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March 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.    Wishing You All a Happy New Year.       March 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:January' 2018


Predicament of civil servants

Humra Quraishi

W hy is it that civil servants do not carry the grit to resign, if not revolt, against the political rulers? Perhaps, the very first bureaucrat, who was hounded by the then establishment, was Chaturvedi Badrinath of the Tamil Nadu cadre. This was in the early 70s when controversy had erupted in the backdrop of the governmental venture - the ‘Time Capsule’. Chaturvedi raised several pertinent queries in the context of the historical contents embedded in that capsule. He remained firm on his stand; opting for premature retirement he took to writing on ‘Dharma’.

After the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 few civil servants of the Gujarat cadre had taken on the establishment of the day. One of the first whistle blower cops of the Gujarat cadre, RB Sreekumar, has written volume after volume exposing the then Modi -led government’s role in that pogrom in Gujarat. Around the same time, another civil servant, Harsh Mander, resigned to work for the hundreds of the pogrom affected.

But mind you, these are exceptions. The political system has been so well twisted in these recent years that civil servants are not really allowed to speak out or even bare their views. In 2016, didn’t we witness the plight of the Madhya Pradesh bureaucrat Ajay Singh Gangwar who was handed his transfer orders after he praised former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on Facebook. Gangwar, then collector of Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh, had to even delete one of his posts which appeared to be indirectly critical of the BJP.

And in 2018, Bareilly district magistrate, Raghvendra Vikram Singh, was charged with violating service rules after he put up Facebook posts that appeared to blame Right-Wing brigades for provoking communal clashes in certain districts of Uttar Pradesh.

With this in the backdrop, J&K cadre bureaucrat, Shah Faesal’srecent resignation shouldn’t have come as a jolt for the political rulers…They had been critical of him from last summer. Recall the way the establishment had reacted to Shah Faesal’s this tweet on the rapes taking place in the country:Patriarchy+Population+Illite racy+Alcohol+Porn+Technology+Ana rchy = Rapistan ! …The Centre had not just fumed but has ordered action against this topper bureaucrat of the 2010 batch. Tell me, what was objectionable in his tweet!

The reality is this: in today’s lopsided governance the civil servant is reduced to serving only the political rulers and not the ordinary folk who are kept at a distance with security phobias hovering around just about anyone fitted in the rulers’ slot.

A sensitive singer

Talat Mahmood Born in 1924, in Lucknow, singer Talat Mahmood, would have turned 95 this February 24… Though I also hail from Lucknow but had never met him, nor his immediate family. But did manage to gather several details of him from Rafia Hussain, the late cuisine expert of Avadh who had settled down in New Delhi.
Interestingly, she was related to both Begum Akhtar and Talat Mahmood. She was the niece of Begum Akhtar’s husband barrister Ishtiaq Ahmad Abbasi, and Talat Mahmood was her mother’s first cousin. So with that connection he was her mamu/maternal uncle. “There was a difference of about 20 years between us. And those pre –partition days he’d lived with his family on Lucknow’s Batashe - Wali - Gali. Our families met regularly, visited each other’s homes very frequently...His father, Manzoor Mahmood, owned an electric fittings cum a gramophone shop in Lucknow, and he was better known as the one who sang Iqbal’s popular tarana ‘Chino Arab hamara/Hindoostan hamara …’ He sang it at every Muslim League function…later our meetings lessened and then stopped, as his family migrated to Pakistan.”

When I had asked Rafia why Talat Mahmood did not migrate to Pakistan when his entire clan shifted there, she had this to say - “ I think at the time of the Partition Talat mamu and his elder sister were in Calcutta. And though his entire family did migrate to Pakistan, he and his elder sister opted to stay back in India.”

I had also asked Rafia - were personal upheavals in his life and marriage the cause of his ill health?

“Foremost, I must say that contrary to news reports,he was happily married. Though his wife Nasreen comes from a different background and she is a Christian but they were compatible and till the end she really cared for him. She was warm to his relatives who visited them.”

Then why that emotional pain in his voice?

“Temperamentally he could not adjust to the ways of the film world .Also, that initial shock that his entire family had migrated to a new country and would be settling down there for ever, had affected him to a certain extent …he was far too sensitive, he’d internalized that pain. But till the very end he was sure that he would never leave his home country …after all , he had opted to stay back at any cost.”

A tragic tale

Nida Fazli Poet Nida Fazli passed away three years back, in the spring of 2016. I’m recollecting details to my two meetings with him in New Delhi, when he was here to attend mushiaras…
I had asked him details to his poetic journey. And with that unfolded a rather tragic tale to Nida’s life ... Around the Partition time he was engaged to be married but the Partition played havoc. His own family and that of his fiancé migrated to the newly carved country, Pakistan,but he did not move from here. He did not want to …He was left back all alone and with that faced emotional turbulence. He travelled around North India, till he came to Mumbai and settled there.
During my those meetings with him, it emerged that our families belonged to qasbaAonla in Uttar Pradesh, and that, of course, added to the connectivity factor … in fact, we spoke much more about our ancestral qasbaAonla and less of Mumbai and Bollywood.

I also recall I had one vital query- What happened on his personal front? In the backdrop of the failed take - off on his marriage front; what, with his fiancé shifting to Pakistan and he determined not to move from
“Well, I found a companion in Mumbai… have settled in Mumbai for good, for ever!”

Leaving you with Nida Fazli’s verse- titled –Bombay- ( translated from Urdu) tucked in the pages of the poetry volume ‘Kavita 93’ ( Virgo Publications) “Bombay What kind of place is this, This settlement where I find myself?

A thousand echoing voices fill the air.

Countless breathes seethe in the breeze.

As far as the eye can see There are shoulders, hips, shins, legs,

But not a single face.

In the morning, each one, young and old Removes his shiny eyes, His cheeks and smiling lips From the hollow of his head And puts them in his pocket.

It’s a strange city, There’s no day, no night, no dusk:

The sun rises from the bus seats;

The moon rests in a dark hovel.

There is nothing here But trains and buses, Insensible seas crawling over the earth.

Buildings swallowing buildings.

How can you awaken this grave island?

You will be broken struggling against yourself.

There is not a single face To be seen.”