Chaudhary Charan Singh

Though Late, Chaudhary Saab’s Contribution Has Been Recognised

Ch Mahavir Singh, the grandson of Chaudhary Charan Singh, speaks about the legacy of the tallest Jat leader of our times and the challenges ahead. His views:

When the news of awarding Chaudhary Charan Singh with Bharat Ratna title first reached our village, I was sitting on this worn charpoy in our courtyard. My chest swelled with pride. Soon this information spread like wildfire through Noorpur village and the entire western Uttar Pradesh. The atmosphere was electric, filled with joyous slogans. The villagers could be seen streaming towards the statue of our beloved leader, with garlands in hand, raising slogan in celebration.

Chaudhary Charan Singh wasn’t just a political figure to us; he was the very essence of farmers pride, hope, resilience and determination. Born to a small farmer’s family in Noorpur, he went on become the head the government, a towering figure in Indian politics. His journey has been a testament to the strength of character and unwavering commitment to the cause of the farmers.

As I reminisce about my grandfather’s struggles and triumphs, I cannot help but marvel at the depth of the impact that he made on the lives of farmers in the region. He wasn’t just fighting for himself; he was fighting for every farmer, every peasant, and every underprivileged soul toiling under the scorching sun to make a living from the unforgiving earth.

ALSO READ: ‘Floods Or Fury, A Farmer Never Gives Up’

‘His struggles were our struggles,’ I often tell this to my children. And today all the memories are flooding back. He served the people well; though late but now he has been recognized by this government. He stood tall against adversity, his voice was a rallying cry for the marginalized and the downtrodden.

As the celebrations continued well into the night, there lingered a palpable sense of uncertainty about the future of my grandfather’s legacy. With Jayant Chaudhary’s decision to join the NDA, there are whispers of doubt among the farming community here. But amidst the uncertainty, one thing remains steadfast: our faith in Jayant.

We have faith in Jayant. He may have chosen a different path, but the farmer spirit runs deep within him. I am confident that he will carry forward the torch of Chaudhary Charan Singh’s legacy, guiding us towards a brighter future.

I find solace in the quiet reflection of our shared history. For in the end, amidst the turns and twists of politics and the passage of time, one truth has remained unshakable: the spirit of Chaudhary Charan Singh lives on, etched forever in the hearts of his people, a beacon of hope for generations to come.

The morning after the night of celebration in our village, I felt a renewed sense of purpose stirring within me. The legacy of my grandfather was not just a memory to be cherished; it was a call to act, a reminder of the responsibility we carry to uphold the values he held dear.

With determination in my heart and the spirit of Chaudhary Charan Singh as my guide, I know that no matter what challenges lie ahead, we will face them together, united in our commitment to build a better tomorrow for all.

As told to Deepti Sharma

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Ayodhya is Awake and Abuzz 24x7

‘Now Ayodhya is Awake and Abuzz 24×7 Like Big Cities’

Sumit and Amit Gupta, the fourth generation owner of Chandra Sweets in Hanumangarhi, say the economic activity in the city is growing by each passing day. Their views:

Ever since the Pran Pratishtha (consecration) ceremony was held in Ram Mandir, Ayodhya has become the city that never sleeps. Earlier, sweet shops on the Ram Path, the road leading to the temple in Hanumangarhi, used to see two-fold business on Ramnavmi and Diwali. However, since January 22 (when the consecration ritual was held), the sweets (used as prasad) are selling four to five times the regular sales every day. Ab toh har din Diwali hai (Every day is Diwali now).

We have been doing business for four generations, but we have never witnessed such a monumental surge of the devotees in Ayodhya. There are two famous sweet items in our shop, khurchan and lal peda. Now, these vanish within hours of being brought to the shop. We have to outsource the ingredients from faraway vendors as our regular suppliers are unable to meet the demand. And the surge is growing by each passing day. We are not talking only about sweet shops or Pooja-related wares; you name any business in Ayodhya and you will find it flourishing in leaps and bounds.

But we have not raised the prices of any item. Nor have the new suppliers tried to make profits by increasing the price. Everybody is happy with the current windfall and feels blessed by Ramlala. The common man in Ayodhya feels content and happy that Lord Ram has found a permanent gaddi (seat) and roof after a struggle and patient wait of over 500 years.

ALSO READ: Ram Temple is a Symbol of Unity in Counrty

The entire geography and appearance of the city has changed in the past few years, since the construction of Ram Mandir began. The markets and shops have got a facelift, and there is not a single road or bylane which has not been provided with lighting. Potholes, broken roads, poor sewage systems and garbage management that used to be a trademark of the city are now a thing of the past.

There is oly one grudge though. There has been too much barricading to regulate the flow of pilgrims. This is causing a lot of movement hassles to the visitors. However, the vendors are confident that once the dust settles, these hindrances will be removed pushing the economy of the religious city to newer heights.

As told to Rajat Rai

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The Story of My Pets

Where There is Love, There is hope: The Story of My Two Pets

Dr Navneet Kaur recounts the journey of her two loving pets, Bella and Mickey, from the streets in Punjab to her home in Canada. In her own words:

As I sit here in the comfort of my Canadian home, I can’t help but reflect on the incredible journey of two resilient souls, Mickey and Bella, who have traveled across continents from the bustling streets of Amritsar in Punjab to Canada. Their story is a testament to the unwavering commitment of those who care for the voiceless, and the global community that rallies for the welfare of animals.

It all began on the streets of Amritsar, where the Animal Welfare and Care Services Foundation (AWCS), the NGO I founded, took upon the responsibility of rescuing and rehabilitating the countless stray animals that roamed the city. Last year, the call came for two special beings – Mickey and Bella. These Indian breed pariah dogs were destined for a life of struggle, but fate had a different plan for them.

Bella, a tiny soul, was discovered alone, whimpering in the cold by our shelter manager, Deepak Kumar. She wasn’t just battling the harsh weather; she was also fighting the deadly parvovirus, a cruel adversary for any creature. When she arrived at our shelter, Bella’s condition was dire, her spirit hanging by a thread. But where there is love and compassion, there is hope.

Deepak took Bella under his wing, nurturing her back to health with unwavering dedication. Bella’s journey was marked by resilience, from overcoming parvo to battling anemia. As Bella’s strength returned, it became clear that her place was not within the shelter walls but in the warmth of a forever home.

AWCS shelter manager Deepak Kumar (left) with Bella

Mickey’s tale was no less poignant. Born to a dying mother who found solace in our shelter after being tragically run over by a car, Mickey was a survivor from the start. Despite losing her siblings, Mickey clung to life with tenacity. Weak and afflicted with distemper, her early days were spent in the protective embrace of our shelter. She grew up experiencing the routine of shelter life, and though distemper threatened to dim her spirit, Mickey fought back. Diagnosed in the early stages, she emerged victorious, a testament to her strength and the care she received.

ALSO READ: ‘A Progressive Society Enjoys Life With Pets’

In the face of these challenges, the idea of finding permanent homes for Bella and Mickey took root. They had conquered adversity, and now it was time for them to embark on a new chapter. As the founder of AWCS and someone with a deep-rooted love for animals, I reached out to my network, including Karen, who played a crucial role in picking up the dogs.

Living in Canada, I reached out to my network, seeking kindred spirits who shared the same passion for animal welfare. Belinda Morrison, the compassionate force behind CB Rescue Foundation in Calgary, Canada, answered the call. CB Rescue, a non-profit and entirely volunteer-run dog rescue unit, opened its arms to Mickey and Bella, offering them the promise of a forever home.

Belinda Morrisson of CB Rescue in Canada

On January 11, their journey across oceans and continents began. Flown to Canada, these two brave souls stepped onto a new terrain, embracing the crisp Canadian air and the snow-covered landscapes. Under the care of Belinda Morrison and her team, Mickey and Bella started their training with Christina, their dedicated trainer, adapting to their new surroundings with curiosity and enthusiasm.

Trainer of Mickey and Bella Christina

“We are super excited to have Mickey and Bella here with us. Currently, they are undergoing training with our dog trainer, Christina. They are really enjoying the snow in Canada,” Belinda Morrison shared, capturing the essence of their newfound joy and freedom.

As I receive updates from afar, I am filled with gratitude for the collaboration that transcended borders and the hearts that opened to these resilient beings. Mickey and Bella’s odyssey from the streets of Amritsar to the warmth of Canadian homes epitomizes the collective effort to create a world where every animal, regardless of origin, finds love, care, and a place to call home.

As told to Deepti Sharma

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‘Business In Ayodhya Has Risen Manifold Since Pran Pratishtha Event’

‘Business In Ayodhya Has Risen Manifold Since Pran Pratishtha Event’

Anup Gupta, owner of Ram & Shyam Hotel at Hanumangarhi, says even neighbouring districts are benefitting from devotees thronging the newly-built Ram Temple

With the grand ceremony at Ayodhya Ram Temple, our city has suddenly found its place in the sun. On the day of Pran Prathishtha (consecration), the Ram Temple recorded over 3 to 4 lakh people who lined up for a drashan and the next day, this figure swelled to over 7 lakh. The role of the police and administration deserves a salute as they managed the crowd very well. Ever since the stream of visitors to Ayodhya has not stopped. It seems, every Hindu wants to have a glimpse of Ram Lalla.

Naturally, this has meant good business for the Ayodhya residents. Be it the sale of flowers or other puja ware (like ladoos etc to be offered as Prasad) or food and other daily-use items, the demand has increased manifold. Souvenir items such as precious stones, posters, statues, etc have also shot up drastically, benefitting one and all – the suppliers to small sellers, everyone.

According to rough estimates, as reported in the local media, the sales of flowers and ladoos touched a whooping ₹4 crore a day since January 22. And since Ayodhya cannot meet this surge in demand, most items are being sourced from neighboring districts. So, even surrounding districts are also benefitting from the rush of devotees.

ALSO READ: ‘Ram Mandir is Symbol of Unity for the Country’

The demand for hotel rooms has also increased to a record high. Hotel occupancy is 100 per cent and booked for months in advance. There are visitors who flocked into Ayodhya well in advance (before January 22). Such was the rush that all roads leading to Ayodhya had to be closed and no fresh batch of devotees was allowed inside for the next few days after January 22.

Once the rail, road and air connectivity to Ayodhya comes into service, the rush of visitors is only going to scale new heights. Already, many big hotels groups have bought land to set up five-star facilities here and there are more queuing up to set up all kind of stay options, from budget to luxury, to serve tourists.

Ayodhya citizens will also benefit from this never-ending influx of devotees. They will start services of paying guests, rented accommodation in their dwellings or start up tourist-friendly business like eateries or souvenir shops. You name a business, and you will find it expanding and leaping forward from January onwards. This year 2024 has been a landmark in the history of Ayodhya denizens.

Once the temple is complete (which is expected to happen in the next two years or so), you will not find a place to stay in and around 30 km of the city. Real estate prices are already skyrocketing. Ayodhya, as it is truly said, is set to surpass Mecca and the Vatican in the near future.

As told to Rajat Rai

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Uptick In Domestic Tourism is Fuelled by Nationalistic Pride

‘Uptick In Domestic Tourism is Fuelled by Nationalistic Pride’

Sushreeta Mohapatra, a content writer with Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, speaks about the latest Maldives vs Lakshadweep row. Her views

An upshot of the recent diplomatic fracas between India and Maldives over the Indian Prime Minister’s social media posts on the beauty of Lakshadweep has been the increasing interest among Indian tourists in visiting Indian destinations. But for how long will the wave sustain, and will it even translate into action?

Remember the days when the lockdown norms were eased and all you could see on your social media feeds were pictures of celebrities posing in exotic foreign locales? Nearly three years down the line, the penchant of Indian tourists for foreign locales is once again in the spotlight. Which begs the question – are we doing our country a disservice by choosing others for that dream vacation? Perhaps it is not as simple as it appears.

Nowadays, rather unfortunately, most people choose their vacation destinations not for the sights but for the likes they will bring. The simple joy in exploring new places has given way to the itch for sharing ‘Instagramworthy’ pictures. And let’s face it – travelling outside India for a vacation is seen more as a social status benchmark than anything else. Forget the luxury traveller – even the middle class is off to a foreign vacation at the first chance they can afford.

And with budget tours, cheap airfare, and ease of paperwork, who wouldn’t want to? The ‘have money, will travel’ motto which seems to drive most people, particularly the youth, to plan a vacation can easily be revised to read ‘have money, will travel abroad!’ That a vacation in some of these foreign locales burns a smaller hole in the pocket than one in a popular destination in India only complicates matters.

Following an appeal to the citizens by the Prime Minister during his 2019 Independence Day address to explore more Indian destinations, in 2020, the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, launched the Dekho Apna Desh Scheme. The scheme was meant to encourage Indians to see more of their own country, to explore its “diverse and rich cultural heritage.”

ALSO READ: ‘Can Lakshadweep Ecology Cope With Heavy Tourist Influx?’

Numbers speak encouragingly of the effort, portraying an over 11% increase in the number of annual domestic tourists in 2021. But here’s the catch – in the same period, the destinations which saw the most influx of domestic tourists continued to be the well-known ones, the Taj Mahal taking the top spot in terms of popularity. Are Indians less adventurous then, when it comes to seeking out new vacation destinations?

Not really. Indians travel their own country in far larger numbers than the recent news filtering down from social media seems to suggest. That the spotlight has been put on the lesser-explored destinations such as Lakshadweep and NorthEast India is less a reflection of actual travel trends and more of the continued ignorance of social media users. And let us not forget that some of these exotic Indian destinations have been accepting limited numbers of tourists, and for good reason.

To put the blame on the hospitality industry then would be misguided. After all, some of the best luxury hospitality enterprises offer spectacular experiences in scenic, remote locales within India, and they do have their takers.

In the end, only time, and people, will tell if ‘local’ tourist destinations will gain greater popularity at the expense of foreign vacations. For now, there is a wave that is fuelling the interest in exploring India, riding high on nationalistic pride, and if the seventh most beautiful country in the world (as ranked by a leading business magazine) can make the most of it, it only bodes well for everyone.

As told to Deepa Gupta

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Can Lakshadweep Ecosystem Handle Unruly Domestic Tourists?

‘Can Lakshadweep Ecosystem Handle Unruly Domestic Tourists?’

Saimi Sattar, a travel writer-editor who is currently working in the hospitality sector, says unregulated tourism can sound the death knell of fragile coastal ecosystem. Her views:

Lakshadweep has been on my bucket list for quite some time. As it always happens, whenever we travel to pristine places, there is always this sense of trepidation that once it is exposed to tourism, its beauty will be compromised. Kashmir is one example. The unbridled tourism that the current Union Territory witnessed last year was evident in the mounds of plastic bags and bottles that were dumped everywhere — even in a location as remote as Sonmarg! It is as if people want to leave a footprint behind, however ugly. And this seems to be especially true of the travellers from the sub-continent.

Tourism is always accompanied by an increase in the demand for energy, waste generation and vehicular traffic. Add to it the top-heavy commercialization – and this is where my worry lies. A heavy influx of tourists will inevitably spell a disaster for a place that is as eco-sensitive as Lakshadweep. For, the truth is that unregulated tourism can sound the death knell of the local ecosystem.

The blueprint for sustainable development in a coastal island would include: a robust sewage system, smaller hotels that leave a lessor carbon footprint, eco-friendly transport and proper waste management. However, it seems that we do not have time for that. Nor do we seem to have an understanding or intention to preserve the ecology.

As for the recent hyper-nationalism we witnessed regarding Lakshadweep and the Maldives, aren’t these predictable given the rise of the Right-wing in many parts of the world? Mohamed Muizzu won the election in Maldives with the slogan of ‘India Out’. From there it was just an obvious step whereby his ministers abused the Indian prime minister.

Thereafter, it was only a matter of time before Indian social media warriors retaliated with predictable aggression. Since India is the biggest country in the subcontinent, we have been flexing our muscles, especially after we became legitimate guests at the high table with the western and so-called ‘civilised’ nations. No wonder, the smaller countries see us as a bully in the playground.

ALSO READ: ‘Saving Hills From Tourist Influx Is Shared Responsibility’

The most incredulous thing is that sometimes it seems that our foreign policy is being led by the social media! Over the years we have seen that foreign policy is discussed, the long-term repercussions assessed, and a policy is framed taking into account the geo-political situation in the neighbourhood. Being reactive is equivalent to being juvenile. The battles on Twitter should be restricted to the platform and not spill over to real life — which is what has happened here.

On a lighter note, till December 2022, only 7.2 per cent of Indians had passports. So of all those outraging on social media, how many would actually have travelled to the Maldives is anyone’s guess.

As for relations with our neighbours, it is transparent that age-old ties have turned frosty with each of them in recent times: Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and now the Maldives. The relations with various Pakistani regimes were always unstable but never have they been at such an all-time low. It is sad. There are so many shared cross-cultural connections — in terms of what we wear, the food we eat, the festivals we celebrate, architecture, music, poetry, literature — the list is endless. But all of us prefer to butt heads rather than script a cohesive future.

It is not as if each of these countries do not have its problems; poverty, income disparity, lack of education, violence, communalism — our glasses are full to the brim. All of us are unitedly rank low on human indices. The way forward would have been to overcome this through cross-border solutions. But rhetoric wins elections. Not sensibility. And that seems true for many nations these days.

I have the fondest memories of travelling to Pakistan as a student. My father’s only sister lived in Karachi. The abundance of love that strangers showered on me during my visits, because I was an Indian, was heartening. That is a privilege exclusively reserved for Indians. Cab drivers did not accept money, shopkeepers did not charge us for stuff, and customs officers made sure that we were not harassed by their underlings. The list goes on.

I had returned the last time with the promise to my uncle that I would visit Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa next. Sadly, my uncle passed away more than 10 years ago. With our relations with Pakistan being what they are and the difficulties in getting a visa, I wonder if I will ever visit the country where the people are our mirror image. It is a tragedy.

The narrator has been the editor of Exotica, a luxury travel and lifestyle magazine

As told to Amit Sengupta

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Sameer Sharma

‘We Cannot Normalise Violence and Gore on Screen’

Sameer Sharma, a medical professional, delves into the patriarchal mindset of the audiences that make films like Animal, Salaar and KGF a roaring success. His views:

Patriarchy is not alien to our society, never has been. We have all witnessed it manifest in various forms during our formative years. Male chauvinism has its cultural roots in our society since eons and we have seen its unfettered acceptance from one generation to the other.

Similarly, our mainstream media is not far behind in inherently portraying this vice in daily soaps on television, commercials of consumer goods as well as cinema. The naked display of violence, misogyny, profanity and male chauvinism in our movies has been taken to another level in some of the most recent Bollywood releases like ‘Animal’, ‘Salaar’ and ‘KGF’ to name a few. The passion with which people have accepted and appreciated this brute display of bestiality is reflective of our society which takes pride in being violent, impatient and contemptuous.

These kind of movies create an adverse effect on impressionable minds, especially our youth. The younger generation often get inspired by what they see in movies and on OTT platforms. They try to emulate various characters shown in the movie and somewhere lose their own identity in the process. The negative influence is far greater than one can imagine. In some cases, these young individuals resort to serious crimes where women are involved and some heinous instances are quoted as being taken from a film that perpetrated and glorified such violence. The hero is worshipped no matter what. He is emulated and the common man is struck by the belief that the screen hero is a demi god and does everything right. The false belief and warped notions on behaviour with women result in a convoluted society.

ALSO READ: ‘Movies Like Animal Glorify Violence & Patriarchy’

Today, everyone has access to all kinds of stuff especially films. It is easy courtesy access to a mobile phone, a tablet, a laptop and a high speed internet connection which is readily available everywhere. Violence against women and children has increased manifold in the recent years and it’ll be fair to say that the kind of media content our youth is consuming create an adverse effect on their mind which often result in such incidences. The lackadaisical attitude of our society to address this issue is bewildering to say the least. We have knowingly or unknowingly normalized violence, misogyny, narcissism and indifference which is pushing our youth towards a sort of psychotic and insane behaviour with a criminal and devilish mindset. And that is precisely what these films glorify. When we convey and portray evil, we harvest evil. What you see, imbibe and take in, makes you what you are.

There is always a silver lining to every black cloud. The hope to see enlightened individuals admonish this archaic behaviour is not distant. There is a need to address this vile obsession to treat women and the underprivileged with contempt. As long as we condone what’s happening now within our society, we will never be able to address the elephant in the room. Change is imminent.

As told to Deepa Gupta

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Remission To Bilkis Rapist

‘Remission to Rapists Shouldn’t Have Been Granted in the First Place’

Swati Goswami, an Ahmedabad-based writer and human rights activist, says the Bilkis Bano case is a glaring example of how the BJP operates to skirt the law. Her views

Rape is an act of vengeance and violence against an individual’s refusal, or, against the identity of a community. Remission of rapists without the consent of the victim/survivor is a fraud. Just like a rapist misuses physical power, the State misused its power brazenly to remit the rapists and murderers of Bilkis Bano and her family.

Was Bilkis consulted before remitting her 11 rapists? Did the convicts apologise and plead forgiveness for their heinous crimes? The answer is an emphatic NO. With the power to remit comes the responsibility to involve the survivor for reformative justice. Remission has to be reasonable, which in this case is far from reality. What if the convicts had tried to harm the family again? Who would have been responsible? If a misleading writ petition can result in a two-judge bench changing the decision, how can we trust the judicial system?

I am extremely happy for Bilkis, her dogged resilience, her strength of character, and her undeservingly long and protracted struggle for justice. However, I won’t congratulate the Supreme Court for revoking the remission order because the remission should never have been permitted in the first instance! How could the remission plea be heard with such ignorance by the highest court of the land for such a horrific crime? How could they not know that the crime was a part of the widespread and vicious communal violence of 2002 in Gujarat, which has not only been a barbaric event in itself, but which has also resulted in what the country is paying for since 2014? The resulting social and communal polarization in Gujarat literally propelled Narendra Modi as the next chief minister yet again, and, eventually, as the prime minister of India.

The very reason this case was moved out of Gujarat was because a free and fair trial wouldn’t have been possible here. Then, how could the court take the government at face-value?

I won’t actually blame the Gujarat government because that is how the BJP operates. That is why the case was moved to Maharashtra. The Gujarat riots and its modus-operandi, targeting one community, are well documented — that is why Bilkis was raped and her family killed.

We expect no sensitivity and justice from them. However, the judges, as the final custodians of justice, what were they thinking? This is about a gang-rape survivor, her little child who was smashed to death, her murdered family and her entire community! Where is the seriousness of the law? 

Are we to believe that a pregnant gang-rape survivor will not get justice unless five other women file separate petitions? Bilkis moved the court against the remission after one of the convict’s challenged the other petitions by “complete strangers”. Why should she fight alone? It was not a personal crime. It was a social crime with the BJP brass as its naked back-dancers — performing in front of the whole country.

The story of Bilkis is not a women’s issue, even though only women came forward to undo the injustice. It is about the ugly binaries of this country, especially in the contemporary era. 

ALSO READ: ‘Bilkis Banop’s Rapists Were Lionized’

Bilkis won, not once but twice, against the highest level of political, communal and patriarchal violence. What she managed to achieve is incredible, especially as a Muslim woman in India, especially in such bleak and difficult times. I cannot even begin to imagine her rage at the sight of her rapists being felicitated or called ‘Sanskari’. Bilkis stood firm against the entire might of the political system and fought each time it tried to violate her.

And we must not forget her husband, Yakub, who stood by her throughout the unimaginable trauma. In a society, where men rarely stand against their own families for their wives, Yakub is a role model as he stood against a mighty government. For a Muslim man in India to show such courage against decades-long State-backed injustice is laudable.

Some of us had met him after the rapists were released. He mentioned how intimidating their Whatsapp status and indirect but intentional conversations were. He feared for the safety of Bilkis and his family. Some Muslim families had started moving out in fear of another round of violence following the remission. Such is the nature of this crime! It was both traumatic and enraging to see Yakub in tears. 

Finally, they won. Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan have proved that the Supreme Court can choose dignified commitment to justice. The apex court cannot bring back her family and undo her trauma, but Bilkis Bano can finally move on. It should never have taken this long to rebuild her life. Indeed. I wish every woman in India the — ‘Bilkis strength’ — but never her trauma! 

The narrator has focused on gender violence and human rights violations in Kashmir and other ‘occupied’ zones.

As told to Amit Sengupta

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Nari Shakti Diksha Dagar

‘I See Myself as a Symbol of Nari Shakti, the Emerging Spirit of India’

Diksha Dagar, an Arjuna Award recipient, recounts her journey of turning challenges into stepping stones to success as India’s star professional golfer. Her story:

Looking back at my life, I realize that each challenge I faced was an opportunity waiting to be seized. I was born with profound bilateral hearing loss, hence my world was initially silent. However, my parents, undeterred by my congenital limitation, embarked on a relentless journey to help me overcome the disability. Little did they know that this journey would lead me to become India’s No. 1 Ladies Amateur Golfer and an inspiration to many!

In 2005, when I was four year old, a ray of hope emerged when I was evaluated for a Cochlear Implant at a prestigious medical institutions like Army Hospital, Delhi, AIIMS, and AFMC Pune. The surgical fitting of the implant in my right ear by Cdr (Dr) Dilip Raghavan at AFMC in August 2005 proved a turning point. Systematic rehabilitation, speech therapy, and hearing exercises in Pune, Indore, and Delhi followed. This gradually built my vocabulary and helped me integrate into a school with normal students, a milestone that boosted my confidence.

My journey into the world of golf began at the Army Golf Course in Delhi. Though my hearing limitations affected my friendships, my mother stood by as a pillar of strength. Inspired by my brother’s early interest in golf, my parents encouraged me to start playing at the age of seven. Little did we know that this would unearth a hidden talent.

Seven years later, at the age of 14, I proudly claimed the title of India’s No. 1 Ladies Amateur Golfer in 2015. This was just the beginning. In time I would see myself competing on the international stage.

In 2019, when I was 18, I transitioned into professional golf, making a splash on the Ladies European Tour by winning the South African Ladies Open, and became the youngest and only the second Indian to achieve this feat. Subsequent victories in the Ladies Czech Open (2023), Armco Team Series London (2021), Singapore Ladies Amateur Championship (2018), and others solidified my position.

ALSO READ: ‘Quit Self-Pity, Learn To Swim Against The Tide’

During the 2023 Ladies European Tour, I set a new record, finishing 3rd on the year-long OOM (order of merit). My participation in 29 international tournaments across 21 countries in four continents showcased my determination and love for the sport.

As of now, I stand qualified for the Paris Olympics 2024, ranked 44th, a testament to the progress I’ve made. My current World Ranking of 161 has seen a remarkable improvement from 415 at the beginning of the year.

Beyond the golf course, I found recognition in the Forbes Asia 2021 under 30 list, with even Mr. Amitabh Bachchan acknowledging my journey on a KBC show. Nominated for the Arjuna Award for three consecutive years, I have been felicitated by dignitaries such as the Prime Minister of India, Chief Minister of Haryana, Chief of Army Staff, Forum of Sports Journalists of India, and the Delhi Government.

In this incredible journey, the support of the Indian Army, particularly from late Gen Bipin Rawat and Lt Gen (retd) Abhay Krishna, played a crucial role. Their encouragement and assistance during the years 2014 to 2019 were instrumental in shaping my path. The Army Golf Course in Delhi, where Lt Gen (retd) Abhay Krishna, spotted my talent, became a decisive moment.

Turning my disability into strength, despair into hope, and adversity into opportunity, I consider myself a symbol of Nari Shakti, reflecting the emerging spirit of India. My story aims to inspire girls, youth, and parents to embrace challenges and turn them into stepping stones towards success. The happiness I felt knew no bounds when I received the prestigious National Sports Award, the Arjuna Award, from the President of India on January 9, 2024.

As told to Deepti Sharma

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Animal

‘Films Like ‘Animal’ Legitimise Misogyny, Normalise Violence’

Kashu Shubhamoorty, a Delhi-based lawyer, says the box office success of a film like Animal reflects the current state of our society

When I am asked about how I feel about movies such as Animal, I think of the increasing violence prevailing in our society, in India as well as in other countries. I heard someone say that Animal is the movie of the century! It is indeed painful that some people find gory violence and brazen sexism entertaining. This trend has been going on since quite some time, and we have reached a stage where such movies actually become runaway success.

Cinema such as Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Animal encourages and establishes sexual violence against women as legitimate, whereby men treat women of any age as a commodity and do not feel guilty in assaulting even a child. I remember, in an interview, famous social activist, late Kamla Bhasin, said that some of the Bollywood songs present women as a commodity. This pattern has become more apparent in movies like Animal where a woman is explicitly told that she is liked because she can bear better children. Even more surprising thing is that the woman in question here is shown to find this an attractive proposal!

In another scene, when a female character is asked to lick the shoes of the male protagonist to show her love towards him. Such misogyny also manifest in many ways in real life, and thereby lead men to expect similar, demeaning gestures from women.

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A Bobo doll experiment was conducted way back in 1961 when the world was very different. Through this experimental project, the impact of violence was studied and it was found that it can make drastic changes in the behaviour of people. In the experiment it was seen that the impact of aggressive behaviour stays as a long-term phenomenon on children.

With this example we can understand what the impact of films like Animal or Salaar would make on the behaviour of people, especially men. The study is not only applicable to children, but also applies to adults. Now, with the advent of glorified violence, which is shown in many video games, and exposure to aggressive and hyper-masculine media/movies, the impact can become much more devastating.

Dr Hyacinth Byron-Cox studied that Bandura’s Bobo Doll experiments served to successively indicate that aggression can be learned through observational means, and the behaviour observed is not only confined to real-life scenarios, but, extends to include violence exhibited anywhere in various conditions.

That a film like Animal has become mainstream cinema also reflects the current state of our society. The commercial, box office driven film industry will make only that kind of cinema which sells; they will also make cinema that is sponsored, so the basic criterion is profit.

A positive fact is that some of the recent propaganda films have failed. They have not done well commercially – which is an indicator that large sections of people cannot be totally swayed by propaganda. However, this still makes me think — why should a movie contain so much violence, while there is no meaningful content, story, script or plot, worth its name?

(The narrator is an alumna of ILS Law College, Pune, and the University of Glasgow, Scotland. She has been working in the legal field since the last 15 years)

As told to Amit Sengupta

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