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Away from home, dreaming of freedom

Posted by chimeki on November 26, 2017

Zulfikar and Fatima, photo by Kausiki Sharma

For Fatima Siyal Shah, a Pakistani Sindhi refugee in Delhi, her husband Zulfiqar Shah is the world. “Often, I wish I could go back to my land but then I look at him and think, what he would do without me,” she says. Sitting cross-legged on a borrowed bed and assembled bedding in a small dingy room in Delhi’s Sultanpuri, she talks about missing her family in Pakistan but cannot think of going back. “My conscience doesn’t allow me to leave him,” she says.

(The article was first published in Tehelka magazine. To read the full article click here)

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भारतीय मध्यम वर्ग और पाकिस्तानी कलाकार

Posted by chimeki on October 6, 2016

पाकिस्तान में सिनेमा हॉल में भारतीय फिल्म

पाकिस्तानी सिनेमा हॉल में भारतीय फिल्म

भारत में पाकिस्तानी कलाकारों पर चल रही बहस ने एक बार फिर भारत के मध्यम वर्ग के कनफ्यूजन को सामने ला दिया है। आजादी के बाद से अब तक यह वर्ग अपनी गति को समझ पाने में नाकाम रहा है। पुरानी घड़ी के पेन्डोलम की तरह भारतीय मध्यम वर्ग दांय-बांय हिलता रहा लेकिन कहीं ठहर नहीं पाया।

उसके सपने का भारत आर्थिक रूप से संपन्न है लेकिन दूसरी ओर उसने संस्कृति के नाम एक ऐसे अलगाववादी रास्ते को पकड़ लिया है जो भारत में उपलब्ध संसाधनों को देखते हुए उसे समृद्धि की चकाचौंद दिखाने के लिए अपर्याप्त है।

वर्तमान समय में राष्ट्र की आर्थिक समृद्धि का जरिया वैश्विक व्यापार है। इसके बिना आर्थिक समृद्धि की कल्पना मात्र असंभव है। लेकिन भारतीय मध्यम वर्ग जो दुनिया का सबसे निर्धनतम मध्यम वर्ग है एक खतरनाक अलगाववादी विचारधारा की जकड़ में कैद है। धर्म आधारित राष्ट्रवाद राष्ट्रीय समृद्धि के लिए आवश्यक वैश्विक संबंधों के लिए बड़ा खतरा है और इस कारण तमान देशभक्तिीपूर्ण नारों के बावजूद यह राष्ट्रीय हित के विपरीत एक राष्ट्रघाती विचारधारा है। विश्व में जहां कहीं इसका प्रयोग हुआ वहां आर्थिक समृद्धि के पैमाने पर यह प्रयोग बुरी तरह असफल रहा। यह बात ईरान के मुल्लाओं से लेकर म्यंमार के जून्टा शासन को भी समझ आ चुकी है। लेकिन भारतीय मध्यम वर्ग अभी भी इसे अपने हित में मान कर चल रहा है।

पाकिस्तानी कलाकारों का भारतीय फिल्मों में काम करना पाकिस्तान से अधिक भारतीय अर्थतंत्र के लिए फायदेमंद है। पाकिस्तान में भारतीय फिल्मों के प्रचार के लिए इन कलाकारों का होना ज़रूरी है। उनकी बदोलत ये फिल्में पाकिस्तान में अच्छा व्यापार करती है और यह देश के फिल्म उद्योग के लिए फयदेमंद सौदा है।

अंग्रेजी समाचार पत्र इण्यिन एक्सप्रेस की एक रिपोर्ट के मुताबिक हाल पाकिस्तान में हर साल 50 के आसपास बॉलीवुड pakistan_indian_2फिल्मों का प्रदर्शन होता है। ये फिल्में करोड़ो का व्यापार करती है। पाकिस्तान, भारतीय फिल्मों का दूसरा सबसे बड़ा बाज़ार है। 2006 में लगभग 40 साल बाद पाकिस्तान ने भारतीय फिल्मों पर लगे प्रतिबंद को हटाया। आमिर खान अभिनीत ‘थ्री इडीअट’ ने पाकिस्तान में 5 करोड़ का व्यापार किया, शाहरूख खान की ‘माई नेम इज़ खान’ ने 5.25 करोड़ का और सलमान खान की फिल्म ‘बॉडीगार्ड’ ने 6 करोड़ का व्यापार किया। इसके बाद आईं तमाम फिल्मों ने भी अच्छा व्यापार किया। वर्ष 2007 में प्रतिबंध के बाद पाकिस्तान में पहली फिल्म जॉन अब्राहम की ‘गोल’ थी जो 7 स्क्रीन में दिखाई गई। बाद की ‘थ्री इडीअट’ 22 स्क्रीन में और ‘डॉन टू’ 38 स्क्रीन में।

भारतीय फिल्मों ने भी पाकिस्तान फिल्म उद्योग के विकास में महत्वपूर्ण काम किया। अच्छी फिल्मों ने दर्शकों में फिल्म देखने की आदत का विकास किया और 2006 से अब तक पाकिस्तानी फिल्म उद्योग 300 गुणा बढ़ा।

ऐसा नहीं है कि मात्र पाकिस्तानी कलाकार ही भारतीय सिनेमा में काम करते है। भारत के कई नामी सिने कलाकार भी पाकिस्तानी फिल्मों में काम पा रहे है। एक तरह से ये आदान प्रदान दोनों ही देशों के अर्थिक हित में है।

इसलिए यह आवश्यक है कि भारतीय मध्यम वर्ग अपनी आँखों में लगे धर्माधारित राष्ट्रवादी चश्में को हटा कर देश की आर्थिक उन्नती पर विचार करे क्योंकि देश की आर्थिक समृद्धि उसके हित में है। यह उसकी बढ़ती अनिश्चितता और तनाव के अंत की पहली शर्त है।

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Indian electoral results will impact on minorities in South Asia

Posted by chimeki on June 10, 2014

saarcWith Narendra Modi’s ascendance to power in India the long feared political transformation of South Asian politics is complete. South Asia today is in the grip of majoritarianism. Most of the eight SAARC countries are governed by political parties that do not have a good record of safeguarding minorities’ rights.

Only Nepal and Bangladesh can be said to be not openly aligning with their countries’ majoritarian politics, however, the change in the biggest neighbor can drift the political pendulums of these countries too to the extreme right. A situation has emerged where there is no place in the South Asian region where the rights of its minorities are not prone to tampering. This is a dangerous phenomenon in a region as diverse as South Asia.

Like a double-edged sword, in South Asia, the Modi victory in India will work two ways. In Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka fundamentalists will get further  justification for consolidation on religious lines.

In Nepal, it will boost the morale of religious chauvinists who were feeling defeated and dejected in Republic Nepal. The BJP, in the past, had openly supported the Monarchy in Nepal hence monarchists and fundamentalists will certainly try and renew channels of communication with New Delhi. Even before Narendra Modi was sworn in , voices seeking a referendum on monarchy and the declaration of Nepal as a secular country have started making noises.

Nepal had benefitted economically during the previous BJP led NDA government, and as a corollary rightist parties and godmen had enjoyed considerable clout in Nepal. During that period the RSS affiliated Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had become hyperactive in the Himalayan country. Even after King Gyanendra suspended the Nepal government on February 1 2003, VHP supremo Ashok Singhal was instrumental in giving the coup legitimate cover. In return, Gyanendra allowed the VHP to propagate its communal agenda. At the time the government of India fully supported the VHP in Nepal.  In September that year Nepal saw the first ever communal riot in the capital city of Kathmandu after 12 Nepali nationals were killed in Iraq by Islamic militants. Religious zealots attacked mosques and properties of Muslims.

Today, Nepal is passing through a very critical time. It is writing a constitution which will guide its future actions. However, religious zealots in Nepal clearly see an opportunity in the Indian election results to place obstacles in the way of efforts to establish Nepal as a secular and democratic nation.The change has already started showing. Two days after the Indian Lok Sabha results were announced the Nepal government accepted the demand of the Pashupatinath Temple priests for 17 per cent share from the income generated by special offerings in the temple. The priests had been agitating for a month for this.

Moreover, the royalist and religious forces have considerable presence in the present Constituent Assembly. The Rashtriya Prajatantra Party – Nepal and the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party have emerged as the 4th and the 6th largest parties with 37 seats in 601 member assembly. In the last Constituent Assembly together they held only eight seats.

Under Modi, the BJP may play wise by not openly supporting the disreputable monarchy but it can certainly, like the previous NDA government, use its ‘Gandhi’ Ramdev and other RSS backed affiliations to work on that direction. Ramdev enjoys a considerable popularity amongst the monarchists in Nepal. In India his Bharat Swabhiman Trust has been working with people of Nepali origin for many years. The trust has been successful in depoliticizing the Nepalese and blunting aspirations for secularism amongst them.

V.S.

(First published in the Citizen on 25 May 2014.)

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Migrant Pakistani Hindus remain in India’s twilight zone

Posted by chimeki on March 8, 2014

Photo: V.S.

Photo: V.S.

Man can forgive atrocity of any kind but take away his right to last rituals he will rebel. This is not a formulation based on theories taught in sociology classes, but the reality that has forced lacs of Hindus to leave their ancestral home in Pakistan. In rural Pakistan, dalit Hindus and the people of Bheel communities are not allowed to cremate their dead ones. They are compelled to bury them against their tradition. While government treats all citizens as equal, the social discrimination is so sharp that these people either have to follow what the majority wants from them or leave.

India and Pakistan, partitioned in 1947, are yet to learn to mind their own businesses. Atrocities meted out in one country on its minorities results in numerous repetitions in another. The lines drawn to separate them have, ironically, joined their minorities’ fate thoroughly. The narrator of the Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines rightly describes the situation as, “they had drawn their border, hoping perhaps that once they had etched their borders upon the map, the two bits of land would sail away from each other like the shifting tectonic plates of the prehistoric Gondwanaland. They discovered that they had created not a separation but there had never been a moment in the 4000-year-old history of that map when the places we know as Dhaka and Calcutta were more closely bound to each other than after they had drawn their lines”

Recently in Delhi some of Pak Hindu migrants staged a protest demanding citizenship or at least refugee status and other rights. Some of them came to India more than ten years ago. Some were just ten years then. In these years, they have grown old and adults but their fate still hangs in uncertainty.

Rajkumar moved to India from Jhol, a small town in Sanghar District of Sindh province some eight months ago. Sanghar has around 20 per cent Hindu population. His brother, who was a driver, was murdered. For months he knocked every possible door for justice or at least a hearing. After failing to secure even an assurance, he decided to leave. He says, ‘people who were arrested on his report were released within hours’. He still carries his dead brother’s photograph in his mobile. In the photo his brother is chained around the neck, suggesting signs of torture before being slit. He agreed to narrate his story provided he was not photographed. He feared for the lives of his people he left behind. A month back his younger brother too crossed the border and joined him.

Rajkumar works in a mine near Jodhpur. In Pakistan he was a farm labourer. He hopes to get at least a work permit so that he can move beyond the limits set by Indian authorities and find work in a farm.

Dinesh (name changed on request) was only ten year old when he came to India with his parents from Rahim Yar Khan, a city in Punjab province of Pakistan. He studied in a school run by the Rajasthan government and two years ago completed B.Tech. He cannot get a regular job for his status is a ‘Pakistani on pilgrimage’. Like others, he too is forced to work in a quarry. There are many like Dinesh. Educated but cannot work.

Hindu Singh Sodha, himself a migrant, has been working for more than two decades for the rights of these people. He says, ‘although people had been coming to India since the 1965-1972 but the exodus became regular after the demolition of the Babri Maszid in 1990. There are nearly eight lac Hindu migrants in India.’

Hari Ram had a dream to make his son a policeman. But an incident knocked him down from the dreamland to the rocky surface of reality. His cousin who was able to join the police was killed. Later his people were warned not to try their luck beyond the socially accepted role of farm labourers. Few days after he asked his jagirdaar for a month leave so that he could take his family for a pilgrimage in India. After 13 years of arrival he is still in India. Dinesh, B. Tech, is his son. He doesn’t ask for more than refugee status for his son so that he is excused from working in the mines.

If they thought their problems would end in India, they realized how wrong they were. India, who is hailed as a model for its refugee policy has turned a deaf ear for these people. Hindu Singh says, ‘this group is left excluded from almost all the surveys and refugee developmental plans/projects undertaken by various national and international segments in India.’ For this reason, the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants didn’t incorporate this group as migrant/refugee in India in its World Refugee report 2008.

In 2013 Government of India passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2011 which paved the way for registration of Overseas Indian Cardholders (OIC). Barring few exceptions the OIC holders can enjoys all the rights of naturalized citizens. However, the people belonging to Pakistan and Bangladesh were exempted from this amendment!

India fears that, given the current circumstances, large number of people might like to come from these two countries. However a rough calculation of the number of people who are eligible to apply for OIC comes near to 35 crores! On the one had India is ready to accommodate 35 crore people who have never seen India and on the other hand it refuses to help these people who were once a part of it.

Explaining the nature of their status, Goverdhan, a migrant, says, ‘here we don’t have votes so nobody wants to hear us. The Congress party thinks being Hindu, harassed in Pakistan, we will never vote for it. The BJP thinks, it need not do anything for we are by default their supporters! Sometimes democracy is just a calculation.

(First published in the Citizen on 27 Feb 2014. Click here to read the article as it was published)

V.S.

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