Monday, September 29, 2014

The flying posture

मानिसले दुवै हातलाई उचालेर फैलाउने मुद्राले मलाई घोत्लिन बाध्य गरायो । पंछीले पखेटा फिँजाएर उडेको क्रियालाई मानिसले अनुकरण गरेको हुनसक्छ यो । पंछीको उडान स्वतन्त्रताको प्रतीक हो र मानिसको स्वभाव नै स्वतन्त्रता रुचाउने हुन्छ । धेरैजसो प्रख्यात मानिसले कुन जीव बन्न पाए हुन्थ्यो भन्ने प्रश्नको उत्तर "चरा" भनेर दिन्छन् । अनि हात फैलाउने मुद्रा त जिसस क्राइस्टको प्रसिद्ध मुद्रा भैहाल्यो । यसको आध्यात्मिक महत्त्व छुट्टै छ । क्रिस्तानी धर्ममा रहस्यमयी सन्तहरूले आफ्नो हत्केलामा क्राइस्टको दु:खलाई आत्मसात गर्दै कीलाको घाउ (स्टिगमाटा) अनुभव गर्छन् भनी परमहंस योगानन्दको आत्मकथामा उल्लेख गरिएको छ । भारतीय रहस्ययोगमा समेत सिद्ध योगीहरूले संसारलाई दुवै हात फैलाएको पुरुषका रूपमा देख्छन् भनी गोपीनाथ कविराजको कुनै पुस्तकमा पढेको थिएँ । अनि अाधुनिक युगमा हात फैलाउने मुद्रा त "टाइटानिक" फिल्मले प्रसिद्ध बनायो । जहाजको टुप्पोमा गएर नायकनायिका दुवैले सूर्यास्त हेर्दै हात फैलाएर प्रेममा लीन भएको त्यो दृश्य अत्यधिक अनुकरण गरियो फिल्महरूमै पनि, वास्तविक जिन्दगीमा पनि ।

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Rahul Pandita's "Hello Bastar"

Investigative journalist Rahul Pandita's book "Hello Bastar" provides the account of Maoist conflict in certain areas of India like Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Orissa, West Bengal and Bihar. Rahul traveled to the hinterlands of these states and interviewed Maoist leaders and guerrillas over a long period of time so his account feels authentic.
Maoist conflict started with Naxalbari uprising and it extended to other places in India. The persistent inequality, caste-based discrimination and the deprivation of Adivasis' rights to land resources have proved fertile grounds for Maoist activities.
Indian government's approach is negative in the sense that rather than fulfilling people's basic needs, it tries to suppress Maoist rebellion with brute power. This state oppression has involved even the innocent people and has inspired them to join the Maoist fold.
While Maoist tactics of physically eliminating class enemy cannot be justified, the cause they raise has to be addressed by the state. Maoists are also at fault as they accept gifts from big corporations and work against people's interests. But Maoist dream of a communist regime is a pipe dream at best.
Rahul maintains objectivity in the book although at times he seems to fall in charm of Maoists.He provides the portraits of certain Maoist leaders among whom Anuradha Ghandy stands the best. She sacrificed her life for the uplift of poor Dalits, Muslims and the proletariat, unlike our own Maoist leaders who enjoyed privileges in India while common cadres were tortured and killed here. Since Nepal too went through Maoist conflict, Nepali readers can relate with it.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Neelanjan Mukhopadhyaya's Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times

नीलान्जन मुखोपाध्यायले लेखेको नरेन्द्र मोदीको जीवनी Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times ठीकै मात्र लाग्यो । मोदीलाई खासै मन नपराउने तर खुलेर गाली गर्न पनि नसक्ने रहेछ नीलान्जन । सन्तुलित भएर लेख्न खोजेको रहेछ तर कता कता के नमिलेजस्तो । मोदीका जीवनकथा भन्दा पनि उनको राजनीतिक  उहापोहलाई देखाउन खोजेको रहेछ । मलाई त मोदी कर्मनिष्ठ र देशभक्त लागे यो जीवनी पढिसकेपछि । यिनले भारतका लागि केही गर्छन् ।

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone

Adults create war. The young are sacrificed in it. Forced into war into an early stage of life is a traumatic experience for anyone. Ismael Beah in his memoir A Long Way Gone graphically records his wartime experience in Sierra Leone and the difficulty in social rehabilitation later. The loss of innocence and its regain provides a good read although the writing was not par excellence.

Left behind (Conflict-hit children)

This appeared in Republica daily on 23 June 2014.

The process of formation of transitional justice mechanisms has finally started. The bill to form Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission of Enquiry into Enforced Disappearances has already been passed by the parliament. But the human rights community and conflict victims have rejected the bill and moved the Supreme Court for its alleged “amnesty provisions” even for serious breaches of human rights. That in itself is a problem, but importantly the apathy of the bill towards the children affected by the conflict is even more troublesome. Nowhere in the bills have the concerns of children been addressed. 

Children bore the brunt of the conflict. Many were injured after being caught in the crossfire. They suffered in the post-conflict period as well because they couldn’t recognize live explosives, to fatal consequences. Around 700 children are reported to have become casualties of landmines and other explosive devices since 2006. 
Normal growth of children was stunted by the loss of care and protection as their parents died or were displaced. Separated from their parents, children across the country have been living in child protection home. This bereavement has caused psychosocial problems. Moreover, there are reports of sexual abuses and disappearance of children during the conflict.

Data of conflict victim children have been made public by various agencies. But it is a pity that the government has no such data. According to the 2005 report of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), more than 500 children have lost their lives, approximately 40,000 were displaced, hundreds wounded, and more than 8,000 rendered orphan or separated from their families during the conflict. 

Central Child Welfare Board’s 2009 report says 19,980 children were affected by the conflict, with almost 50 percent of them displaced; 20 percent had lost either mother or father; 8 percent had lost both the parents and 671 were disabled. Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN) estimates a similar number of children as affected by the conflict. Save the Children, meanwhile, claims to have supported 24,368 conflict-hit children since 2006. These data show that the conflict had a profoundly negative impact on children.

Maoist combatants formerly residing in cantonments but disqualified as minors by the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) present a further problem. The Maoist practice of recruiting children placed many children in harm’s way. Maoist leaders kept telling the world that they hadn’t recruited any children but nearly 3,000 minors in the cantonments belied their claims. Since these children were informally released without any form of rehabilitation and reintegration package, their vulnerability has increased manifold. 

Left to themselves, these “disqualified” combatants have been facing hurdles in smooth reintegration into the society. The stolen lives of these children have left them with feelings of resentment and frustration. There is every chance of their negative energy being used by criminal elements in the society. Sierra Leone and Liberia serve as examples. There, former child soldiers were involved in substance abuse, violence and thefts. Ismael Beah’s memoir A Long Way Gone graphically records the plights of child soldiers having difficulty in reintegration. Only social rehabilitation, rather than pecuniary compensation, can guarantee their future. 

The government has made big promises for the rehabilitation and protection of children affected by the conflict. In clause 7.5.1 of Comprehensive Peace Agreement both the parties have committed to special protection of the rights of women and children. National Plan of Action for Children, Nepal 2012 published by Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare has pledged to make arrangements for clear codes of conduct related to children affected by armed conflict, and ensure their rehabilitation within families, communities or institutions. 

Nepal is also a party to Convention on the Rights of Child and its optional protocols which clearly obliges the government to protect children. However, the government has not done anything to translate these obligations into actions. Nepal Peace Trust Fund was established to address conflict-era issues and billions spent in different peace projects, but not a single rupee for the benefit of children. 

To redress these problems, the government should immediately implement its long-term plans and policies for children. Incorporating children’s concerns in the TRC could be the first step. Appropriate mechanisms for involving children in the TRC should be developed. Children who played the roles of victims and perpetrators have been subjected to traumatic events. Thus, it is imperative that a child-friendly environment be ensured through involvement of child specialists in order to avoid re-traumatization. 

Children must be an integral part of TRC process. Important information about the experiences of children should be obtained from adults, child protection agencies and others working with children.TRC should build upon and promote existing structures established by child protection agencies and other re-integration and resettlement support agencies concerning the reunification, reintegration and reconciliation of children through a community-based approach.

Monday, June 16, 2014

William Dalrymple's "The Age of Kali"

William Dalrymple's travelogue "The Age of Kali" is commendable in language and contemptible in content. The writer has a gift for the descriptive (any aspiring fiction-writer has to read him for a lesson or two) but he presents a very grim picture of the Indian subcontinent. Dalrymple visits different states in India, in Pakistan and Sri Lanka and meets with people with a cultural bias and seeks out only the negative aspects to prove his preconceived thesis of a psychologically turbulent continent (the dark Kali Yuga). He has shown apathy (at times hostility) for Hindus and Muslims (seeking out fanatics; describing Goddess Kaali in grotesque form; saying that The Koran is a boring book) and empathy for Christians (warming up to The Reunion Islanders and Goans). Nonetheless, I recommend the book.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sanjaya Baru's "The Accidental Prime Minister"

Sanjaya Baru's book on ex-PM of India Manmohan Singh, "The Accidental Prime Minister", tries to project Singh as a Shakespearean tragic hero, noble man with inherent flaws. Since Baru was the media adviser to Singh during his first term, he is privy to the intrigues in the highest echelons of Indian politics. Singh remained under the shadow of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. Baru tries to project Singh as an independent and strong PM but Singh chose to remain shy (because he had a troubled childhood) and subservient to mother-son duo (Now I understand why Modi during his election campaign cast aspersions against maa bete). Singh had a difficult time in the government because the coalition partner in leftist parties always saw him as the agent of capitalism and imperialism as he had opened up India in 1991 with advocacy of free market during his stint as the Finance Minister in Narsimha Rao cabinet. Even the left-leaning Congressmen like Pranab Mukherjee and Jayaram Ramesh and Sonia loyalists tried to sabotage the good works done by Singh. They gave credits of all good works done by Singh to Sonia and bad works to Singh. But Singh chose the route of passivity and self-abnegation (one reason maybe that he was not directly chosen by the people but was a member of Rajya Sabha, hence the sobriquet of accidental PM). This lack of strength and fatalistic "que sera, sera" attitude in Singh made Baru frustrated. Baru has used the term "teething" often in the book to describe Singh's actions, suggesting infantile Singh and Baru's role as his guardian. When Baru assumes this role of an officious guardian and jumps the gun at times, Singh admonishes him. Baru presents Singh's biggest achievement to be the nuclear deal he was able to sign with the US despite vociferous opposition from the left and the BJP. It remains to be seen how this achievement translated into easing the life of common people. After reading the book, Singh comes out as a good man surrounded by evil figures. Baru suggests that Singh should have used his political clout in choosing honest and capable people in his second term. Since he failed in doing that, his second term proved disastrous, tainted with multiple allegations of corruption. Is Baru trying to project that his absence in Singh's office during the second term caused the difference? I enjoyed reading this book.