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June 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.    Wishing You All a Happy New Year.       June 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

This slow killing!

Humra Quraishi

Sitting in this terrible peaking heat, wondering why the so called leaders of the day are not focusing on the murky mahaul, not talking of the killer environment, in their electioneering!

Graphs and statistics indicate its going to get bleaker on the pollution front; perhaps, a lethal combination of rising heat and polluting dust set to wreck many more lungs.

I am more than shocked when the so called rulers of the day continue to talk of growth, development, longevity, and whatever else they can package in their package of lies. In fact, contrary to their bogus claims, never before we have witnessed the sheer destruction of the human being. Yes, today, in these so-called developed times we are more prone to deaths and decay.

Those kings of years long gone by, killed humans at one go! Swords piercing through ribs and skulls amidst horrifying cries and that’s about it. Gone at one go! None of the slow killing sessions that today’s political rulers are putting us through, day after day… Today’s rulers prefer to kill slowly but rather too steadily !

UP encounter killings In the state of Uttar Pradesh, since March 2017,more than 50 persons have been killed in 1100 State conducted encounters. State terrorism at its peak! And those spared by the State machinery are lynched and brutalized by goon brigades nurtured by the rulers of the day. In fact, private senas have been raised by several of the political who’s who of the day, only and only to terrify and terrorize the local population.
Today, State tyranny has reached campuses where the students are treated like criminals. Political mafia is holding sway in the university departments, intruding right into the classrooms and hostels. Hired political goons are made to enter campuses to cause rifts and with that less of academics and more of a war like situation.
Why don’t we talk of the terrible hunger pangs killing hundreds. Malnutrition deaths could frighten you and I, but for the ruthless rulers these are just numerical numbers. These rulers can talk of vote -banks and money-banks but not of roti or milk banks, from where those basics could flow out to help saves lives of hundreds of our dying malnourished children.

In fact, the biggest irony of the day is that farmers who try and feed us are hanging themselves because they cannot cope with the daily round of struggles. And what has this sarkar done to harness the killings of the kisan – well, nothing very much except overfed them stale and bogus promises!

See what’s happening in detention centres and in the jails and prisons of the country. Isn’t it time that overcrowded prison cells pave way for open jails where those imprisoned do not die a slow death! But do these rulers bother to find out who lives and for how long!

Sheer illusion that the aftermath of the Partition of 1947 was horrifying enough to jolt us with such severity that we’d be left swearing that never again an upheaval- laden situation, where people could be more than jostled to move from one locale to another, along religious slotting.

I have been interacting with several from rural stretches of North India. They told me that upheavals are on. Political mafia together with communal politics seems well seeped in the villages, using shrewd strategies, making sure that no major rioting erupts but well -planned moves put into practise for overnight shifts.

These forced shifts are dragging along partitioning along a certain disastrous strain. Pushing the farmer out of his fields, into a wilderness of the weirdest sorts. For, do not overlook the fact that for the farmer his field is his life! Its on those ancestral acres that he and his clan has lived for decades; a great majority of them even unmoving during that Big Partition, standing by their lands.

Yet, today, there are entire families who are not just getting uprooted from their base but even forced to become overnight beggars or daily wagers or reduced still further towards a nothingness of sorts!

Communal politics in cities is one aspect but when it reaches rural stretches it reeks of eerie build-ups. Nothing is going fine. Polarization is now getting down to ground, getting executed as people are being forced to run from here to there…in their own land made to flee like refugees, from one end to the other. Call this small scale partitioning…upheavals are definitely on, yet we only talk of that big Partition of 1947. Why not talk on these murky build -ups, leading to partitioning along a set agenda.

See the people around …trying to escape to a nowhere of sorts .As though each one of them an under-trial of sorts, let loose in an open jail, with poisonous gases unleashed right from the top. Compounding the mess, the decay and despair around; curbs on even the free flow of words and thoughts.

Tell me weren’t we better off in those good old days when ‘developing’ or ‘under-developed’ we were called? Just two square meals and those once –in -a - while dining out sessions seemed to take care of everyday wants. The skies up there looked blue.The flowers bloomed. The human face looked carefree and hassle free…the human form was still somewhat intact. Those were the good old days when we actually lived and lived quite happily! Not like today where even the basic traces of survival are turning out to be such a pain….an ongoing struggle for survival.

Saluting the legendary writer

Saadat Hasan Manto Saadat Hasan Manto’s short stories stand out. Stark, they hit ever since I started reading them, right from my teenaged years …And as I’d read details to the struggles and pains he went through, I simply marvelled the man’s survival prowess. Though, at times, I would sit wondering the contradictions attributed to him; on one hand, he was portrayed as a loving husband and doting father, yet his visits to sex workers were also played up. Somehow, something didn’t seem to jell.
Thankfully, some of that haze to Manto got cleared in 2005, as it was around that time I happened to meet and interview his grand -nephew, Abid Hasan Minto, when he had travelled to New Delhi, to attend a Progressive Writers’ Meet at the Jamia Millia Islamia. He was a senior advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and also the President of the National Workers’ Party of Pakistan (NWP).

He’d detailed “Manto is a Kashmiri surname. Saadat Hasan Manto was my father’s paternal uncle. The surname Manto was too closely associated with him, with one particular individual. My father had dropped the surname, but I chose to take it with a change in spelling.” He had further detailed -— “We’re ethnic Kashmiris… My father’s grandfather had shifted from Srinagar to Amritsar. In fact, my parents were born in Amritsar and my mother was the niece of Saifuddin Kichlu. I was born in Rawalpindi in 1932, though on the eve of Partition I was holidaying in Srinagar.

This is what he’d told me: “Saadat Hasan Manto was my father’s paternal uncle/chacha. I’d got close to Saadat Hasan Manto when I came down to Lahore around 1953 to study law. He was already living there and I‘d interacted with him regularly for two years—till he died….

Regarding he being mentally or emotionally fragile that’s just not true. No, not at all…he wasn’t mad, on the contrary very sharp and clever. It’s just that he was an alcoholic and in those days there were no de-addiction centres or clinics for alcoholics, and anybody with alcohol-related problems was dumped in an asylum.

And regarding his name getting linked to prostitutes, I can say with great confidence that he was absolutely in love with his wife and greatly committed to her. They were happy with each other, happily married till the very end. She was also a Kashmiri like us and her family earlier shifted to Africa and later to Mumbai. And that’s where they had met and married.

Then why those endless tales of his sexual flings with women of all shades?

“Maybe before his marriage, whilst he was living in Mumbai, he mixed around with all sections and all levels of people. Also there could be an underlying factor to it—he was taken up by the non-elite and those from the socially lower strata. But after his marriage he was devoted to his wife and except for those alcoholic-related offshoots, he suffered from no other disease or problems.

Another fact stands out: he was severely affected when his only son died as a child. Though he had three daughters but that loss played havoc and he was in deep sorrow. No, it’s not the Partition chaos that affected him as much as the death of his little son. Somehow till the end he couldn’t get over it and it had left him completely devastated…That was Manto.”

Isn’t it time we salute Manto in that full - fledged way... salute the stark idealism he carried right through, till his last day. Maybe ‘Manto museums’ are set up in the three cities in India he was associated with – Amritsar, Mumbai and Srinagar – so that the young and the upcoming writers get that much needed inspiration after reading his works.

**** Leaving you with these lines of Faiz Ahmad Faiz : “Somewhere near the pillow, / the night’s fading away/ Or is it the candle melting ? / Something is burning within me –/ Is that your memory, or my life seeking to depart.”