Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Let India Not become Pakistan

A lot of hullaboo is all over the electronic, print and social media about attacks in Uri and the surgical strikes by India as retaliation. It is indeed a matter of pride for Indians that Indian Army has shown its credible strength in tackling terrorism. However, the jingoism accompanying the Indo-Pak issue dilutes the whole point.

Both India and Pakistan started their independent journey in 1947 on the same day and it is for the world to see where these two countries have reached. While India has had stable democracy all throughout except for those couple of years of emergency, Pakistan has been in and out of democracy ever since. Indian Army is brave and so is Pakistani Army and so is any other Army of the world. Armies are supposed to be composed of brave men (and now also women) who will fight bravely for their country. Yet while Army calls the shots in Pakistan, in India it is the civil government which calls the shots. And the discrepancy is more startling because both the Army and the Civil Government are British models continued by India and Pakistan with minor modifications.

Pakistan has war mongering people as well as peace advocates. India has the same mix. But while warmongers dominate Pakistani polity, peace advocates have had an upper hand in India. That is why India has never started a war on its own but other than the 1962 Indo-China war, hasn't lost any war either. (Whether Indo-China war was won or lost is a subject of another debate.)

It is great to praise our heroes. Our eyes are full of tears when a soldier dies in action and our blood boils when a terrorist attack happens. But we should be careful of what and who are we praising. We must praise the courage and bravery of the men on the LOC but not the policy of Tit for Tat. India is a much more advanced nation and polity than Pakistan and there is no need India should stoop down to the levels of Pakistan.

India is not scared that Army will overthrow the democratic government if we do not wage a war. Indian Army doesn't order the government but takes orders from them, and whatever may be the reservations on Government orders, Indian Army always follows orders. The discipline of the Indian Army and its commitment to a democratically elected Government is what makes it a better Army than a lot of other Armies.

When the issue is about the nation, emotions are bound to flow. Emotions also flow when issues of Religion arise or issues of Region arise. The violence between Tamilnadu and Karnataka for water is also driven by strong emotions and the riots that erupt here and there also have emotional overtones. A war between countries is very different from these incidents and it should be managed with that maturity.

What India did at the UN was commendable and complements the surgical strikes. That should be done more often. It is important that India ensures that Pakistan is excluded from global forums and is seen as a terrorist hub. India should also be careful that warmongers in India never become as influential as their counterparts in Pakistan. Boycotting actors, singers and players is not part of the plan and won't achieve any strategic purpose. Indian film industry is more developed than Pakistan but Pakistani music is as good as Indian. Stupid comparisons on social media only trivialize the issue.

When we used to visit jungles, we were told, Tigers and Leopards have a difference. Leopard is not sure of its strength and that is why it attacks even when no threat exists because Leopard is scared. But Tiger knows its potential and is confident about its strength so it attacks only when needed. In reality both are equally strong. But it is this difference of attitude and confidence that makes Tiger the king of the jungle.

Let not warmongers and social media soldiers decide what Indian Government or Indian Army should do. Let not the Tiger become the Leopard. Let not the confidence in our strength be overshadowed by any sense of insecurity. Anger should never be allowed to rule over a peaceful and thinking mind.
Chanakya once said to Chandragupta, "Fight well, my son. But never get angry. In a fight of two, the angry one always loses"

India is better than Pakistan in terms of political stabilty, economic growth and international standing. India is also better than Pakistan in maintaining peace between different communities and bringing about social equity. The Indian Army is also better than Pakistan Amy. So there's no need to emulate Pakistan or to play Tit for Tat.  Let's not try to convert India into Pakistan.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

साहिब, बाबू और चपरासी

दुनिया न जाने कहाँ से कहाँ पहुँच गई- मज़दूर मनरेगा में मिट्टी खोदते समय अपने मोबाईल पर 'शीला की जवानी' सुनता है और रईस आदमी खाने में सिर्फ़ सलाद और दाल खा रहा है। ऐसे गड़बड़झाले में भी यदि कोई ऐसी पवित्र संस्था है जिसने अपने शाश्वत स्वरूप को अक्षुण्ण रखते हुए मानव समाज का विश्वास क़ायम रखा है तो वह है सरकारी ऑफिस अर्थात् शासकीय कार्यालय। वैसे तो कार्यालय उसे कहते हैं जहाँ कार्य किया जाता है, अतः सरकारी ऑफिस को कार्यालय कहा जा सकता है या नहीं ये मुद्दा थोड़ा विवादित है। ख़ैर, हम आपको लिए चलते हैं एक सरकारी दफ़्तर के अन्दर जहाँ लगातार चलती रहती है एक त्रिकोणीय स्पर्धा साहिब, बाबू और चपरासी के बीच।

वैसे कायदे से सरकारी ऑफिस की हायरार्की में साहब का स्थान सबसे उच्च है और चपरासी का सबसे निम्न। दोनों के बीच सामंजस्य बिठाता है क्लर्क यानी कि बाबू। साहब सभी इसी मुग़ालते में जीते हैं कि पूरा ऑफिस उनके कण्ट्रोल में है। उन्हें लगता है कि पल पल और टेबल टेबल की खबर उन्हें है। अगर साहब ईमानदार हों तो ये मुग़ालता पाल लेतें हैं कि उनके ज्वाइन करते ही समस्त भ्रष्टाचार स्वयं ऑफिस से बाहर चला गया है। और अगर साहब खुद ऊपरी कमाई के शौक़ीन हों तो सोचते हैं कि सबसे शातिर और सबसे अधिक कमाई करने वाले पूरे ऑफिस में बस वही एक हैं। साहबों को मुग़ालते पालते रहना उनके अस्तित्व के लिए आवश्यक है। वरना साहबी ही क्या रह गयी फिर? और इसलिए नौसिखिये साहबों को मुग़ालते पालना सिखा दिया जाता है।
      "श्रीमान ने जब से ये कुर्सी संभाली है, ऊर्जा और स्फूर्ति चहुँ ओर छाई हुई है।"
      "सर आपके आने से करप्शन बिलकुल खत्म हो गया है।"
      "जितना काम आपने साहब सात दिन में कर दिखाया इतना तो पिछले साहब दो साल में नहीं कर पाये।"
ये कुछ नुस्खे हैं जो बाबू और चपरासी साहब लोगों को सुबह शाम देते रहते हैं और रोज़ाना चार डोज़ के बाद सात दिन में साहब को अपनी साहबी में इस कदर यकीन हो जाता है कि वे मान लेते हैं कि उनके सिवा 'न भूतो न भविष्यति'।

चपरासी का पूरा अस्तित्व इसी बात पर निर्भर करता है कि उसका साहब के कमरे में प्रवेश कितना सुगम है और वो अन्य लोगों का प्रवेश कितना दुर्गम कर सकता है। साहब को पटाने के उसे बहुत गुर आते हैं। "जितनी इन साहब की उम्र है न, उससे ज़्यादा साहब मैंने अपनी काँख में दबा कर निकाल दिए"-ऐसा आत्मविश्वास ही एक चपरासी को सफल चपरासी बनाता है। चपरासी सबसे कुशल साइकोलोजिस्ट होता है। उसे पता होता है कि कब साहब के कुर्सी के सफ़ेद तौलिये को बदलना है, साहब को कितनी कितनी देर पर चाय पीनी है, साहब गाडी में साथ कौन सी डायरी और कौन सी फ़ाइल ले जाना चाहते हैं, और अगर चपरासी ने एक दो फ्रायड या कार्ल यंग पढ़ रखा हो तो साहब की कमीज़ का रंग देख कर बता देगा कि आज साहब कौन सी फ़ाइल क्लियर करेंगे और कौन सी लटका देंगे। एक अच्छा चपरासी सिर्फ किस्मत और ईश्वरीय कृपा से ही प्राप्त होता है। कहते हैं सोलह सोमवार के व्रत से भी अच्छा चपरासी कुछ साहबों को प्राप्त हुआ है।

चपरासी और साहब के बीच की कड़ी है बाबू। ये इतनी कड़ी होती है कि इस कड़ी को नरम करने में कर्रे से कर्रे साहब के पसीने छूट जाते हैं। बाबू एक सरकारी ऑफिस का इंजन होता है। चपरासी उस ऑफिस का पहिया और साहब ऑफिस की सजावट। बाबू का प्रादुर्भाव ब्रह्मा के भी पहले हुआ था और ब्रह्मा के प्रादुर्भाव की फ़ाइल भी किसी बाबू के पास ही मिलेगी। बाबू के कलम में जादू होता है। अमर अकबर और अन्थोनी की तरह "होनी को अनहोनी कर दे, अनहोनी को होनी" ऐसी ताकत का स्वामी होता है बाबू। बाबू के भी कुछ अलग नस्ल पायी जाती हैं जिसमें से सबसे धारदार और घातक नस्ल होती है बड़े बाबू की। बड़े बाबू न सिर्फ छोटे बाबू और अन्य बाबू से तज़ुर्बे में, बल्कि साहब को छकाने में भी सीनियर होते हैं।

"महोदय को फलां अधिनियम की फलां धारा में ऐसी शक्तियां प्राप्त हैं" -इस मंत्र से बाबू कोई भी फ़ाइल साहब से क्लियर करा सकता है। अगर साहब थोड़े सवाली टाइप के हों तो वो पलासी के युद्ध से आज तक जारी किये गए सभी सरकारी दस्तावेज़ जो लगभग 2-5 किलो का वज़न रखते हों, को पेश कर कह देगा, कि "श्रीमान स्वयं अध्ययन कर निर्णय करने में सक्षम हैं"। इसके बाद तो साहब का बाप भी जहाँ बोलों वहां साइन करने को तैयार हो जाता है। जब भी दो अलग अलग विभागों के साहब आपस में दोनों विभागों के कोआर्डिनेशन की बात करते हैं तो इसका तात्पर्य ये होता है कि सबंधित विभागों के बाबू एक दुसरे से कोआर्डिनेशन कर लें।

बाबू न सिर्फ चपरासी से वरिष्ठ होने के कारण उसकी समस्त कारस्तानियों से वैसे ही वाकिफ होता है जैसे कौरवों के मंसूबों से धृतराष्ट्र बल्कि साहब के अधीनस्थ होने के बावजूद भी उसे साहब से ज़्यादा दिव्यदृष्टि होती है। धृतराष्ट्र को वही दीखता है जो संजय दिखाता है। ऑफिस में वर्चस्व की लड़ाई में साहब और बाबू एक दूसरे को धरने के उपाय खोजते हैं और चपरासी कभी साहब की मंथरा और कभी बाबू का शकुनि बनकर ऑफिस का महाभारत/रामायण रचता रहता है।

मज़ेदार माहौल तब बनता है जब साहब बड़े बाबू की बातों में आकर चपरासी या छोटे बाबू को हड़का बैठते हैं। इससे बड़े बाबू के रुआब में चार चाँद लग जाते हैं। मज़ा तब भी आता है जब चपरासी चाय का प्याला रखते हुए धीमी आवाज़ में साहब को बताता है की बड़े बाबू साहब के नाम पर कमा रहे हैं। कि कैसे साहब स्वयं सतवादी हरिश्चंद्र की तरह महान और बड़े बाबू महा लुटेरे हैं। साहब चपरासी को डांटते हैं कि इधर की बात उधर मत करो, अपना काम करो। और चपरासी क्षमा की मुद्रा में सर सर करता हुआ चला जाता है, मन में मुस्काते हुए कि अपना काम तो कर दिया।

साहब मन बनाते हैं कि बाबू को ठीक कर दूंगा। एक लंबी चौड़ी रिपोर्ट बना कर बाबू को ससपेंड करने का मन बनाते हैं लेकिन जब अगले दिन उनका ही ट्रान्सफर आर्डर आता है तब उन्हें मालूम चलता है कि बाबू मंत्रीजी का भतीजा है। हर ट्रान्सफर पर साहब को मालूम होता है कि साहब मनुष्य की तरह नश्वर है, और चपरासी आत्मा की तरह शाश्वत परंतु बाबू परमात्मा की तरह सर्वव्यापक है।

और यह त्रिकोणीय स्पर्धा मनुष्य-आत्मा-परमात्मा की तरह साहब-चपरासी-बाबू में चलती रहती है। ॐ शांति शांति शांतिः।।

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Politics of Religion

I have always refrained from commenting on any Hindu Muslim issues. One reason is that I am in a Government job and hence must remain impartial and secular in my approach to religious issues. The other more important reason is that no one ever reads an article on Hindu Muslim issue without judging the faith of the author. As my name makes it amply clear, I am a born Hindu and hence my views are bound to be judged by that parameter. Nevertheless, the recent events in Pakistan (killing of school children), controversy over the movie PK, avoiding a Hindu Muslim riot in my subdivision and most lately the killing of Charlie Hebdo editor and cartoonists have forced me to pause and ponder on what's going on?

First of all, about the riot that didn't take place in my subdivision. It so happened that a Muslim boy shared a pic on Facebook and whatsapp in which the face of Lord Hanuman was morphed on to the bikini-clad body of some random model in a picture. The Hindu Right in this city were quick to make this a huge issue and with the apprehension that a small mistake might erupt into a big riot, the boy was swiftly arrested by the police and relevant sections of the IPC were imposed on him and he was put in custody. We thought that the issue was over. Nevertheless, the Hindus (specifically the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the local RSS body) informed us of a Bandh that they had decided to call in protest of the actions of the boy. Later in the day, some Muslims, claiming to be family members of the erring boy came to me and begged forgiveness for the act done by their boy. I called both the parties and asked them to end the matter henceforth. However, the Bandh still happened and we were on our toes the whole day fearing that the issue might grow bigger. Thanks to the show of force and the passive reaction of the Muslims, nothing unfortunate happened.

In a similar event, while removing encroachments by shops on roads, we broke 40 shops which were situated in a Kabristan. We had also by then removed about 100 shops of Hindu Shopkeepers. But since the Kabristan belonged to the Waqf board, the issue took a big turn, and our office is busy replying to complaints of using unnecessary force on innocent minorities. Amusingly, a lot of Muslims also appreciated our act of liberating the Kabristaan from shops but there is an active political segment which is sending us legal notices of all possible kinds. 

None of these two issues became violent and so non of these became a news big enough to be read outside this city. But these issues did highlight the significance of the Hindu Muslim issue to me. Recently there have been hot debates on how Aamir Khan has mocked Hindu Gods in the movie PK. This taunt totally ignore the fact that Raju Hirani and the author of the movie are both Hindus. People say that the Pakistani was shown as benign, but they miss pointing out that a bomb blast is shown in the name of protecting Allah. The attack on the schoolkids is so barbarous that even the most devout Muslim is unable to digest it as any form of Jehad. The killing of Charles Hebdo guys is equally disturbing. Then there has also been the news of reverse Conversions and Love Jehads etc.

When Hindu fundamentalists attempt to take an extremist stand, a lot of liberal Hindus protest it quite vociferously. Sadly, when an Islamic Terror attack happens, the liberal Muslims are not so vocal in protesting. Yet, I am not ready to agree that religion is the core of the problem. Once Gandhi when lamented by the RSS for being pro-Muslim replied, "I am a Hindu, and a Muslim, and a Sikh, and a Christian", Mohd Ali Jinnah quickly commented, "Only a Hindu can say that." This, I think, is the essence of Hinduism put most concisely. Hindu, by its very nature and origin, is a secular religion. Here the use of secular is not in the European sense of 'non-religious' but in the Indian sense of Communal Harmony. 

Hindu is not a united community, nor a single religion. The Tamil Dravidians do not get offended when Devi Saraswati is painted by M F Hussain, nor is the Bengali Hindu concerned about the over hyped vegetarianism by Tamil and UP Hindus. My mother does not know what the story of Vaishno Devi is, but she sure does know that Bhagwati, if displeased, can cause chickenpox. My sister, who was born in a Maithil Brahmin Family is married to a Tamil Brahmin. Neither her mother-in-law recognizes the Gauri that my sister worships, nor my Mom knows who Murugan or Balaji is. I am married to a Gurudwara going Hindu, whose grandma finds all Pandits as cheats, while my Mom doesn't have a clue what is worshipped in a Gurudwara. Diversity is the essence of India, or may be its reason to exist. Any other country with so much diversity has not been able to survive without giving birth to new nations.

So is the case with Muslims. The Arab Muslim hates the Irani Muslim. The Afghan Muslim will never marry his daughter to a Baloch Muslim. The Syed of Lucknow doesn't know the Moplah of Kerela. Shias and Sunnis in Bhopal killed each other more mercilessly than Muslims killed Hindus in any riot. The Benagli Muslim of Bangladesh did not live in harmony with the Punjabi Muslim of Pakistan, while the Bihari Muslim is living in full peace with the Bihari Hindu. 

The point that I am trying to make is that people are bound to form groups, get emotional about it and get in violent conflict in the name of those groups. Hence the issue is not whether the conflict is religious, political or ethnic. The issue is also not of never letting a conflict happen as that is plain impossible. The issue is of tolerance. I saw the picture of Lord Hanuman on a bikini clad movie, and honestly I laughed. I saw PK and so did my religiously devout mom and we both laughed. Point is did some Muslims too did not just laugh at the Charles Hebdo cartoon? I find conversions as well as 'Ghar Wapasi' as worthless and pointless and I laugh at both. The Oraon of Chotanagpur remains an Oraon, whether baptised or wearing a janeu around him. 

Whatever may be the cause of all the terrorism and fundametalism all around, it is not religion for sure. It is politics and like always reliogion is being used to justify politics? Why so? Because Politics can be questioned by logic and reason while Religion can't be challenged by reason or logic. When the Spartans defended against the Persians, they said, 'May the Gods be with us.' When Troy was attacked, Achilles destroyed the temple of Apollo. When armies of Gangetic plain attacked the dravidians, they saw their own Gods as Gods and the Gods of Dravidians as Demons. When Jinnah wanted a Pakistan, he invoked religion. When Dara Shikoh was killed by Aurangzeb, his real brother, it was justified in the name of protecting Islam. When Kashmir burnt, it was in the name of Islam and when Punjab burned, it was in the name of the Akal Takht and Khalistan.

Religion has always been used to legitimize political violence, whether it is the loot of Somnath temple by Mahmud of Ghazni or the fight of territory between Shivaji and Aurangzeb. Same is true for ISIS in Iraq and for the US attacks on Islamic countries Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Hindi author Kamleshwar, in his classic book 'Kitne Pakistan' beautifully shows how personal political ambitions were justified in the name of religion. The killers of the Charles Hebdo journalists shouted they were avenging the Mohammed. Laughable it is to see men, who claim to protect the Gods, for is it not the God who created them? 

The acts of violence of some people against some other people has always happened in human society and will always happen. And with my little exposure of the field that I have had, I realized that hardly a bunch of few 'religious contractors' are worried about the religion. The guys who protested against the Hanuman obscene cartoon are also the ones who wanted to sabotage the Dussehra festival bacause they were not being given prominence. The people who are protesting the removal of shops from Waqf land are also the same people whose source of personal income was from setting up illegal shops on the 'Pak Kabra' of their ancestors. When I deal with these 'goons' as an officer, I try telling myself that this guy here is a goon, and not a Hindu or a Muslim. His aims are political and not religious. And when I beat up such a guy, neither the Hindu Gods nor Allah gets offended. 

These goons thrive on the innocence with which people adhere to any instruction latched in the garb of religion. The sad part is that while the Hindus in India are not ready to be fooled by these goons, Muslims across the world are not putting up a strong campaign against such goons. If it is said that Although all Muslims are not Terrorists but all Terrorists are Muslims, it is because the liberal Muslims have given up on their extremist brethren. The reason why Hindu fundamentalist have still not been able to totally create a Hindu Terror is that because the liberal Hindus always outnumber and outspeak the extremist Hindus. The ills of polytheism, no-single-book and diversity of language and rituals have been the blessings in disguise for Hinduism as a religion. Somehow the Sufi, Urdu loving poetic Muslim is not speaking up enough against that terrorist holding the gun and submitting to it as if it is holier than Quran. It is high time the Islamic Liberals speak up and show that they can protect their religion from this implosion of terrorism.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

हगने की समस्या

हमारे प्रधान मंत्री जी ने स्वच्छ भारत अभियान का प्रारम्भ किया है। इसके पहले हमारे पिछले प्रधानमंत्री जी ने निर्मल भारत अभियान चलाया था। दोनों अभियान के नाम सोच समझ कर रखे गए होंगे। इस बार वाले अभियान में पिछले वाले अभियान से ज़्यादा जोश दिखाई दे रहा है पर दोनों अभियानों का फोकस शौचालय बनाने पर ही टिका हुआ है। पश्चिमी देश अक्सर ये सोच कर कुटिल मुस्कान देते हैं कि जो देश अभी तक 'हगने' की समस्या से जूझ रहा है वो हमें क्या टक्कर देगा भला। और बड़े बड़े योजनाकार ये गुत्थी नहीं सुलझा पा रहे हैं कि आखिर हम हिन्दुस्तानी अब भी खुले में क्यों हगते हैं।

कुछ लोगों को मेरा ये 'हगने' शब्द का प्रयोग आपत्तिजनक लग सकता है। और यही मेरी इस अभियान से सबसे बड़ी शिकायत है। मध्यप्रदेश में स्वच्छ भारत अभियान के प्रारम्भ में माननीय मुख्यमंत्री ने सभी राज्य के अधिकारियों का आह्वाहन करते हुए कहा कि ' जहां स्वच्छता होती है वहीँ ईश्वर का वास होता है।' और तभी मेरे मन में ख्याल आया कि शायद इसीलिए हग्गे कभी साफ़ नहीं होंगे हमारे देश में। मैं जब भी विदेश गया तो देखा कि वहां के सारे शौचलय न सिर्फ साफ़ और खुशबूदार होते हैं बल्कि सूखे भी रहते हैं। मैं खुद बहुत सफाई पसन्द इंसान नहीं हूँ और इस बात के लिए अक्सर अपनी बीवी के कहर का शिकार होता हूँ। भले ही मेरा सफाई का स्तर किसी भी अन्य IIT के इंजीनियर जैसा ही है पर फिर भी मैं ये नही मानता कि सफाई का भगवान् से कोई भी लेना देना है।

समाजशास्त्र में हमने ऐसा पढ़ा था कि भारतीयों की मानसिकता सबसे ज़्यादा जातिवाद से प्रभावित होती है। और जातिवाद चलता है पवित्रता और अपवित्रता के आधार पर। हिन्दू नहा कर पूजा इसलिये करता है कि उसे पवित्र होना होता है, इसलिए नहीं कि वो बीमारी से बच सके। हिन्दुस्तानी हगने के बाद हाथ मिटटी से भी धोकर पवित्र हो जाता है। और इसलिए कोई शौचालय भारत में कभी साफ़ नहीं रह सकता। निर्मल भारत अभियान में हुए भ्रष्टाचार और ख़राब बने शौचालयों को एक बार के लिए अगर नज़रअंदाज़ भी कर दें तो भी हम देखते हैं कि गाँव का आदमी घर में बने आँगन में हगना गँवारा नहीं करता। मैंने अब तक जिस गाँव में भी निर्मल भारत के बने शौचालय देखे हैं वे या तो स्टोर की तरह प्रयोग किये जाते हैं या फिर जिन घरों में महिलाएं आवाज़ उठा पाती हैं वहां घर की महिलाएं शौचालय का प्रयोग करता है। वो भी तब जब शौचालय घर से थोड़ी दूरी पर हो ताकि उससे घर अपवित्र न हो। घर के मर्द अब भी खुले में ही मर्दानगी दिखाते हुए हगना पसंद करते हैं। लगभग सभी घरों में शौचलय घर के पिछवाड़े के आँगन में घर के मुख्य भवन से दूर बनते हैं। जब मैंने एक गाँव में एक से पूछा, "इ शौचालय घर का पिछवाड़ा में काहे बनवाए हो?" तो तपाक से जवाब आया, "कि पिछवाड़ा धोए खातिर पिछवाड़ा में ही न जाए का पड़बे।

स्वच्छ भारत अभियान के तहत बहुत सारे लोगों ने झाड़ू हाथ में लिया और कूड़ा करकट भी उठाया। ये भले ही सांकेतिक हो लेकिन इसने सफाई कर्मचारी, जो कि अमूमन एक ही जाति के होते हैं, चाहे मेहतर कहे जाते हों या वाल्मीकि, उनसे अछूत का दाग हटाने का एक प्रयास तो किया ही है। हमने भी अपने शहर में ये अभियान चलाया। सभी लोग जोश से सामने आये। उनमें से कुछ लोगों से मैंने कहा कि चलो सामूहिक शौचालय की भी सफाई करें। लोग उद्वेलित हो उठे। "अरे सर आप रहने दो, कोई स्वीपर कर देगा।" मुझे तब समझ आया कि स्वीपर एक कर्मचारी का पद नहीं बल्कि एक जाति है और मैं एक अफसर ही नहीं बल्कि एक तथाकथित ऊँची जाति का जातक हूँ। धन्यवाद है मेरे पापा को जो न सिर्फ खुद हारपिक और टॉयलेट ब्रश से हमारे घर का टॉयलेट साफ़ करते थे बल्कि हमें भी सिखाते थे और इसलिए मुझे विश्वास था कि मैं बहुत अच्छा टॉयलेट साफ़ कर सकता हूँ। हिंदुस्तान यूनिलीवर में काम करते हुए मैंने हार्पिक के कम्पटीशन डोमेक्स के लिए उपभोक्ता सर्वे करने में बहुत सारे घरों के शौचालय साफ़ किये और करवाये और इसलिए किसी और का टॉयलेट साफ़ करने कि हिचक भी मेरे अंदर से चली गयी। लेकिन सबसे बड़ा योगदान रहा मेरी बीवी का जिसने ताने कस के मुझसे अपने जर्मनी के घर का टॉयलेट खुद साफ़ करने को मजबूर किया। तब मेरी समझ में आया कि क्यों विदेश में पब्लिक टॉयलेट भी साफ़ रहते हैं। क्योंकि भले जैनिटर का काम तुच्छ माना जाता हो, उसे करके कोई अपवित्र नहीं होता।

यूरोप भी आज से 400 साल पहले वैसा ही गन्दा था जैसा आज भारत है। जब वैज्ञानिकों ने इस तथ्य की खोज की कि कॉलरा और हैज़ा जैसी बीमारी दैवी प्रकोप नहीं बल्कि कीटाणु से होते हैं तो उसने 100 साल में वहां के लोगों के रहन सहन पर बहुत असर डाला। इसलिए आज यूरोप और अमेरिका में गरीब घरों में भी एक छोटा पर साफ़ टॉयलेट ज़रूर होता है। हॉलीवुड की shrek फ़िल्म में एक ogre (राक्षस) के पास भी एक टॉयलेट था। 200 सालों के अंग्रेजों के राज ने कम से कम बीमारी को समझने का नजरिया तो ज़रूर बदला और उनकी देखा देखी भारत के रईसों ने टॉयलेट बनवाना शुरू कर दिया। भारतीयों के लिए घर में टॉयलेट होना तब भी अमीरी का द्योतक था और आज भी है। BPL की गरीबी रेखा से नीचे के सर्वे में घर में निजी शौचालय होना आज भी आपको गरीबी के रेखा के ऊपर धकेल सकता है।

बहरहाल मैंने सामूहिक शौचालय की सफाई की। कई बोतल एसिड और कड़ी घिसाई के बाद कहीं जाकर वे पैन सफ़ेद दिखने लगे। मुझे लगा अब लोग मेरी तारीफों के पुल बांधेंगे और मेरा साथ देने कूद पड़ेंगे। लेकिन लोग मुझे टॉयलेट साफ़ करते कौतूहल से देखते रहे और मेरे काम खत्म करने पर बड़े अधिकार से एक ने कहा कि सर वो बस स्टैंड वाला शौचालय भी साफ़ कर दो न। बहुत गन्दा है।  मैं गुस्से और खीज में हंस पड़ा। मैं समझ गया कि चाहे लोग झाड़ू कितनी भी लगा लें पर टॉयलेट में हाथ नहीं डालेंगे।

मैंने अपने गाँव के दौरों में ये गौर किया कि गरीब घरों के बीच टाइल्स और मार्बल से सजा कोई मंदिर या मज़ार ज़रूर दिख जाता है। ऐसे मंदिर मुझे मुह चिढ़ाते से लगते हैं जैसे कह रहे हों, "जहा स्वच्छता होती है वहीँ ईश्वर का वास होता है या फिर यूँ कह लो कि जब तक ईश्वर का वास नहीं होता तब तक स्वच्छता नहीं होती।" तभी दुर्गन्ध मारते सरकारी स्कूल और सरकारी दफ्तरों के शौचालय दांत निपोड़ के कहते हैं कि "हमारे यहाँ कभी ईश्वर का वास होना ही नहीं है तो स्वच्छता मुई की ज़रूरत ही क्या है"।

अभी 2 दिन बाद हमने अपने शहर के एक तालाब के सफाई के लिए श्रमदान का आयोजन किया है जिसकी तैयारी नगरपालिका कर रही है। आज की तारीख में  वह तालाब शहर के लोगों का सामूहिक शौचालय है और नगरपालिका वाले इस बात से बेहद परेशान हैं कि वहां टट्टी के बीच सफाई अभियान कैसे आयोजित होगा। मैंने कहा कि कुछ ऐसी व्यवस्था रखना कि लोगों की टट्टी अपने हाथ से न उठानी पड़े। ताकि कीटाणु न लगें। पर वे दांत निपोड़ने लगे कि "साहब आपका क्या भरोसा आप टट्टी भी उठाने लगो। हम तो आज से ही वहां की सफाई करवा देते हैं"।

लोगों को मेरी ज़ुबान से टट्टी और हग्गा सुनकर हंसी भी आती है और बुरा भी लगता है। भारत में हगना एक ऐसी चीज़ हैं जो करते सब हैं पर इस पर बात कोई नहीं करता। मेरा तो बहुत मन है कि मंदिरों के कुछ पंडितों से उस तालाब की टट्टी साफ़ करवाऊं ताकि उन्हें भी एहसास हो कि ईश्वर का वास सचमुच में कहाँ है। मुझें पता है कि ऐसे श्रमदान से देश साफ़ नहीं होगा और शायद हमारे प्रधानमंत्री जी को भी पता है। लेकिन हम फिर भी इस मुग़ालते में हग्गे साफ़ किये जाएंगे कि
ज़ालिम कभी तो तेरे दिल में मेरा जूनून-ए-इश्क़ उठेगा
तू जब भी खुले में हगेगा तो कसम है मुझे, बिना पिटे न उठेगा।।

Sunday, June 22, 2014

ख़ालीपन

लबों पर मुस्कान, आँखों में गीलापन है
सीने में जलन, पर दिल में एक अपनापन है।
ये कैसी याद है तेरी, मेरे साथी?
कि बाहर भीड़, पर अन्दर ख़ालीपन है।

जानता हूँ कि परे हो मेरे छुअन से
दिखते हो पास पर हो दूर कितने मन से
एहसास तो है होने का हम दोनों को एक दूजे का
पर दोनों के मन में एक सूनापन है
ये कैसी याद है तेरी, मेरे साथी?
कि बाहर भीड़ पर अन्दर ख़ालीपन है।

जी चाहता है लपक कर ले लूँ बाहों में तुम्हें
चुरा लूँ जग से और उड़ जाऊँ लेकर तुम्हें
पर कुछ तो है जो रोक रहा है हम दोनों को
वरना दिल में तो दोनों के बेहिसाब पागलपन है।
ये कैसी याद है तेरी, मेरे साथी?
कि बाहर भीड़ पर अन्दर ख़ालीपन है।

उलझे हो तुम भी दुनिया के झमेलों में
खोया हूँ मैं भी बेकार की बातों और मसलों में
न तुम ही निकलते हो इस उलझन से न मुझे ही राह दिखाते हो
ये कैसी बेचैनी, ये कैसा सूखापन है?
ये कैसी याद है तेरी, मेरे साथी?
कि बाहर भीड़, पर अन्दर ख़ालीपन है।

लबों पर मुस्कान, आँखों में गीलापन है
सीने में जलन, पर दिल में एक अपनापन है।
ये कैसी याद है तेरी, मेरे साथी?
कि बाहर भीड़, पर अन्दर ख़ालीपन है।





Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Education Priorities

Yesterday I was reading an article on how the new government should 'correct' the history syllabus of our schools and why secularists are scared of this move. As I am in the government service, so am not supposed to comment on government policies, yet as a citizen who has benefitted most out of government subsidised education I would like to express my personal views on the things that should be prioritised in the sector of education.

In the field of primary education, the issue is not of content but of quality of dissemination. In a country where a class 5 student is not able to divide 27 by 5 and find the remainder, (ASER report), I don't think it will matter whether she grows up thinking that Aryans invaded India or otherwise. When a bright student of a remote village lands up at IIT because of his sheer talent but feels cheated when the entire course is in English, he really doesn't care if Akbar was a bigger hero or his rival Rana Pratap. I come from a typical middle class family and all that my parents wanted out of my education was to ensure a job for me. Most middle class and lower middle class parents in India still send their kids to school in the hope that they will become employable in future and will be able to earn for themselves. Our education system must cater to that need without taking any moral high ground. 

I was always interested in history and my father never discouraged from spending time on it. My grandfather was a Gandhian freedom fighter, my father is a communist trade union leader and my brother and I have attended 'shakhas' run by RSS in our localities as kids. I have heard different versions of history from these different sources. Even now I keep re-reading history books to know more about India and love reading books which contradict each other. That is what makes history interesting- it changes depending on who is narrating it.

But that is not the case with Mathematics and Science. They do not change with the educator. And hence the scope of improvement in dissemination of maths and science becomes so much easier to implement.  Our existing economic setup is hugely biased towards students of Mathematics and Science. A science student has a much higher probability of employment than a commerce or humanities student and hence the rising madness for engineering colleges. So if you want to change history in school books, first change the economic setup where history students can get a good employment.

Our government schools are hiring the worst talent in the society. Anybody who is a an above average student either makes a career in the private sector or at least ends up as a clerk in the public sector. The leftovers are the ones who apply for government teacher jobs. So the worst student in the class ends up becoming a primary school teacher in a government school. Yet we find some exceptional teachers in the government setup and people like me are the handiwork of such brilliant government teachers. There is a lot of improvement that needs to be done in the way we teach our kids. Recent experiments in primary school have really deteriorated the quality standards. Recently I was appointed observer for evaluation of answer sheets of state board examinations of 10th and 12tn standard and some of the random copies that I checked were very disturbing. The quality of answers were so pathetic that it made me cry. Not to mention that my job was to ensure that the teachers who were empolyed as examiners did their job well, and that too wasn't easy. They were the least motivated lot that I had ever witnessed.

Teachers, especially primary teachers are the most neglected as well as the most politicised group. Neglected because they are given no inputs to teach more qualitatively and are mostly busy with the administrative work like distribution of school uniforms, free textbooks, mid day meals, and minor construction works in their schools. They are also the most politicised as they are the largest number of workforce in any state government and hence their postings and transfers etc are highly influenced by local politicians. I remember that in Bihar and Jharkhand there was always a flood of teacher recruitment so just before assembly elections, just to gain votes. This is not to say that our primary teachers are good for nothing. They excel in all the non-teaching jobs that they are assigned. Census of India and Election Commission of India claim to be the most efficient of the public organisations and both of them hire teachers as the field workers. Sadly, no thought is spared for the kids who are rendered teacher less during census and elections.

A lot has been tried in training the teachers but hasn't given us expected results. And when we are hiring a very poor student as a teacher, we should not expect miracles at his/her hands. Thankfully technology is at our aid now. Smart classes like educomp, virtual classrooms like Khan academy are making primary education more interesting and dissemination of knowledge more efficient. The MHRD needs to focus on scaling up the inputs in these directions. Our existing school systems can only produce clerks and that is why coaching institutes produce doctors, engineers and managers. The way science, mathematics, technology (including computers) and English (to enable global employability) is taught in government schools needs a total overhauling. Things like biometric attendance of teachers, GPS enabled apps to track presence of teachers in schools, optical fibre connectivity to all villages are things that should be on the minds of the people dealing with education policy.

History is,and has always been, an important subject of interest for mankind. It is taught in schools only to give a cursory view of how the country and the world came into being in its present form. Out of the same school syllabus that has been taught over years, we have produced intellectuals from the extreme right to the extreme left in our country. So for heaven's sake, let's not waste our energy and resources on rewriting history or in 'correcting' it. People who are interested in knowing the counterview shall know them later (provided books are not banned for providing counter views). Let us focus on quality of the various other subjects that are taught very poorly at our primary schools today, namely Mathematics, Science, English and Computers. 

Afterword- my constant emphasis on English is also because all technological higher education institutes of engineering, law, medicine, management as well as commerce and chartered accountancy are i. English only and we should not be unjust to students who aspire to do big in life but are forced to compromise because their school education in English was not of a good quality.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

False Gender Consciousness

In my present charge in a remote block of a backward district in the state of Madhya Pradesh, I received a complaint from a woman. The complaint pertained to a sexual assault done on her by a man who is presently in jail and there is a compensation amount that he is to pay her. The woman carried a letter from the Jail which required her to furnish her a few documents to claim that money. One of the documents that she was required to produce was a certification of her Photo Identity card by the Gram Panchayat. I had no jurisdiction over either the case of sexual assault nor over the payment of the compensation. The complaint also did not pertain to either of them. The complaint was against the Sarpanch of the village for denying to certify the Photo Idenitification card. I, in my present role, looking after village panchayats, was expected to ask the Sarpanch to do what he is obliged to do.

In an attempt to provide speedy relief to the aggrieved woman, I decided that rather than writing a letter to the concerned Sarpanch or the Panchayat Secretary, I would rather talk to the Sarpanch and get done with the issue. I had my office call up the Sarpanch who turned out to be a lady. I thought my job would be easier as a female Sarpanch would understand the agony of another woman. I thought that probably the husband of the Sarpanch may have denied signing the certificate, assuming, that like many other villages, the lady Sarpanch must have become a rubber stamp in front of her husband. I saw this as an opportunity to help two women simultaneously; helping one get a certificate and helping the other assert her political power to help a fellow woman.

I called up the Sarpanch and was shocked when the lady on the phone told me that the complainant is characterless and is wrongly implicating the man, who turned out to be a member of the Sarpanch's family. Between choosing to side with an assaulted woman and a man of her family, her choice was natural. She pleaded that I should ask the complainant to settle the matter out of legal boundaries. I denied doing any of those and told the Sarpanch that neither I nor she has the jurisdiction of deciding the case of sexual assault on its merits. All she has to do is to certifiy the Photo Identity or else I shall be forced to take action against her for misusing her political authority to favour or deny rights to individuals. Despite my initial reluctance to do paper work on such a minor issue as to get a signature, I was compelled to issue a show cause notice to the Sarpanch to do her duty or to face legal expulsion by the competent authority.

What left me disturbed was that our understanding of women and villages is so distant and unrealistic. I have often been criticised as a chauvinist when I point out that most cases of physical and mental torture against women in their home is done by a woman of the husband's family and that there is no such thing as women solidarity in our existing society. Most of the abuses of being characterless are being hurled upon women from fellow women. The hatred that sex workers face mostly come from house wives. Despite being given political power in form of reservations and local governance, women are not able to think beyond the boundaries of family, clan, caste etc and their decisions are marked by these prejudices. 

For a brief time that I had to take statements of rape victims in my earlier assignment, I saw that while the mother of the victim was mostly the person who gave her courage to file a complaint, I also saw that the accused was either from the victim's family or a known person and in almost all cases, the wife or mother of the accused blamed the victim to be characterless and wrongly accusing the man. At these times, one gets confused when all women are termed as victims of violence or assault by men. That is too simplistic an understanding of the problem. Women are segmented into as many divisions as men are. The economic and physical exploitation of domestic servants (mostly women) also happen at the hands of women home owners. 
This is not to say that patriarchal mindset is not the root cause of women related problems. It definitely is. And the prime reason of a woman's exploitation in most of the cases is a man. What is disturbing is that patriarchy is not being kept in operation just by men alone. The women too have a 'false gender consciousness' and are as much a carrier of patriarchy as men are. The cases of mother-in-laws torturing daughter-in-laws are so common that the television is full of soap operas on the subject. The cases of female foeticide and female infanticide are also mostly occurring either with the will of or due to silence of the grandmothers of the babies. The fact that the power of mother-in-laws over their daughter-in-laws is mostly exercised through the 'man-in-between' speaks about an undisclosed facet of Indian patriarchal family.

Thankfully the tribal societies fare well when it comes to gender equality, at least statistically. The block that I am posted in, has a Sex ratio of 1000 plus as the societal culture of the tribes in this area does not differentiate much between men and women. Drinking is common between both genders but the problem of drunkardness is predominantly male. Similarly, the gender ratio in schools is again in favour of girls. In most of the political bodies at the village or the block level, women have started exercising their powers themselves, not asking their husbands anymore. Yet I do find incidents of sexual assault on women and in such cases the victimised woman is mostly left alone to fend for herself, the rest of the women immediately blaming her as characterless. It is no wonder that in urban educated class as well, the moment a woman complaints of sexual harassment in office, 'slut' is the first remark that fellow female workers pass on that woman. Most women refrain from complaining just because they are too scared to face the judgemental looks of the fellow female employees.

I know I am soundning chauvinist again, but that's not the point. The solution to women's problems can never be found with men. They have to be found with women. Women need to feel more connected to other women. From a 'false gender consciousness' of beauty, 'laaj-sharam' and family duties, women need to gain a 'true gender consciousness' of their real existence and the reasons for their exploitation. Or else a man will always exploit the animosity of a woman against the other. 

Afterword: apologies in advance for simplistic and sweeping arguements.