and Works of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’, and T.C. Ghai translated - ‘Premchand –God’s Share in Stale Rice & Other Stories’ . Both these books published by Aakar Books.
Of course, they wrote decades back, in their turbulent times, with political lows denting the very scenario. But amazingly their words and sentiments hold out, in these present dark times that we are destined to be living in. Today, when fascism seems overtaking, denting our everyday living and existence. Today, when the common man of the country sits frightful of what next tomorrow. Today, when horrifying rounds of violence is spreading out, sparing not even the young of the country. Today, when our freedom is getting curtailed by the hour, when divisions are coning out, when questions are being raised what we wear or talk or hear or eat!

Premchand’s short stories focus on the oppressed. Settings could vary but not the prime characters and the challenges and struggles in their daily lives. A sense of idealism runs through his stories and I would go a step ahead and call them realistic to the core. Also, they are more relevant today than ever before, as today realities have turned harsher and darker and frightful.

Faiz’s verse tucked in the pages of this book, relays much of his agony for his times and for our times –

“This moment is to mourn the
death of time/
The river of the sky has paused/
And near the banks of horizon/
The moon- ferry of the gloomy
hues has anchored/
All the ferry men, all the stars/
Have disembarked/
On the shore of the earth/
The leaves are gasping for breath/
The winds are dozing off/
The gong has issued the order of
Then all voices lost in