‘Varanasi An Icon Of Harmony, Don’t Destroy It Over A Shivling’

Suresh K Nair, an Asst Professor at Banaras Hindu University, tells LokMarg that Gyanvapi Mosque controversy is a non-issue raked up by vested interests

Ever since I have been teaching in this great city of Varanasi, I have found that this is indeed a peaceful and beautiful place. People are living here in great harmony and across all caste and communities. You can feel the harmony and vibrations on the streets and gullies of this ancient city where so many currents have passed by, leaving their mark.

I believe that all religions are meant to promote peace, humanism and harmony. And Varanasi is an epitome of this universal spiritual principle. This Gyanvapi Mosque controversy which certain vested interests have yet again raked up for reasons which are too brazenly transparent, is a non-issue – period.

Varanasi transcends these petty non-issues with its great history of secular pluralism and aesthetic ethos. People here are essentially broad-minded. The harmony that seems to be missing now, is a jarring. No government before this has promoted this kind of social disharmony – no government.

Nair (inset) calls Varanasi an Open Museum of pluralism and heritage

In the first instance, the government must not engage in any religious activity whatsoever. If it does so, then it should fund and restore the architectural and artistic heritage across the religious kaleidoscope – it can be a temple, a mosque or a monastery. If the government supports temples, then it should support masjids and churches too. Why only promote and protect Hindu temples?

ALSO READ: ‘Religious Gurus Must Foster Harmony, Not Discord’

Varanasi is an Open Museum. It is a real art gallery of global importance with its magical, archival memories, narratives, folk and oral traditions, art and architecture, music, poetry, literature and song.  And why only its temples and mosques, its lanes, by-lanes, ghats and public spaces, they are all precious heritage sites, and they should all be preserved.

Now, if they are fiddling with the lanes, by-lanes and the geographical inheritance of this wonderful city, then it is ethically wrong – you just cannot and should not tamper with the original template of the city which has evolved over the centuries. The gullies and ghats are the original geographical zones of inherited cultural harmony and artistic traditions. It is outright wrong to play with this established essence.

Back home in Kerala, I once did a project on a Namboodiri Brahmin who was so progressive that he backed the Muslims. The British did not like it. And, yet, he continued this progressive tradition. Religions should stand for peace.

In any case, human lives are ephemeral. All governments are ephemeral. The power too is ephemeral. Even the great Ganga changes its routes and finds new geographies. As a creative and visual artist, and as a teacher, I firmly believe that rigidity will just not work. In this city of Bismillah Khan’s brilliance, let the incredible and magical harmony of cultural brilliance prevail. The river teaches us exactly that.

As told to Amit Sengupta

‘Bulldozer Is The New Symbol Of Oppression, With A Communal Agenda’

Suman, the editor of Jan Morcha, an independent, cooperative Hindi daily published from Faizabad, UP, says BJP’s political persecution has also galvanized resistance from people

For the BJP, bulldozers are the new brand of oppressive and polarizing politics. Obviously, the target is once again the Muslim community, and, that too, the poorest of the community.

After Jehangirpuri and the Ram Navami assaults on a mosque out there by an unruly mob with a communal agenda, they have now targeted Shaheen Bagh near Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi, which was the epicenter of the peaceful and protracted anti-CAA protests led by the mothers and daughters of the area amidst direct communal attacks in public discourse by top BJP leaders and ministers.

That the resilient people of Shaheen Bagh were able to stop the demolitions now is a sign that both the attacks and the resistance are going to build up in the day to come – and, seemingly, there is a hidden narrative behind this all.

It must be mentioned that during the recent elections in UP, the current chief minister mentioned in his public speeches that the bulldozers have been sent for repairing and they will be out soon to do their work. There were hoardings put up by the BJP with bulldozers, as if the lotus has been replaced as its party symbol. Even in Madhya Pradesh, reportedly, similar tactics have been used. More so, BJP workers were seen celebrating on top of bulldozers after the party won the assembly elections in UP.

ALSO READ: Bulldozer Put Fear Of Law In Criminals – Of All Communities

This has become a new political card for the party, and, sadly so. There are encroachments all over the country, including in UP, so why this sudden celebration with bulldozers now? Significantly, the rich are left to their game, even if they encroach on public land or footpaths, but the poorest are hit so badly, including roadside vendors and those plying humble carts to earn a daily livelihood.

Suman (inset) feels when oppression grows, so will people’s resistence as happened in Shaheen Bagh

It seems that behind all this there is a sinister plan. The plan is to create polarizing fissures in the social fabric and thereby up the political ante in support of the Hindutva plank of the BJP. Now, they are even planning to use the same tactics in Ayodhya.

Unfortunately, this could lead to a situation of serious conflict on the ground. Mobs might take over public spaces. And for how long can the people, especially the poor, endure these brazen and repeated acts of injustice, targeted so blatantly against one community, and for no rhyme or reason?

People will come out and protest — peacefully as always, one hopes — as in Shaheen Bagh now and as it was in Shaheen Bagh two years ago. I think the protests will intensify. My hunch is that the BJP think-tank wants the people to come out on the streets so that they can they use the plank of law and order and claim, ‘Look, the encroachers are flexing their muscles, and thereby need to be taught a good lesson’. The hidden agenda behind that is clear: push the Muslim community to the edge, and when they peacefully protest, manufacture a dangerous situation on the ground so as to consolidate and build the Hindutva vote base. This is dangerous and diabolical, and I fear for the worst in the days to come.

‘Bulldozer Has Put the Fear of Law in Criminals – Of All Communities’

Shashank Srivastava, a young IT professional in Lucknow, says the bulldozer initiative of CM Yogi Adityanath has become a cult, being emulated in other states. His arguments:

I originally belong to Sultanpur and shifted to Lucknow a couple of years and have been witness to Chief Minister Adityanath Yogi’s growing stature in a short period of time. He began slowly but with marked grit to deal with his biggest challenge – law and order. Today, upon his return to power, even his adversaries grudgingly admit that law and order in the state has improved.

And one innovative part of his iron hand dealing is what has been termed ‘Bulldozer Action’, welcomed and appreciated by all law-abiding citizens. His political opponents have tried to give this a communal angle, claiming he has been targeting only the minority community. But nothing can be further from the truth.

If you want, I can give name many criminals, all belonging to the majority community, who faced the wrath of Yogi Administration. Vikas Dubey, Dhruv Kumar Singh, Sunder Bhati, Anil Bhati, Amit Kasana, Umesh Rai, Tribhuvan Singh… the list is long.

Today, just the mention of bulldozer put the fear of god in criminals, irrespective of their caste or community. Let me cite two recent examples. In Pratapgarh district, a hard-core criminal was at large, and he remained one step ahead of his chasers in khaki. However, as soon as a bulldozer ‘landed’ outside his house, he surrendered within an hour. Similarly, in Ambedkar Nagar, five rape accused surrendered before the court as soon as their family members heard the roar of bulldozers in the vicinity.

Shashank says tax-payers like him welcome ‘Bulldozer Action’

Law-abiding citizens and tax-payers fully support such action. Only criminals are afraid of them. This is the reason why ‘Bulldozer Action’ has now transformed into a cult, actively emulated in various other states to make criminals fall in line.

ALSO READ: We Stood Firmly Between Bulldozers & Muslim Households

Leave apart those big mafias and dons who are cooling their heels in various jails and their illegal properties being razed, even those criminals who were earlier ducked their arrests are choosing to lay arms before the police–either for the fear of the bulldozer or an encounter.

There are some examples of social service too in bulldozer action. In Prayagraj and a few other districts, illegal properties were razed down and houses were built upon them. These properties were then handed over to the common people, their cast or creed no bar.

If an act or construction is unconstitutional or illegal, it can be challenged in a court of law. But to deride a popular, much-needed action against criminals and law-breakers for political purpose will only make it more popular among the masses. That is why bulldozer has stormed social media and its memes are flooding various platforms. The latest, if you remember, was the British PM Boris Johnson riding the JCB and someone wrote that PM Modi has hired a new mascot for the ongoing drive of Yogi!

Law-abiding and tax-paying people like me have no problems with any kind of new, innovative, law enforcement tactics as long as it draws good results; only the anti-socials and the criminals must fear its blades and rippers.

As told to Rajat Rai

‘Budding Cricketers in Jammu-Kashmir Have Found A New Idol’

Tawqeer Hussain, a Delhi-based Kashmiri journalist who works for the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun, says he sees an IPL team from Jammu-Kashmir on the horizon

It might be surprising for the rest of India, but both cricket and IPL are immensely popular in Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, football comes only second after cricket in terms of mass popularity, with both the young and the old, hooked to the game.

There are several factors behind the popularity of cricket in the state. Earlier young and budding cricketers would be asked one typical question: Who are your ideals in Indian and international cricket? And they would typically respond by citing the names of Mohammad Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Waqar Yunus, Shoaib Akhtar, among other greats, especially from the sub-continent. Not anymore.

Now they have their own fast-bowling sensation from Jammu: Umran Malik!

This is perhaps for the first time that the state has witnessed a speed sensation from Jammu. Earlier Jammu would nurture batters, while Kashmir, with its rocky and hard surfaces, would encourage fast bowlers. Now, Umran has turned the tide. And, hence, we should witness a beautiful synthesis in a radical change of role-play between the cricketers of Jammu and Kashmir.

Surely, IPL has played its own role in giving a boost to cricket in the state. Earlier, much before the entry of Umran, the state has given to India the likes of all-rounder Pervez Rasool, Manzoor Dar, Rasik Salam, Mithun Manhas, among others. The IPL dynamic has shifted the paradigm.

Hussain says Suresh Raina and Irfan Pathan (right) have encouraged cricket talent in the state

Besides, another fast bowler, Irfan Pathan, coming over from Baroda as a mentor and coach, has been decisive for young cricketers in the state. He and others have given an international feel to cricket in Jammu & Kashmir. Along with Suresh Raina, ace fielder and batsman, who is also originally from the state, they have definitely given a boost to cricket here. Indeed, there are reports that Raina is starting a cricket academy in Kashmir.

ALSO READ: Govt Schoolgirls In Kashmir To Train In Golf

I will give you an interesting example. In the far-flung south Kashmir, locals were playing a cricket match, and, guess, who were the chief guests! Irfan Pathan and Suresh Raina.

Come to think of it, this not only gives a huge boost to the youngsters, but it adds a flovour to a game unprecedented in the history of its local cricket. Undoubtedly, Umran Malik can lead Jammu and Kashmir in the days to come in all forms of the game. Besides, there is no doubt he will play for India and mark his presence in the international stage.

The only thing that is of importance right now is that the state should have its own IPL team with the finest of the lot from international cricket become part of its pluralist beauty and ethos. That would mark another wonderful landmark!

‘To Avoid Shutdown, Schools Are Hiding Covid Figures’

Nirmala Joshi, 36, a mother of two in Meerut, says she is skeptical about sending her children to schools as Covid-19 cases see an uptick again

I have two school-going children, one aged 14 and the other nine. It was a big relief for parents when Covid cases subsided and the government allowed the schools to reopen. But as soon as the other restrictions were also lifted, we are seeing a minor surge in infections again even though as of now, the Covid situation appears to be under control.

I myself drop my children to school and observe if the school teachers and other staff are following the Covid protocols, as were assured and instructed by the school authorities. I am relieved that many of these guidelines are being duly followed.

However, social distancing has gone for a toss. And how can it not be when the strength of the school is around 4,000-plus, with 40 students sitting in one classroom. On an average, students spend five to six hours a day in the school. Therefore, as Covid cases being to rise slowly again, I am scared of sending my kids to school.

One major issue is that school administrations are not very transparent about reporting these cases; they prefer to shove them under the carpet. Recently I came to know through a parents’ WhatsApp group that one of the teachers was suspected to have tested positive of Covid. The parents went into a tizzy. But instead of coming clean on the topic, the school administrators told all the teachers to maintain silence on the issue.

Later we got to know that several teachers and students in the school had reported positive. But the school authorities wouldn’t admit it. They had a deadpan response: ‘We can neither confirm nor deny.’ As a parent I believe, we would be safer if we were aware of all the facts.

Joshi (inset) has two school-going children

There were many schools in UP and NCR who showed courage and came forward to provide detailed data on school outbreaks. But most of them chose to keep such information under wraps.

ALSO READ: ‘As Schools Reopen, Teachers Are Happy But Scared’

An email shared on our WhatsApp group showed the principal of a popular school in our region telling the teachers: “Staff who test positive are not to notify any other staff members, parents of their students or any other person/entity that they may have exposed them.” This has left many teachers vulnerable to infections.

We understand the schools are trying to avoid the shutdown and are therefore hiding the truth. But in the name of protecting personal privacy, they are actually sacrificing public health concerns. The system needs to understand that if Covid outbreak happens among children, the hospitals will be flooded with parents as unlike adults they cannot stay in a hospital alone.

All I want from schools is transparency of Covid data. Any attempt to suppress it will put rumour mills in overdrive. You don’t scare people by telling them what’s going on. You scare them by hiding information.

As told to Deepti Sharma

‘Those Pitting Hanuman Chalisa Against Azaan Aren’t Pious People’

Based in Mumbai, eminent filmmaker Anand Patwardhan shares his views on the current Hanuman Chalisa controversy in Maharashtra and the political ploy behind the issue

Indeed, whether it is Hanuman Chalisa, the ban on Hijab for school girls in Karnataka, violence during Ram Navami procession or Azaan on loudspeakers from mosques, none of these issues really has anything to do with religion or religious identity. Instead, they have everything to do with the rise of majoritarian assertions and certain politicians trying to cash in on such controversies.

None of those inciting trouble in the name of public recital of Hanuman Chalisa to ourperform Azaan from mosques are pious people. They are politicians and their indoctrinated followers for whom spilling the blood of innocents by stirring the religious cauldron is an easy way to gain attention. That is how they think they can remain relevant.

In my opinion, the Maharashtra government, to my knowledge, is simply implementing the law of the land to keep order in the state without allowing blood to be spilled by unscrupulous hate-mongers. And this is no mean achievement in the current situation.

Certainly, those vitiating communal harmony and co-existence in our social fabric, as I have pointed out, are not really religious people, but cynical politicians who have lost their political base and are trying to retrieve it by any means necessary. All that certain section of the news outlets and print media has to do is to put out for everyone to see, the speeches of the same politicians now, and, contrast it with their statements a few years ago.

Such portrayal will expose their dual speech, the hollowness of their stands. One only needs to hold the mirror. This opportunism has become transparent.

But I have not given up hope. I am optimistic and believe that the city of Mumbai and its citizens will take things in their stride. People know what the game is and what political forces are behind it.

As told to Amit Sengupga

‘Awareness, Not Harsh Laws, Can Make Prohibition Successful’

Rajesh Singh, a social activist from Katihar (Bihar), says penal provisions can only deal with the criminality part of prohibition law, not the behavioural aspect

Bihar is one of the few states in the country where the sale and consumption of alcohol is completely banned. When the prohibition law came into force in the state in 2016, it was strictly enforced. However, in the past six years, a lot has changed. The law is still there but it doesn’t deter the alcohol traders and consumers any longer.

A complete illegal ecosystem has boomed in the state where alcohol mafias have emerged and children as young as 13 to 15 are being involved in the illegal trade. I am a member of the juvenile justice board. Quite often, we see children being produced in the court for being the part of this illegal trade syndicate. They are being used as a courier boy for the delivery of alcohol.

Surprisingly, in many cases, their family members, mostly from the poorer section, are aware of their involvement. They only see this as easy earning by the children. This has created another problem. These children, who are involved in the liquor trade, also become the consumer and gradually get into other substance abuse too.

In addition, there is rising cases of deaths by spurious liquor in Bihar. Hundreds of people have died or lost their eye-sights due to consumption of spurious liquor. These incidents have also raised questions on the police administration. In many cases, the law enforcers are found to be a part of the illegal trade.

ALSO READ: ‘Young Addicts Need Empathy, Peddlers Punishment’

According to some estimates, more than 40,000 poor people are languishing in the jails due to harsh provisions of the anti-liquor law. Probably, these high numbers also alarmed the government which passed the Bihar Prohibition and Excise (Amendment) Bill, 2022, and stated that people caught consuming liquor will now have to pay a fine before a magistrate and won’t be sent to jail.

Clearly, it is impossible to enforce a complete ban in the state if neighbouring states are selling alcohol freely. Bihar shares border with states such as Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bengal. From the entire Kosi division of Bihar, Bengal is as far as 30 kms away. Most of the import of alcohol happens from these neighbouring states and people also visit neighbouring states for the consumption of alcohol. So, how on earth, considering the Kosi region, you can stop people from visiting neighbouring state Bengal for consuming or bringing alcohol from there? The same applies to other divisions of the state which share borders with Uttar Pradesh or Jharkhand.

I believe strict laws can’t be the solution to this menace. Penal laws merely deal with the criminality and push more people down the wrong path. For any social or behavioural reform, awareness and education about the ill effects of an addiction are most important.

As an NGO, we organise various programmes, in association with the distric administration, every month to spread awareness about the ill-effect of alcohol or other drug addictions. We have helped many people cleanse themselves from addictions and abuse.

We urge the government to focus on developing more de-addiction centres in the state and spreading awareness. This can be the only solution to make Bihar a true dry state in the country.

As told to Md Tausif Alam

‘Ajay Devgan’s View On Hindi Is Not Just ignorant, It Is Downright Stupid’

Moinak Guho, an alumnus of the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute in Kolkata, shares his views on the diminishing dominance of Bollywood cinema

Clearly, Ajay Devgan has made a rather stupid statement. In the first instance, it shows the desire of the Bollywood celebrity to prove his loyalty to the current regime in New Delhi. This kind of blatant alignment with the corridors of power is not new; Devgan, obviously, is one among the many who wants to rub shoulders with the powers that be.

But, on a second look, the bigger issue is of his ignorance. Hindi was never an indigenous language anyway. That it has been awarded the status of ‘national language’ by Devgan is downright foolish.

He also questions a fellow star from South India about dubbing “your mother tongue movies” in Hindi. Is Mr Devgan not aware of the fact that copying from cinema in South India, including from the block-busters, has been going on rampantly in Bollywood for decades?

It is well-known that Hindi cinema in Mumbai is doing bad business these days. There is no originality left in the cinematic work being mass produced by the Mumbai production houses. While there seems to be a certain ideological bankruptcy prevailing in big bucks Hindi cinema, a section of the industry players is falling over one another to get into the good books of the government in Delhi. One shining example of this phenomenon is The Kashmir Files. Surely, in terms of aesthetics, originality and content, this seems to be a bit problematic and will obviously impact both the script and the cinema of the years to come.

Guho and a poster of his work Ek Awprasongik Songlaap (An Irrelevant Dialogue)

With the OTT phenomena having taken over India, people are willfully choosing meaningful cinema in other languages: Malayalam, Tamil, Bengali. These industries, though without the powerful financial structures that prevails in Bollywood, is overwhelmed with talent in all branches of film-making. That Hindi should be dominating across the nation just does not work anymore – consider it history.

ALSO READ: ‘Kashmir Files’ Is A Political Ploy To Demonize Muslims

Indeed, it is difficult to remember one good film made in the Hindi language and dished out from the cash-rich box office apparatus in Mumbai, though there have been fabulous and meaningful low-budget films which have been widely appreciated across the country. A good film is, finally, a good film, and language is of no significance.

I remember watching two great films recently: Pebbles in Tamil and Nayattu in Malayalam. Both are fabulous works and language has been no barrier in their superb aesthetic rendition.

Unfortunately, when it comes to big business cinema, and the industry which revolves around grandiose commercial movies, I will cite one example. It also reflects that the days of Hindi box office movies are passé. I personally would not really like to watch Pushpa or RRR. However, two days ago, we tried to go for a movie in Kolkata. Of the 20 shows in one day in a multiplex, 10 were showing RRR, there were five shows for KGF II, four for Jersey, and, only one, yes, only one show of a Bangla movie. Thereby, hangs a tale.

‘Chandigarh Belongs To Punjab; It Doesn’t Connect With Haryana’

Amrit Grewal says making Chandigarh the sole Capital of Punjab will not only help the City Beautiful but also Haryana citizens

Mention the word Chandigarh, and the first association that comes to one’s mind is Punjab. Mention Gurgaon and… you see my point. That more or less settles the debate. However, as in most cases, it is the politics behind the issue that will not allow it to settle that easily. For, if Haryana leaders were to give up their claims on Chandigarh, it would be seen as a political defeat for them.

The reality is making Chandigarh the sole, and not shared, Capital of Punjab will also help Haryana. Because right now, everything official – be it a legal or civic matter – has to be routed through Chandigarh, because senior officers of Haryana are all sitting out of Panchkula. Panchkula is a stone’s throw away from Chandigarh. So essentially anything that has to be done for Haryana, one has to trek to Chandigarh and then Panchkula.

Grewal (inset) says Chandigarh cannot hold the onslaught of more people

Thus, as a layperson who is not politically inclined, I would say if Gurgaon is the Capital for Haryana, which would entail that all state affairs of Haryana run from Gurgaon, rather than Chandigarh – it would make more sense; make life easier for Haryana citizens.

ALSO READ: ‘Chandigarh is A Cosmo City, Belongs To Both Punjab & Haryana’

Besides, Chandigarh cannot take the load of being a twin capital any more. It is bursting at the seams. I have known Chandigarh since I was an infant. I went to my school, college there. We got a whole history there. The whole family is there. Chandigarh means home

Though it is still a very clean city, a very well planned one at that, the traffic is now crazy. Because suddenly there are a lot of people coming in from all across. A majority of them are moving in from Haryana and Punjab essentially. I don’t think that the city can, or is equipped to, hold such an onslaught of people; it cannot accommodate that many people.

So there is New Chandigarh that has come up ahead of the PGI area, some very big hotels have also come up to host more people. This five-star and four-star culture wasn’t there when I was young; we had just two hotels, Mountview and Shivalikview. The club culture used to be very strong like in most old urban locales.

Now that F&B (food and beverage) culture has changed, there are lots of high-end brands stepping foot in, big names from Tier A cities moving into Chandigarh because it is a market they know. And hence the claustrophobia setting too.

We know the whole UT status was put in place because of a certain background of Haryana and Punjab staking claims to Chandigarh. But the way the city connects with Punjab, it does not with Haryana. Just ask anyone outside the two states what is the capital of Haryana, and he or she would think twice before saying Chandigarh. If you were to ask the capital of Punjab, it would be pat Chandigarh. Connect, you see.

But I also see Haryana would not let go of Chandigarh as its capital. It is more of an ego issue. Allowing Chandigarh to be sole capital of Punjab will be seen as some kind of a setback for Haryana history. Yet, if one sees things beyond politics and ego, Chandigarh belongs to Punjab.

‘Atmosphere Is Poisoned But Kindness Is Not Dead’

Shariq Husain, a Delhi-based garment trader and activist, could not sit at home after seeing children wailing at the destruction of their houses in Jahangirpuri. Husain narrates the story

When municipality bulldozers wreaked havoc on select households in Jahangirpuri after a communal polarization on April 20, a small news clip shook me to the core of my heart. It was about a little boy called Asif. He was crying and collecting whatever little was left from the ruins of his family’s modest cold drink stall, including the coins scattered on the street. It was disturbing that a child had to go through such tragedy. I found it difficult to sit at home with hollow sympathy.

I noted down the information from the news clip and immediately went to the affected locality. After some enquiring, I found Asif. I also met his mother, Rahima, who too also in tears. I documented the family’s condition and posted it on social media, with an appeal for help. Compassion is not dead; help poured in.

The family had lost around ₹1 lakh of their savings which they had invested on the little shop. We were able to raise ₹6 lakh. I made another video wherein Asif thanked everyone for the help, and said that now they had enough and hence, “Please don’t give us anymore”. It was heartening to hear: “Now my mother is happy, and she is not crying.”

There were others who also needed help. Rihana had a vegetable shop on the pavement. It was destroyed by the MCD. Guptaji had a neighbourhood grocery store which was damaged beyond repair in the mayhem.

Husain with Asif and his family in Jahangirpuri

We helped Rihana and Guptaji pick up the scattered straws again. Their losses too were recovered via social media resources. I am happy that in spite of some vested interests vitiating the atmosphere, people haven’t mislaid their moral compass.

ALSO READ: ‘We Stood Like A Wall In Front of Bulldozers’

I saw similar camaraderie during Covid waves. I would go out with food packets every day for the migrant workers because I thought they have worked on our fields, homes and factories, and thus they cannot be left alone in the scorching summer highways, walking miles on foot! I asked my friends to help, and they happily joined the efforts. We organized vehicles to carry food to the highways and provided whatever little relief we could, from morning till late.

Similarly, during the second killer wave, I wasn’t alone when I stepped out to organize oxygen cylinders for the needy. Hundreds of people felt it was their duty to make available the most crucial medical necessity for those running from pillar to post with no help from the government. It was not a favour or a sacrifice; we felt it was our duty to help our fellow citizens in crisis. That is why I did my bit, and, will continue to do so, whenever the call comes.

The poor and the marginalized citizens too have a right to live with dignity in this country. They too have dreams and aspirations, and they have a right to rise high in society. All they need is a chance, a foothold. It is a pity, instead of being provided opportunities, they are being ravaged and brutalized every day, especially in contemporary India when things have gone from the bad to worse.

As told to Amit Sengupta