This morning as I was going through the day’s newspapers what caught attention was this shocking incident coming from Haryana’s Mewat region, where a young woman was buried neck deep, in a five feet deep pit, by a village witch doctor to ‘cure her of spirits’!
The woman died after screaming and shrieking for two hours ,pleading to be rescued from that pit but nobody was allowed to help her; the witch doctor telling the onlookers that her patient was screaming because she was getting rid of the spirits in her!
Of course, this one incident wouldn’t halt the superstitions and quackery and much more raging in that region. Why? Because this region has been kept totally backward and neglected, sans any trace of modern day facilities, by the various governments. This tragic irony when it is situated barely 40 kilometres from the capital city of India, New Delhi.
I had first travelled through the Mewat belt in 1990 and last visited it in 2017. No visible signs of ‘sabka saath , sabka vikaas’ … Earlier, during the British Raj days, it was kept backward because Meo leaders had revolted against the British sarkar, which saw to it that they live in the dark ages , sans development. Now, in independent India, the Mewat region has been labelled ‘Muslim area’ or even ‘mini - Pakistan’ and kept out of the development packages. Though a great majority of Muslim populated pockets in the country have been kept sans development by the political rulers , but one of the worst hit is Haryana’s Mewat belt.
In fact, the situation has only worsened in the last four years because even the basic means to their daily survival have been snatched away by the Right Wing government in power in Haryana. Young Meos were putting up small eatery stalls along the highway to sell biryani to the truckers but with the local police hounding and arresting them on the ‘beef’ alibi, a majority of the Meos gave up on that only source of livelihood. Today, more and more Meos sit idle, jobless and penniless.
There are no prominent NGOs working in this Meo belt, even the outreach programs and schemes seem to have done little. The literacy levels are at an all time low and with that stark poverty, poor agricultural yield and disease .
This, when the young Meos are very keen to study ,eat better, get jobs. With earnestness dripping from their voice and eyes, they said that they want to be on par with the Baniyas and Rajputs of their belt but governmental schemes do not reach the Muslim population . ‘ Of course, we want to improve our lot but how? Our grandfathers and fathers didn't encourage us to study but today we want to study but how! These gram sevikas don't come to us, never tell us about any of the government programmes … just because we are poor Meos they treat us like cattle .They only go to the cluster of shopkeepers which controls the market place and the trading. And the junior rung of officers are close to the traders and bypass the Meo Muslim masses.’
A large number of villagers confirmed and stressed that they were not even aware of any outreach programmes for the rural poor by the government… that there was something for them in terms of health and educational or social welfare schemes. The majority of Meos are till date living in a hapless state of neglect and backwardness …in those dark ages!
Perhaps , their plight can be best relayed in the words of a Meo whom I had met during one of my earlier travels to the region - ‘I’m a matriculate but when it comes to jobs there are none for us .We Meos are treated shabbily by sarkari men. Many a time I have heard snide comments like 'Meo, you’re dirty and lazy!' Have you ever bothered to find out why! We also want to bathe 10 times a day, but we can't, because there's no water! Not even a drop. Is there even one canal in our parched lands? None ! This, when my forefathers did all they could do to fight the angrez. But see what is happening to us in azaad Hindustan !’
The Meos cannot expect much from the Right Wing rulers of the day but its about time that not just the well -known NGO's come forward but even the community leaders from the various states of the country. It's about time to see their plight and reach out to them.
RAJ KISHORE PASSES AWAY …LEAVING A VOID .
As news comes in of the passing away of the well- known Hindi writer and journalist, Raj Kishore , I have been thinking of my interactions with him. I had first met him in Srinagar, in the summer of 2006, during a conference on ‘Indian Federalism at Work’ hosted by the Institute of Social Sciences.
Initially he came across as an introvert but then when he spoke, he spoke on…extremely forthright and blunt and honest. He was one of those who didn’t mince words, especially whilst criticising the communal agenda of the RSS… Thereafter, we kept in touch and I liked the way he spoke ,in that delightfully un -complicated way. Few of us possess the ability to put across heavily loaded views and view points in a simple and direct way. He did exactly that and with that connected with hundreds ...Another aspect to him was that he wasn’t bothered about the worldly ways and seemed to hate the synthetic and gaudy. Always very, very simply clad in cottons, he looked comfortable and confident with the basics.
ANKIT SAXENA’s FAMILY IS INDEED EXCEPTIONAL !
If you recall this early spring, Ankit Saxena was allegedly murdered by his Muslim girlfriend’s family who were residing in the same neighbourhood , not too far from his home. Then after that brutal murder, Ankit’s family controlled their emotions and anger and didn’t come up with a single communal or provocative statement. In fact, his father, Yashpal Saxena, tried his utmost to control the communal brigades from spreading hatred and poison in and around New Delhi.
And now, last week end, Yashpal Saxena even hosted an ‘iftaar’ for over 200 persons in his home in West Delhi’s Raghubir Nagar. He has shown not just great maturity but he has also relayed that a truly good citizen is one who sees to it that the social fabric is not affected and innocents not hounded and harassed.
Yashpal Saxena and his family ought to be publicly honoured by us.