Winter is peaking here, in and around New Delhi. Those shots of my farmers sitting on the borders of this capital city, braving it out, hit hard making one feel all too upset. After all, my farmers are not asking for the moon but for a few legitimate demands. To put it in the most uncomplicated of ways - the farmers of the country are not comfortable with the three farm bills passed without any prior consultations with them, and they want those three Bills rolled back and fresh Bills to come up with the adequate and desired amendments.
The rulers of the day seem in no mood to pay heed to these demands though they do seem wary of the farmers' agitation. Minister after minister is talking in that defensive way, at times even looking nervous and rattled, throwing up the absolutely stale fare along the much too oft repeated phrases of the 'tukde tukde gang" strain!
In fact, activist Medha Patkar's and Akali Dal's Sukhbir Singh Badal's apt rebuttal and hitting response to those 'tukde tukde gang' comments was much needed.
Though every effort seems on, to cause divides but the farmers' agitation has already acquired the dimension of a large scale movement, cutting across regional and religious slots. As a farmer quipped – " Why do you think there would be no winter session of the Parliament! Simply because the BJP and allies are apprehensive facing the Opposition …These rulers are also scared facing us, that's why none of these ministers have down to meet us here, at the place where we are camping…Its only few kilometres away from their bungalows and kothis so what's the problem! Mind you, our movement is much like those traditional freedom struggle movements. After all, we are fighting for our fundamental rights in the most peaceful way."
In fact, another gentleman whose family owns acres of agricultural land, told me that the farmers of the country have already set the trend going! After all, Ambanis and Adanis are seeing the wrath of the farmers and the message getting relayed carries signs of revolt. Peaceful revolt. The farmers of the country can no longer tolerate any further disparities and discrimination and injustices! Hundreds of farmers have already died! What did they get after all those suicides! Nothing but a very bleak future for their families, where their children and spouses sit malnourished and semi- starved.
The irony hits as never before – the same farmer who feeds us is unable feed his own family!
Till about last week, Uttar Pradesh's Moradabad was known on the national and international circuit as the town famous for its traditional brass ware. It houses big fat exporters and lean thin workers and craftsmen. Men manning an entire range of the traditional Moradabadi brass ware.
From this week onwards this town of Uttar Pradesh is getting to be known as the town which houses the couple - Pinky and Rashid . They were harassed and hounded not just by several Bajrang Dal men but also by the local cops and the administration, along the 'Love Jihad' strain. The couple was also thrown about here and there – whilst Pinky was kept in a shelter home, her legally wedded husband, Rashid, was imprisoned. In fact, till the date of my filing this column, he and his brother were not set free.
Further trauma followed as Pinky maintains that she was three months pregnant but was given an injection by the sarkari doctor and thereafter there was bleeding and a miscarriage. Though the sarkar's men and women maintain that it was mere 'spotting' and no miscarriage. But Pinky sounds adamant that it was a miscarriage.
Going by the sarkari cover- ups and camouflages, I would go by PInky's statement. That is, she lost her baby, to be nearer precision she was made to abort! Why? Perhaps, because she dared to marry a Muslim!
Tell me, what democratic setup is this when a 22 year old adult woman cannot marry a man of her choice? And if she dares to do so, the State intrudes and tears the couple apart and then sees to it that many more tragedies come in the way of their living happily together .
The State flaunted divisive cum destructive strategy, the so called Love Jihad, seems the last nail in the coffin of our collective survival.
In fact, the grim reality is this - over the years Muslims find it difficult to get even a barsati or an apartment on rent in the non-Muslim residential colonies . This rather too automatically paves way for little or lesser chances of interactions between families of the two communities. It carries several offshoots. …On my first visit to Mumbai around the start of 2006, when I asked several university students whether love affairs flourished between Muslim and Hindu students, one of the students quipped, "Few meeting grounds …also , how can love flourish when each community has its own housing colonies. We don't even know what they eat or how they live! Politics even in this keeping the two communities far away from each other seems a political strategy. This way there are not just few meeting grounds, also it gets easy for rumours to get circulated and all those twisted notions of the 'other' gain ground! There is no way to find out the reality as we are made to live in tight compartments!"
And here in the capital city, New Delhi, Muslims also recounted the experiences they have faced on the housing front. "When we went looking for a place on rent we were told, 'Why don't you people shift to Pakistan or stuff yourself in one of your Muslim mohallas!'. In many places the landlords made it clear that they do not want Muslim tenants, 'No Muslims … police will be on our heads because of Muslim tenants!' "
The fact is Muslims find it difficult to get even a barsati or a room on rent. Even staunch Leftists with Muslim names and surnames have faced tough situations on the housing front. The well- known activist Safdar Hashmi 's late mother Qamar Azad Hashmi had told me during the course of an interview that two of her children could not get a house on rent in New Delhi's Rajendra Nagar.
To quote her from that interview, "The minute the landlords heard their names, they'd bluntly say that they do not rent their homes to Muslims."
Several years back, when I went to interview Justice Sachar he was in the midst of a meeting. While waiting for the meeting to be over, I started discussing with his office staff the findings of this Committee. When we came on the reality to the housing front, one of them - a young Bengali Muslim who'd recently shifted to New Delhi from Kolkata - recounted the insulting taunts he had heard, after he had found a roof over his head! "I found a first floor flat in New Delhi's Green Park and the landlord, a Sikh, rented it to me without creating any fuss about my Muslim identity. But the very next morning as I sat in the balcony and was going through a road map of the city - as I was a new here and so didn't know how to find my way around - I saw tenants residing on the second floor peering down. They went on looking towards me, saying aloud, 'See he's looking at the map of New Delhi to find where to place bombs!'"
Why didn't he lodge a complaint with the police?
He pointed out that he was at least fortunate enough to have found a place to reside in New Delhi, so kept shut and digested that insult!
Well, such are the harsh realities facing the citizens of this democracy.