Posts

Sabarimala: Lord Ayyappa’s vows v/s the selected ladies’ woes in “TOI Blog”

Sabarimala: Lord Ayyappa’s vows v/s the selected ladies’ woes

 

Although known for traditions existing from the most primordial times to relentlessly being carried forward, our country is also one of the unfortunate few that are embroiled in never ending legal battles. The infamous Supreme Court (SC) verdicts have a way to seep into our psyche while they remain in the society for ages, as if an antidote to tradition itself.

 

It was the decade of 1990s that the Sabarimala row became part of the social consciousness. In 1991, the Kerala High Court upheld the ban on entry of women and directed Devasom Board to implement it. Fast forward to 2019, the SC verdict only seems to make the waters murkier. Some news channels play the devotees’ pleas, requesting women to adhere to the age-old traditions, on loop. While many others run debates with the ball being bounced to and fro, and never finding a resting place in either’s court.

 

If one delves deeper into meanings accorded to meticulously followed rituals one would realize that the temple structures across South India follow a certain repertoire based on a set of beliefs. The location of a temple is chosen along the magnetic lines of the earth and it is done so to contain the energy field that the idol emits and further resonates. It goes beyond debate then that the geographical location plays a significant role in the establishment of a temple. The Garba Griha or Sanctum Sanctorum is placed with utmost precaution, keeping in mind intricate details in the course of spirituality. In particular the Sabarimala temple has a long tradition, part of which resembles the aforementioned rituals. Women in the age bracket of 15-50 years are prone to experience energy disruptions should they enter the temple premises during their menstrual period.

 

More importantly, it has come to surface that the Sabarimala temple is built in reverence to Lord Ayyappa who is believed to have taken Naishtika Brahmacharya, which translates to lifelong celibacy. For worshippers and even atheists living in India, it is no rocket science to understand that every god in the Hindu pantheon is worshipped for particular characteristics they come to portray. To call lord Ayyappa prejudiced for avowing to brahmacharya is rather polemic. As if to pacify the female devotees, Lord Ayyappa has a dozen more temples in Kerala itself.

 

The larger question here is whether the vision towards the traditions is narrow or the tradition itself? It is appalling to see women entering the temple on whims and not in adherence to a belief system in whose name they enter. Justice Indu Malhotra’s opinion needs to be specially highlighted here. As a devoted lawyer should do, she upheld the constitutional value that states ‘Secularism’ as the binding fabric of our country. She categorically mentions that if the rule of gender equality is to be applied to a certain temple, then it must have to be extended to all places of worship across every other religion and that amounts to intrusion of State in the matters of religion.

 

Hinduism encapsulates both the sacred and profane elements of religion and it is reflective in the practices that are followed by devotees religiously. It not only reveres menstrual blood which is otherwise considered profane, it also encourages worship of Goddesses such as the Kamakhya Devi temple in Assam. It is needless to argue then that the religion respects women, and menstrual blood is indeed considered sacred. The neo-feminazi debates surrounding empowerment of women are as hollow as a rotten bitter gourd. It seems a new trend has gone viral such that it leaves people bereft of common sense, prodding them to never use their mental faculties. The subtle line between fighting for equal rights and fighting against every tradition in the name of equal rights is what most transgress in ignorance. The latter is an extremist fad which contains within itself the perils of a sad demise. When one collates Sati to Sabarimala what they are essentially collating is a widespread conscience collective to a narrow traditional practice pertaining to an individual temple. While both should be open to scrutiny in an evolving society, the quest to understand the meaning should not be a biased one.

 

Lucius Annaeus Seneca quotes, “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful”. While the debate on common versus wise people is for another day, I believe the political subterfuge is surely relevant in this case. In matters of religion and faith, India has been constitutionally established as a secular country where politics and religion are not to be combined. However truth is stranger than fiction and what happens in India is undecipherable not just for the common populace but the wise as well. The Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s intrusion in the matters of Devasom board and the SC not only look ill placed but raise concerns of political mileage that the rulers earn through religious route in our country.

 

The SC verdict is eagerly awaited and the well educated folks of Kerala know how to voice dissent however it is my earnest plea to women across India to understand the subtleties that revolve our tradition and the path to empowerment. It would be quite a despondent situation if the real battle towards empowerment of women gets entangled in the quagmire of feminist fad that is far from the resemblance of fair war.

“Are we aiming for Shinkasen before we seek our civic sense?” in TOI Blogs

History repeats itself, once as tragedy then as farce. We have repeatedly witnessed farcical mishaps but are yet to recognise tragedy as an irretrievable loss. It is no surprise that people lose their lives while crossing railway tracks in India, however it is a dismal situation that years after independence we are yet to reach an understanding with the common populace. Last week, 61 people lost their lives in Amritsar on the occasion of Dussehra. A festival symbolic of triumph over evil, will now sadly be recalled as the day innocents lost their lives. It is indeed history repeating itself for Amritsar, where days of festivities are remembered years hence for tragedies. While Jallianwala Bagh incident on Baisakhi will forever be the indelible scar that the external enemy left on India; the 2018 Dussehra incident will be remembered as a scar left by the enemy within.

If we look at the classic immediate response to tragedies in our country, we can trace an impeccable chart of blame routes. It is perhaps this area that we give our best performances at. As soon as the incident caught the eye of media, the fuel to flame was set indiscriminately. From pedestrians to the train driver to parliamentarians, to the police, to the Municipal Corporation, all have faced flak. In passing the blame, no stone was left unturned. Why are we obsessed with pinning a scape-goat rather than taking responsibility? Does it take too much ego, to be apologetic for the loss of innocent lives? Perhaps we have encouraged this blame game, by taking sides as bystanders. Perhaps we have instilled this toxic culture and we abide by it religiously, every time we assign blame.
We need scrutinise this culture more closely, because this is the AmritsarAmritsarbedrock of our management abilities. We need to attend to our culture of responsibility and adaptability, before we welcome modern age developments. Maybe we need to polish our civic sense before we aim for Shinkasen. In the age of burgeoning technological advances, catastrophes of crowd management have sadly become the prime concern. From stampedes at Elphinstone, Satraganchi, crowd management becomes foremost public safety concern.

We need to look at how citizens define civic sense. It does begin and end with keeping our surroundings clean; it is also about how we use communal spaces and for what purposes.  This incident brings to light how railway tracks are used as communal spaces by many people day in and day out. Some gather here for their evening share of shenanigans, some for cutting their route short by a few steps and a couple of minutes and others simply for catching some air. The fact that they find railway tracks to suite their convenience speaks volumes about the lack of space for communal purposes in the cities. While public safety awareness must be prioritised above all, taking cognizance of citizen grievances would be the way to break free from this vicious cycle.

We could imbibe a great deal of societal goals just by looking at revolutions and their immense power to transform. The Cuban literacy campaign was one such massive success. During the year of 1961, ‘literacy brigades’ were sent out and educators were sent to train and teach the illiterate to become self sufficient in reading and writing. Post this endeavour, the national literacy rate reached to 96% almost 36% jump in one year. This tiny step to make the population literate goes a long way beyond just being able to read and write. Education and literacy are not limited to knowledge acquisition and they invariably make a person the best version of himself. We need our workers, our citizens, our parliamentarians to reach this level for the common good of all.

Let us not conspire to place the blame on one authority, one person, and one situation and satiate our need to demonise those involved in this gut wrenching accident. It would be rather more humane to register our fault lines and start working on them without much ado. The parliamentarians need to ensure safer public spaces to accommodate people. The citizens need to ensure their safety and that of others, and they need to take responsibility for their actions and instill a civic sense for their own good. As for the Municipal Corporation, this event is an eye opener, and it should be treated as a reminder for compulsory precautionary measure to avert possible damages in the future. Together we can overcome obstacles, by taking more responsibility and according less blame.

“Off to Mars; yet stuck in drains!” in TOI Blogs

The grim reality of Manual Scavenging in India

Manual scavenging continues to plague us, decade after decade; death after death. We as a country have constantly challenged ourselves to find solutions to every problem, be it miniscule or scaling the lengths and breadths of mankind. Through our innovative methods and constantly boggling minds, we have dotted ourselves on the ‘World Achievers’ map in diverse fora. However, this basic element of human societies; sanitation, has received dismal attention.

Isn’t it ironical that, from being the world’s most ancient civilisation, the first well-planned drainage system, we have today come to the point of irreversible damage? To blame our ancestor architects would be superfluous, for they led the path even when scientific discovery didn’t favour conditions to explore space. How then did we end being a generation of lackadaisical dullards, when it comes to ground level management of our existence as a society?

Manual Scavenging is perhaps this century’s worst Human Rights breach. Despite concerted efforts of scientifically and environmentally conscious people batting for human rights, change has been reluctant to manifest. Bezwada Wilson, the founder of Safai Karamchari Andolan has been campaigning for an end to Manual Scavenging and his efforts were even recognised at the international dais when he became the recipient of the Ramon Magasasay award in 2016. With this achievement, the issue gained considerable spotlight back home, yet the snail’s pace for change remains.

As recently as last month, three labourers died while manually cleaning a sewage tank in Loni, Ghaziabad due to suffocation induced by poisonous gases. While we are a developing country, struggling with rising petrol prices and obsessing over Dollar exchange rate, we can certainly pay more attention to lives lost to the inefficiency in the sanitation system. Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swach Bharat Abhiyan has taken cognizance of this crucial issue, we as citizens, entrepreneurs, and socially responsible people need to think more and do more.

We require capital investment for appropriate gear such as goggles, gumboots, waterproof gloves, and respiratory protection. Along with building toilets in rural and urban areas, we need the Swachta Mission to tackle the issue of faecal sludge management first and foremost. For a rain-fed, water-scarce country like ours, it becomes all the more relevant. However certain daunting questions remain, where do we get funds for the same? What technology is the most appropriate for a country like ours? What are some of the eco-friendly and budget-friendly ways we can adopt? Most importantly how do we reduce the waste generation, how do we become responsible stakeholders in this fight?

The government of India has often outsourced activities that it was unable to reach perfection in. Although met with resistance, cleaning of monuments has been privatised and the step is welcome if the results are in favour. A similar model in sewage treatment could perhaps clear the murk of our sanitation system. Faecal sludge management has been introduced in railways, with a concept of Biodigester toilets, designed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). In these toilets, the anaerobic disintegration of human waste through bacteria releases Methane gas which can be further re-used. This being cost-effective solution is quite appropriate and brings about a transformation in the level playing field.

Apart from the technological innovation in the drainage system and capital investment required for sanitation gear, we also need to scrutinise the aim of reaching ‘Zero Waste’. Every couple of years, Sweden makes it to the headlines for being the most advanced country when it comes to recycling and waste management. It goes extra miles, by importing waste from neighbouring countries to keep its state of art recycling plants functioning. The energy released from burning waste is then utilised in keeping its national heating network running. Such a renewable waste management approach is inspirational!

In European countries, there is a ban on landfills; hence they send the garbage to Sweden instead of paying fines. Though we have an upper limit on landfills, it almost looks like the 4 landfills of Delhi are competing with each other as to who reaches the sky first. Not only has it caused deaths due to collapsing piles of garbage but the toxic waste has been percolating into the groundwater over the years. What could be more disastrous than living in a polluted environment having nothing else to consume, but polluted food and water. The cycle is self-defeating.

Hydraulic engineering needs a revamp for most cities drainage systems, the sooner it’s done the better. Banned in 1993, manual scavenging continues to be practiced in 2018. It is about time, that manual scavenging is taken off our dictionaries, off the face of this planet. Each and every life matters and should be treated with dignity. After all, it couldn’t be more appropriate, to call cleanliness next to godliness, and losing lives in the pursuit is nothing short of a debacle.

“#MeToo: Keeping silent v/s staying woke” in TOI Blogs

Legend it that the fate of truth and lie was irrevocably met with, on one fine day.

The lie says to the truth, “It’s a marvellous day today!”

Truth looks up to the skies and sighs, for the day was really beautiful.

They spend a lot of time together, ultimately arriving beside a well.

The lie tells the truth: “The water is very nice let’s take a bath together!”

The truth tests the water and discovers that it indeed is very nice.

They undress and start bathing. Suddenly the Lie comes out of the water, puts on the clothes of truth and runs away. The furious truth comes out of the water and runs everywhere to find the lie and get her clothes back.

The world, seeing the truth naked; turns its gaze away, with contempt and rage. The poor truth returns to the well and disappears forever, hiding therein, its shame.

Since then the lie travels the world dressed as truth, satisfying the needs of the society, because the World in any case, harbours no wish at all to meet the naked truth. (excerpt taken from The Speaking Tree)

In the light of the #MeToo movement that has taken the nation by storm, truth and lie have become the two most talked of participants. Anyone who has seen Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon would understand how truth is a VIBGYOR and each colour has a story to tell. The allegations seem to be just about as complex. However, just the fear of false allegations should not hold us back, from instilling the fear of crime abetted. The crime of violating consent, misconduct, gangrapes are the most heinous and deserve to be brought to book at all costs.

Karl Marx and his sympathisers relegated women to the second or the lesser sphere and believed that in the scheme of things, women must become forbearers of this lesser sphere. They were to do their duty diligently and produce a score of children (read men) who would then go on to build an indestructible workforce or at least a Reserve Army. However convenient the explanation seemed for years gone by, women’s role in the society has transcended the sphere of being a child making factory. The new age workforce is a slap on the face of misogynistic societies. A transition is actively shaping up and therefore causing inconvenience to years of imbalanced power rhetoric. Women have come to occupy important roles in a plethora of professional spheres and are comfortably outdoing the age-old stereotypes.

The #MeToo movement is rather revolutionary as it hits the bull’s eye. For the first time in so long, more and more women are using the social media as a platform to unveil years of hidden trauma and hopelessness. We have lived in a society where the rich got away with most of the crimes, that the others had to inevitably bear the consequences of. It is ironical that it isn’t the justice system that is making people come forth and unleash their complaints, but rather social media, that has mostly been an inconvenient mirror to the society. This movement is making the society and its hierarchy of power and gender politics stand on their head.

Some men have apologised, some resigned, some are defiant and in turn have called it a reversed witch-hunt. A lot of men seem to sympathise with the alleged, calling women, sympathy seekers, drama queens and the sorts. Truth be told, these are the kind of reactions which strengthen our resolute in the fight against sexual assaults. Victim shaming has been the most played out card in history; unfortunately, it is no longer going to stub voices. The #MeToo movement has indeed given voice to the voiceless; power to the powerless.

Why is now the right time, you ask.

When an ambulance with an all-powerful siren, streams through the roads unhindered and yet reaches the hospital late, it comes under scanners. Not just the ambulance driver, traffic police, people’s civic sense, road structure, you name it and an avalanche of probabilistic reasons ascend.

Why then do we show apathy to justice delayed and often denied, when it comes to women survivors of rape and misconduct. After all, isn’t the physical, mental, and psychological health of women just as important, if not more?

Instead of questioning why women are opening up now and that too to social media, a gracious society would thank them for coming forth. However, media trials are only a channel for those who had their hands tied. Media trials do not constitute as a legal course of action.

It would be laughable to assume that these women coming out on social media are unaware of the same. It is taught in 8th standard school textbooks, that an FIR must be filed and in case it is not registered by the police, then one can approach the Magistrate. However robust our legal justice system is, as evident, it is inadequate in registering cases thus filed. The culture of inherent male chauvinism, victim shaming, abuse of power has made filing FIRs a lot more cumbersome. A responsible society must come forth to nip the issue in the bud. It begins with accepting that there is a web of entrenched issues to deal with.

The government of India has made it mandatory for every employer to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). Ministry of women and child development dedicated a portal of ‘She-Box’ where women can submit complaints. These proactive measures are certain outlets apart from filing an FIR.

It becomes all the more relevant now, to question whether it is indeed time for gender sensitisation courses to start at school level. For one, it is the role of the stakeholders to look into the crux of the problem. And we are all stakeholders in this society, parents, school teachers, social media influencers, advertisements, movies, government, corporate houses, professional office spaces, are each to follow a role set that makes them responsible citizens of the society.

Let us stop normalising errant behaviour, let us stop casually airing “Men will be Men” across TV and in everyday conversations. It is rightly said, “Spare the rod, and spoil the child” If parents and teachers do not step up and mould children right from their youth, it is likely that they would become deviant from the norms of the society. They often inculcate vices, growing up; transitioning from unchecked youth to belligerent adults.

This is a war against apathy, misogyny, chauvinism; it is not a war between men and women, it is not about Bollywood v/s Hollywood. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we become ‘Woke’. Let us all aim for ‘Justice sans Frontiers’.

“Adultery: Is the sanctity of marriage being sacrificed at the altar of equality?” in TOI Blogs

The elephant in the room is being tickled. With an influx of coming of the age issues, there is a heap of unwashed cases, piling up helplessly in a corner. The Supreme Court is doing well to chase archaic laws out of the country, but in some cases, the chase seems to be rather hasty. The repeal of Anti Adultery law is one such contention. Section 497 of the IPC is an imported concept and it so words adultery as though speaking of women as material possession and emphasising on the passivity of female sexuality, both as a matter of mere male importance and their agency alone. While the SC moves ahead to scrap the Anti Adultery law, removing it from the lenses of law itself, is a hard stance.

We welcome the nuanced analysis that seeks to undo gender inequality across all laws and especially the Anti-Adultery law. Former Chief Justice of India, Deepak Misra, is in the right to say “Husband is not the master of a woman”. The subordination of a married woman to her husband and of women to men, in general, has outlived its time. The structuring of such archaic laws are no doubt problematic, but that calls for all the more reason to amend them according to the age we live in.

Today’s society is fast progressing towards diverse avenues, hitherto untouched. What we are essentially seeing is a poor concoction of the East with the West. In Indian society since time immemorial, the way of being has been ‘collective’ as opposed to the West where the focus is on ‘individualistic’ societies.  This becomes particularly important to the various institutions that work in tandem with the basic fibre of the society.

Marriages in India are viewed as the sacred union of not just man and wife, but of their respective families. It is a rather collectivist affair and rightly affects the families involved, thereby the society as a whole. Indians are keen on preserving their culture and the unique traditions that make up their identity. Equality and faithfulness are not contradictory; they are rather complimentary in a marriage. Equality and dedication in marriage are the ingredients that give stability to the basic unit of society. The bone of contention arises when we speak of eliminating dedication from this equation. It cannot be sacrificed and shouldn’t be, and that’s why it’s called a ‘Holy Alliance’.

With marriage, present-day advances have introduced us to ‘Dating’, ‘Live-In relationships’, ‘Divorce’, and now repealing the ‘Anti Adultery law’. While most imported concepts tend to get comfortably merged, some may have far-fetched ramifications.

Marital infidelity is a delicate issue and requires much more careful examination on the part of the State. Women have been flogged and beaten to death when found to be adulterous. For men, it has been accepted in certain cases and gone unnoticed in others. These instances reflect the public view on the subject, and it must not be turned a blind eye to. While Justice Chandrachud contends that people must be free to choose their sexual choices even within marriage and that the country must be liberal and accepting of the same, there arises a moral contention herewith. In India, marriages are not viewed as mere civil contracts but rather a sacred union whose sanctity is not to be fiddled with, even in the name of liberalism. The Anti Adultery law touches on the principles of sexual autonomy, practices of the private realm, societal moral fabric and constitutional overreach. For this reason, it is a subtle link between the private and the public; the covert and the overt.

In his work titled ‘Policing families’ Jacques Danzelot makes an interesting observation, he offers an account of how public interference shaped the private realm since the 18th Century. The emphasis is on families and how they are seen as social linkages between the public and the private realm and is applicable to our cause. Head of the family have a discretionary power and act as a fulcrum for its existence, and in turn, they are dialectically responsible for the protection of the members. Therefore the state uses these important dynamics to translate into the private realm, what is essentially public in nature. This is done to ensure public order.

Two solutions emerge from his work, one is how the public and private realm converge without weaving panic across the society and secondly how the private sphere can become an active agent in not only transforming itself but also the society. When we speak of adultery, it is seen as belonging to the private realm, but if it were left to be so, ensuing chaos could spill out to the society. Repealing the law, only makes the act more conspicuous because no avenues are offered where the wrongs can be corrected, for those who so desire.

Indians are not so forgiving when the question of adultery arises, right from Panchayat diktats to the city’s moral impulse, it is considered a crime. If there is no law to condemn the same, mob rulings will become more fervent, as has already been happening in the crevices where the law could scarcely enter. The state must ensure that the sanctity of marriage is maintained with the aid of laws and provide its citizens with an outlet for their anguish. By repealing the anti-adultery law, the SC believes it is moving out of the private sphere and thereby leaving the matters of individual families up to their discretion, but that can lead to a mass hysteria as each set their own moral compass and justify their chosen way of reprimanding. Through its verdict, the SC is further confusing a lot that is getting drained in a quagmire of cultures.

The Indian culture has taken pride in its monogamous marriage setting and has been organic in its acceptance of the option of divorce for cases where fall outs are inevitable. However, let us not forget that society is built on a set of cultural practices that are revered. Stability of marriage is one of the ways in which our society learns to stand on its own feet and keep moving forward, collectively. It is therefore of utmost importance that the nuances surrounding holy matrimony are dealt with, rather than letting them blow to the wind.

Supreme court must have undergone a careful consideration of the ramifications of repealing the Anti Adultery law, for ours is a society that is emotionally charged about the moral bedrock and has taken to mob violence in areas where the law has failed to provide them with a solution.

“The Trafficking of persons (Prevention, protection, and rehabilitation) Bill: Transporting stolen lives from a hopeless present to an optimistic future” In TOI Blog

23-year-old Yazidi, Nadia Murad has been designated as the Ambassador for Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking for the UN’s Drugs and Crime body.  She is also a Nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize this year.

If humans have learned one thing from the past of their mistakes, it is to not blame the victim, but engage themselves in waging wars against the perpetrators of the crime that have subsumed their spirit.

This approach is a penetrating beam of light in a carton of doom that this world is racing to resemble.

So, is the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection, and Rehabilitation) Bill, introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi on July 2018.
The bill accords importance to creating a National Anti Trafficking Bureau for reaching even grass-root level investigation in trafficking cases.

To tackle this menace, Anti Trafficking Relief and Rehabilitation Committees (ATC) will be established in national, state and district levels, which are to take care of compensation, repatriation, and reintegration. There would be protection homes and designated courts in addition.

While critics look at it as endless bureaucratisation, let’s face it, the trafficking racket is a spider’s web that sprawls across continents and begins in the most ordinary places.

Human trafficking is an umbrella term which subsumes trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, drug smuggling, organ smuggling and often for malicious activities such as terrorism, regional violence.

About 8 children go missing every hour, 4 are sexually abused,
2 raped.

In this organised crime, millions are being oppressed at homes, shops, brothels, colluding in an illicit $150 billion trade.
In his novel called ‘A Walk Across the Sun’ Corban Addison gives a chilling account of international trafficking for sexual slavery and drug smuggling in human beings. He explains how the nexus between corrupt police officials, pimps, locals is a net spread wide to reach the international arena. Emerging through the gruesome tale is a revelation and a haunting solution; he says “Trafficking will stop when men stop buying women. Until that happens, the best we can do is win one battle at a time.”

The fight against this evil is not a recent one but the approach is renewed.

Association of Nobel laureates in this war against this crime is a reflection of the urgency, importance of agency and pro-active engagement of civil society.

Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi has been proactively engaged in the struggle against the suppression of children and young people.
In his Nobel peace prize speech, he narrates the woes of a trafficked child labourer.

“Is the world so poor that they cannot give a toy and a book, instead of forcing me to take a gun or a tool?”
Innocence has been cashed on for a donkey’s life of work.
Neither, worth the consequent despair.

However, human trafficking is not limited to kidnapping children and women for labour and sexual exploits as has been largely understood.

One of its myriad forms could be seen in the recent Rohingya refugee contention; here is the other dimension, discussed less often.

An international organisation of Migration has reported that there is evidence of trafficking of Rohingya refugees in India.

Though the media placed the moral compass on the shoulders of the government, it forgot to do its duty and bring to the surface, the fact that these very infiltrators are potential pawns. Speculation is rife that they chose Jammu for the proximity to Pakistan, a politically motivated migration. It points out to a probabilistic angle of terrorism and unnoticed crime. Media reports are unnerving, as they suggest humanitarian aid to migrants and fail to approach it with a circumstantial understanding.

Even religious places are no longer a safe haven.
With Missionaries and orphanages selling children, the age of doom is here.

It is not to malign religious institutions but to chide the clandestine activities that they carry forward under the cloak of benevolence.

Largely, it is the poor, underprivileged, under-informed, naïve who are unfortunate victims of trafficking.

With Government’s policies such as Ujjwala, Swadhar Greh, Juvenile Justice Act 2002, Code of Criminal procedure the issue of rehabilitation is well met.

Another innovation brought in by the government, the Aadhar card could be an effective move, as it keeps records of all the adults and children who are citizens of the country. Although there are hurdles in information storage and execution, these are more like teething problems.

If only people focus on the potential benefits more than minor inconveniences, the issues plaguing humanity can be addressed in a rightful way.

Trafficking is a crime against humanity. The war is to be collectively waged.

With this bill, there is hope that awareness will beget change.
This battle cannot, however, be won by the solitary action of the government.

It requires the sympathy of media, proactive involvement by civil society, and victims must come to the forefront.

Citizens must be welcoming to changes in the legal system.
Someone rightly said, to do nothing would be to die one day at a time.

“Which colour is your violence? Scrutinising mob lynching in India through transparent glasses” in TOI Blog

One’s heart bleeds for the loss of life, whether it belongs to one religion or the other, one caste or the other.

The incidents of mob lynching are as painful as stabbing a dagger in the heart of the country. The attacks to which several lives have succumbed are deeply condemned.

India has sadly witnessed mob violence since its inception and yet it takes on a different kind of podium today; one where it is not just about religious differences as used to be the case, post partition, but increasingly about the involvement of agencies that orchestrate moral sensitivities of the society.

It is deeply perturbing that one’s bereavement is cashed upon by certain people for political mileage.

Pratik Sinha of Alt news adds an interesting perspective to the new age WhatsApp driven mob violence, he says , “Suddenly people from the rural areas in particular are inundated with information and are unable to distinguish from what is real and what is not. They tend to believe whatever is sent to them.” The nature of trigger has changed over time and so has the indulgence of Opposition parties.

Media has been playing the blame game back and forth and waiting for the ball in the court to be coloured by the accusations launched by one party against another. It is a strong tactic for prime time and TRP but a heartless one indeed.

With no sufficient proof, with a severely deficient background check, and a largely biased lobby, how can one expect the truth to be delivered, the way it is.

It is quite unsettling that the news reports have been relaying Hindu religious fundamentalism like a parrot lured with red chillies. The victims of mob lynching are always shown as wearing the green garb while the perpetrators of crime, an orange one.

Why are so many attacks on Hindus dusted under the carpet?

Killing of Hindu devotees at Akshradham temple of Gandhinagar, temples of Jammu and Kashmir , Godhra have been called as acts of mere terrorism and it has been categorically stated time and again that terrorism has no religion.

However hooliganism has religious back support?

When Muslims are killed, they are viewed as minority, when Hindus are killed it is mere behavioural condemnation with suddenly no weightage given to religion? When a Muslim is killed, the murderer is naturally presumed to be given shelter and shade of RSS propaganda, even though no report, no statistics can verify it.

Where Islam is guarded against, Hinduism is not?

Such divisive treatment is the root cause of perpetuating violence.
The point of this argument is not to portray Hindus as victims but rather to show that the acts of hate crime need to be viewed with a zeal for justice for individual lives, not with a politically tarnished religious lobby.

Furthermore, the term ‘Cow vigilantism’ is being used as sensitive bait where the dialogue between two religions can be made into a political strife and be used in divisive voting.

The opposition parties seem to want to hit two birds with one stone with the issue of cow slaughter as they wage wars between the sensitivities of Dalits and lower caste men and Muslims as opposed to Hindus.

Yogi Adityanath made a clear speech where he stated that the people’s lives are important and so are the cows. This was misinterpreted and misquoted as cows being more important than people and hence once again paid media sowed the seeds for hate and hate induced crime.

Some went on to put words in his mouth and make his concern look like apathy towards loss of life. If anything, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh has acted as a law abiding minister and only banned illegal slaughterhouses. Why, is not the protection of cows a mandate of the Directive Principles of State Policy, Article 48?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has condemned the self styled cow vigilantes and also brought to the surface how these are anti social elements, playing the gossip mongers, hate spreaders, pulling wool over the eyes of innocent people.

It is in the keeping with the issue of circulation of false news and politically motivated messages that the Government has decided to revamp the structure.

As observed, fake news in India travels extensively through Apps such as ‘Whatsapp’ and these become the fulcrum of mob violence.

A four-member committee headed by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba has been constituted to tender suggestions to deal with the issue of mob lynching. Recommendations will be submitted to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and further on to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The selective screening of issues is another of the dirty tricks employed by paid media. Why does the news of BJP workers being killed by TMC in West Bengal only get a one day, one para coverage?

A certain nexus of the opposition parties wants to oust the party in power by using these diabolic narratives.

It is also uncanny that such controversies always seem to crop up right around the elections.

Is the life of a party person less valuable than a socially religious person? What a low move to kill the party workers because they have performed well in Panchayat polls. However, the loss of life is condemned less here because well, there are no religious signs to play with?

If violence has a colour it’s not green or orange, it’s red, it’s blue back.

We condemn violence, we condemn death, we condemn cheap tricks that infest upon the wounds of the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters of our nation.

“Missionaries: A new age Trojan horse tactic?” in TOI Blog

In a poignant upturn of events, what was seen as a messiah of justice and harbinger of reform has been concealing a dark truth.

Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation established by Mother Teresa in 1950 have been embroiled in unfortunate events. Although established with aim to aid the aged, mentally ill, unmarried mothers, sick abandoned children that are often left to fend for themselves, the functioning of missionaries has rather become inconspicuous.

India is a land of virtues, of religious ethics that guide the daily lives of millions. The Hindu societal fabric vows to the concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ wherein, the emphasis is laid on two factors of primary importance, the ‘World’ and the ‘Family’ An immense amount of significance is catered to the familial values and the binding glue is that of motherly love, fatherly protection. Yet tales of those that are deprived of this core value are blemished with controversies that are beyond their own understanding.

Children are considered to be the universal epitome of love and yet in these homes where they are promised a better future, their lives lead an uncertain trajectory.

Due to corruption of agencies and mechanisation of the modern day institutions, a great deal of ethics has been lost to the wind. At these homes where unmarried pregnant women are given shelter, and newborn children a ray of hope, a topsy turvy administration has paved way to child trafficking.

Unmarried mothers are given the option to either take their children with them or leave them in the charity houses.

However, the missionaries are to follow a strict protocol and maintain a registry of the babies thus born.

It is rather upsetting that such institutions with the endeavour to save lives are themselves not immune from contemporary social evils.

The matter came to light when a couple in Ranchi approached the Child welfare committee, complaining that after having spent a sum of 1.2 lakh, the staff that promised to deliver the baby didn’t stick to their word. Naïve as they seemed to be about the formal procedure of adoption, or maybe they were circumventing laws of adoption, owing to the misfortune of its inconvenience and delay through the legal route, the matter is yet to be probed.

Sister Koshlenia and staffer Anima Indwar of Nirmal Hriday have been arrested. Unsettling confessions were made during the interrogation, which revealed that about 4 babies had been sold. It’s a bleak day for humanity, as the pious and seemingly self righteous have committed an unforgivable sin.

The Child welfare committee has issued instructions that all state governments must inspect Missionaries of Charities immediately. 12 centres of congregation in the state are under scrutiny.

Apart from the blatant violation of protecting the children, the Missioners are under the scanner for a probable violation of the FCRA Act (Foreign contribution regulation act)

As missionaries receive a score of foreign funds, it is probed whether these funds have been misappropriated for godforsaken reasons.

The unfortunate malfeasance brings to surface twin issues.
While child trafficking has been cemented in the constitution as a punishable offence, adoption certainly needs an overhaul.

In India in order to adopt, one has to go through an entangled web of civil courts and family courts and painstakingly long procedure, which may at times take up to years. It has lead to wretched consequences such as illegal adoptions, sex racket, child trafficking.

Although rules and regulations have been set in place, the bone of contention remains implementation of these regulations and the need to take cognizance of the loopholes.

According to the law, childcare institutions must be registered and linked to the federal adoption authority, CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority) CARA is ttatutory under ministry of women and child development. It is the nodal body to monitor and regulate in country adoptions.

In December, the Supreme Court ordered mandatory registration and since then 2300 Childcare institutions have been linked to CARA. As many as 4000 are still pending.

Juvenile Justice (JJ) law mandates that the courts have to dispose off adoption cases within 2 months from the date of filing of application, although it seldom happens.

The ministry of women and child development has proposed to amend the Juvenile Justice care and protection of children act 2015 It suggests to incorporate a clause to allow courts of DM to pass the adoption order, as DM is the on the ground implementing agency
Verification of prospective parents is done by the Child welfare committee which come under the DM

Thereby enhancing efficiency and reducing time.

An inter ministerial panel headed by the External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj has cleared the proposal. This is likely to unburden the Civil courts, fast-track the adoption process and in due course make it crime an improbable occurrence.

While a lot more murk needs to be clear, the urgency of the situation cannot be overseen.

The children of our country, the future of our nation deserve first class treatment. What better place to begin than here.

Before their dreams are shattered and hope smeared with vile blood, before their throats strangled and lives discoloured with ghastly truth, we must rise and live through our motto, make the ‘World’ a ‘Family’ indeed.

“Female Genital Mutilation: A millennial crime” in TOI Blog

It is commonplace knowledge that Islam preaches circumcision, a form of male genital mutilation as a tenet and a sacrament of Islamic practices however little do people know about the equally practiced female genital mutilation.

Under the garb of sacrosanct religious diktats, the Dawoodi Bohra community is obstinate to continue the sublime horror of FGM (Female Genital mutilation) The Bohra high priest vehemently favours this custom, rendering religious justification for its continuation.

While in the West, actresses such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lawrence, Uma Thurman have actively engaged in the campaign ‘Me too’ A movement against sexual harassment and assault.

India is rather taking a snail’s pace in the domain. However, Actress Nusrat Bharucha (Pyar ka panchnama actress) who belongs to the Bohra community and whose mother had undergone FGM has filed a petition and speaks vociferously against the custom.

Also known as ‘Haraam ki boti’ in native parlance, it translates to ‘the source of sin’ thereby validating the removal of ‘unwanted skin’.
It is believed that partial or total removal of the external female genitalia will enable individual hygiene, coupled with societal stabilization through controlled female sexual act.

Clitoral mutilation is carried out in these communities, between infancy and adolescence. But the more odious part is that it is carried out by untrained midwives and self-proclaimed experts from amongst the elders in the community.

The usage of instruments such as common knives and blades point out to medical apathy. Looming large over dismal medical procedure is the aftermath of extreme pain, continual bleeding and infections, probable cyst formation, sexual disorders. And it doesn’t stop at that, in severe cases it could lead to childbirth complications, worst comes to worst, even death.

It is presumed to take away excessive libido, prevent unpleasant odor, and ironically reduce urinary infection. However there are no medical records to ascertain this claim, much to the contrary, World Health Organization (WHO) along with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) issued a joint statement against the FGM in 1997.

In December 2012, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) came up with a resolution to eliminate FGM from the world. It has designated 6th February as the international day for Zero tolerance for FGM.

The sentiment is echoed by United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child (UNCRC) and the UN universal declaration of human rights, of which India is a signatory.

In the international arena, FGM is practiced in places such as Africa, South America and the Middle East. In the present day it has been banned in as far as 27 African countries, America, England, France and the general fervor seems to grow.

Closer home, a PIL has been filed, intervention applications are sprouting in the Supreme Court.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud has taken cognizance of the clandestine act and regarded it to be a violation of the bodily integrity of the girl child. It was pointed out, why should anyone have the authority to access a girl’s private part, even if it is in the name of faith.

When the SC ascertained its stand, deeming it unacceptable, Congress politician and lawyer for the Bohra community, Abhishek Manu Singhvi claimed that the practice is a thousand year old custom, adding on he said that since only a small section of the foreskin is removed, women do not face any complications and it is not any different from male circumcision. He backed the argument with the Right to religious freedom under article 25 as a basic fundamental right.

Central government’s attorney general K. K. Venugopal threw light upon the difference in FGM and MGM stating as a matter of fact that while the MGM may have benefits however the FGM must be out and out banned, not only is it futile, in most cases it leads to further irreversible complications.

Early in 2016, about 50 FGM survivors launched a month-long campaign in Mumbai ‘Each one reach one’ where experiences and accounts of unfortunate victims are shared on the online portal by women across the world.

A number of women have come forward to show their displeasure and cry out against the nefarious act.

Since most of the victims are minors due to the age frame within which the act is conducted, it is also a violation of the POCSO act.

Earlier this year in February came out the first qualitative study on FGM titled ‘The clitoralhood – a contested sight’ released by Masooma Ranalvi whose network ‘We Speak Out’ is the largest survivor-led movement to end female circumcision.

Statistics that stand testimony to the abhorrent practice revealed that near about 75% of all daughters of the study sample were subjected to FGM, 97% remembered the pain inflicted on them, 33% categorically pointed out that the painful memory remained with them much after they grew up.

As there are 2 sides to one coin, so there exists a fraction of women in the community The Dawoodi Bohra Women’s association which is crying foul against the elimination of the practice.

It is noteworthy however that some women of the community have joined hands in fighting against Triple Talaq, Nikah halala, Polygamy, FGM. But the apathy of politicization of atrocities is a matter of concern. Orthodox members of the Muslim community have made it their manifesto to keep every wrong act alive. And those vouching for Muslim votes are favoring even these wrongs.

The SC verdict is eagerly awaited; however a greater challenge than the SC verdict is societal acceptance.

In order to see real changes manifest in the society, it is the people’s understanding of human rights, scientific hygiene standards and adjustment of moral compass that need to take the front seat. And bigger than that is the victims’ bravery for they alone have to fight out against the atrocities they are subjected to. They alone need to recognize their rights and fight for them.

“Tuticorin Protests: What would you do?” in TOI Blog

The hullabaloo in Tuticorin district, Tamil Nadu, concerns the Sterlite Copper Plant. The plan was to expand Sterlite and increase its capacity to produce copper. When locals of Tuticorin came to know about this news they gathered in thousands to protest the expansion. These protestors claimed that the Sterlite Plant was a major pollutant and they feared pollution levels would increase. To make matters worse, these protestors turned into a mob. The outcome of this mob’s erratic behaviour is that Sterlite has been shut down, and law enforcers declared criminals. As always, Modi and his government is blamed by opposition parties. As always, the RSS is pinpointed. As always, the unsuspecting viewer sees a situation go from bad to worse and isn’t able to discern why.

Up till now, Sterlite annually produced 4 Lakh tonnes of copper, after expansion, it would be a whopping 8 Lakh tonnes of copper annually. Most of India’s copper needs would have been fulfilled nationally, and we wouldn’t need to import, perhaps India could even begin exporting copper. This project would have made India self-sustainable and was in line with Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. Unfortunately, the word ‘development’ in India has been equated to an uncharacteristic behaviour in a selfish person. Development is not selfish if it benefits the country.

To follow ‘Make in India’ is nothing different from the economic plans of China, Israel, North Korea, and the Middle-East. It’s an effort towards self-sufficiency and protecting our economic needs. We are proud of India’s rapidly growing economy and our path to becoming a financially rich country, but countries at the top fear being dethroned. Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign is an effort to ensure that we will not remain a third world country, that we can keep funding our defence institutions so that our nation can prosper safely.

A major point highlighted in the Tuticorin protest was that the police fired shots and some people were killed. That is true, people did die, it should not have happened. But what forced our law defending policemen to pull the trigger?

There were thousands of protestors compared to the couple of hundred police personnel. These protestors turned into a violent mob that abused people and damaged public property. According to hundreds of eye-witnesses, the mob chased policemen while pelting stones and beating them up with lathis. This same mob overturned vehicles and set them ablaze, buildings were put on fire, ambulances that save lives were destroyed. The clothes of female officers and were molested by many men. Tuticorin would have been decimated if the police would not have taken charge.

Tamil Nadu is extremely familiar with creating hiccups in growing projects. The districts of Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and Kanyakumari have faced the greatest opposition to national development plans. Churches have a history of leading protests in these three districts, which unsurprisingly also have the highest number of Christians. Before Tuticorin, India’s largest nuclear plant in India, Kundankulam Nuclear Power Project, saw many uprisings. This was during the Manmohan Singh government, and he publicly blamed US-funded institutions for the protests. Then Union Minister V Narayanasamy alleged that Bishop Yavon Ambrose of Tuticorin received Rs. 54 Crores to fund the protests against Kundankulam. The Home Secretary announced that bank accounts of four NGOs were sealed, as money was transferred from overseas to fund national protests and incite disruption. The Tuticorin protest also has foreign influence. Samarendra Das of ‘Foil Vedanta Group’ flew in from London and secretly met Sterlite protesters, he assured them complete support to continue the protests. After the protests in Tuticorin, the London parliament motioned for Vedanta Group (parent company of Sterlite) to be removed from the London Stock Exchange.

When it comes to the repeatedly raised issue of toxicity and Sterlite being a major pollutant, science should back all claims. The scientists of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and National Green Tribunal (NGT) had visited Sterlite and certified that emissions were within the prescribed limits. Yet without any scientific backing Brother Mohan C. Lazarus posted a YouTube video claiming Sterlite is a toxic factory. He stated that a protest will be held on March 24, 2018, in Rajaji Park Tuticorin, where all the Catholics, Pentecosts, Church of South India (CSI) will unite to participate against Sterlite. Christians have a rich history of debunking science, the Sterlite protest is just another name on the list.

Despite knowing the source of the protests, opposition parties, especially Congressmen and Communists, blamed the Central Government. These leaders took to social media and declared that Prime Minister Modi is a murderer, which is a shameful strategy to sway future voters. Congress President Rahul Gandhi decided to up his game on the ‘Modi murderer’ tangent and looped in the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) for causing this protest. Rahul Gandhi’s favourite political tactic is to always blame the RSS. He blamed the RSS within half an hour of prominent journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder. Apparently, prominent leaders do not know what proof, evidence and reasonable deduction are. These prominent leaders especially do not understand the putrid nature of furthering political agendas while standing on the graves of the dead. Rahul is adamant about proving that the RSS is a terrorist organization. As a country that is led by the Constitution of India and defined by the term ‘secularism’ the stance held on the RSS is diabolical. Supporting the RSS is termed as ‘communalism’ and supporting Mosques and Churches is labelled ‘secularism’.

“Kathua Rape Case” in TOI Blog

It is illegal to reveal the name, address, religion, and face of a crime victim. The 8-year-old girl who was kidnapped, gang-raped and murdered in Kathua hasn’t been paid adequate respect after her death. Her face was photographed in high definition, the crime scene easily traced, her name revealed and spread like wildfire by a select category of the media, and her religion is the center of a whirlwind unrelated controversy.

An eight-year-old, who did not know the centuries old dilemma between Hindus and Muslims, the decades ago division of land between Pakistan and India, has been embroiled postmortem in a debacle viewed globally. How is this a march towards justice? How is the rape of a child the voice of politicians, religion-men, and the displayers of false curtsy?

It seems as if we have learned nothing from the Nirbhaya case, the proclaimed daughter of our nation. The laws and amendments that were created in her name, the surge of pain that we felt for a victim of a heinous crime has dispelled. Now we are left with remnants of desire for seeing a crime reach a justifiable end, to provide solace, to create fear and panic in attempts at criminality. We have now reached a place where we demand action yet do not pause to ponder the immense pain, trauma, and burden the girl and her family has felt.

Our desire for justice has weakened as our need for finding out ‘why’ the crime has happened has surpassed the basic human instinct of pain and empathy. ‘Why’ was the girl raped? ‘Why’ did these men commit such a crime? ‘Why’ does not matter, whether or not the dispute was regarding land or religion doesn’t matter. Simply put, a child was raped. The act of rape is hidden behind the justification for defining a greater purpose. Rape isn’t justifiable.

Rape has no ulterior motive. Rape is a despicable action, a rapist dominates and feels ownership of a body that is not his own. Rape makes the rapist feel powerful, and it has nothing to do with religion or land. Rape is a crime against an innocent person. Creating a back-story to this heinous crime is a distraction; repeatedly giving life to a traumatic event with distorted perspectives is what a select category of media is feeding on.

Cultivation theory is one of the top three theories regarding the psychology of people created by mass media. The hypothesis of this theory is that people tend to believe whatever is shown on the news. News channels target audiences that enjoy chest-thumping, hollering, aggressive anchors that are a medium of everyday personal frustration.

The louder, meaner, aggressive, rude an anchor is, the more negative the news and vivid the back-story, the greater the negativity bias of the viewer. We humans are naturally attracted towards negative news than positive, it gives us a thrill and keeps us engaged. There are so many cases of rape, molestation and murder that are flashed on the television screen as ‘breaking news’, spread throughout a newspaper or displayed on digital media.

A bombardment of despicable news continuously makes the viewers feel fear of the real world, creating a mean world syndrome, the belief that the crime rates are higher than they actually are. Finally it leads to moral panic, fear that some evil community threatens the well-being of society. Moral panic is the end goal created by mass media. Moral panic is what has been created in the Kathua case.
The media has been given the right to influence our minds, swaying us in a direction they deem fit.

Out of all the rape cases, child molestation cases, they choose one and hone into it. The more gruesome the details and bigger the conspiracy, elaborate thickening of a plot, the more we are fed this impunity.

We, the public of India, have created a gloomy and depressive media, we have created our own moral panic. We have done this by supporting the media to speculate and debate about situations we have no first-hand knowledge about, it gives us something spicy to discuss at a gathering and flaunt our pseudo-intellect. Events have become distorted, news is broadcast selectively, and we are washed away in the moral dilemma rather than the judicial accuracy of a case.

The millions of people watching television at home have created a storyline based on a victim they don’t know; we have passed judgment on criminals that may or may not be guilty but are pronounced so before they reach court, about corruption and politics of which we have no primary sources.

We have become armchair auditors, political scientists, communal experts, doctors, activists; but we fail to step out of our homely abode to provide tangible and resourceful help. We have collectively created a convoluted reality and are the fuel to the fire started by the media, we have made ourselves helpless through inaction and are willing fools.

The Kathua case is trending on social media, and many people have stated that they are ashamed to be an Indian, or a Hindu, or part of a specific community or religion.

Selected cases of our nation have been showcased in foreign nations where we scream from the top of our lungs, “this is because of communal violence and we are ashamed to be called Indians!” Many lay citizens follow suit like sheep to a herder, but has anybody paused to see the statistic of rape in India compared to the rest of the world? Our activists have gone to the U.S. and U.K. to cry foul, they have cried foul in front of nations that are in the top 10 rape countries of the world.

Ours is a third world nation, with centuries of oppression, still reeling from colonialism, falsely created discriminatory hate, extreme illiteracy, and dominant patriarchal oppression. Yet the West is touted to be modern, educated, well-bred Caucasians that are the ‘saviors’ of the world, our World Powers, why then are the superior race in the top five list of rape crimes? Why is India a country to be ashamed of? Is it so hard to see that rape isn’t affiliated to the boundaries of land created by humans, or based on the color of your skin?

It is pervasive, it resides in all classes as seen in the #MeToo global campaign, rape happens to children and adults alike, by strangers and trusted people of the victim. So let’s put this mess into context: rapists are self-motivated degenerates and should not define a culture, religion, gender, or nation.

“Being Sridevi: An abundance of love, humility & self-sacrifice” in TOI Blogs

India’s first female superstar and Padma Shri Awardee, Sridevi, has been cremated with state honours.

Wrapped in the Tricolor, in a hearse draped with garlands, she was given a gun salute before her last journey. Thousands of mourners clamored to catch a last glimpse of the country’s most powerful actress, a heroine who ensnared watchers of the silver screen with her enamoring presence, often times overshadowing her male counterpart.

The untimely demise of a woman who carried such power came as a shock to all, especially with the twists and turns of the various autopsies creating a shroud of mystery. The news of her death first came as a shock and was defined as a sudden heart attack, later revealed that there was a certain amount of alcohol content in her blood, finally with Dubai authorities stating that her death was due to drowning as she fell unconscious. How all these scenarios intertwine is still a mystery, but the final report is yet to be divulged to the public.

None the less, news of her sudden death has put the nation into a frenzy, and as sketchy as it all looks it would be good for the government to step in and hamper another label of ‘mystery death’. There are too many national heroes, superstars, and well-acclaimed individuals from journalists, to ministers whose death is questionable.

Stories regarding Sridevi’s rather tumultuous life are hitting the headlines. With Ram Gopal Verma’s letter to Sridevi’s fans he has revealed the great sadness behind the ever-smiling face. Sridevi started acting from the tender age of 4 years, her career spanned the course of 50 years. As she kept climbing the ladder of success her personal life was disintegrating. Actors were paid a bulk of their money in black, Sridevi’s father trusted friends and relatives with that money.

After her father’s demise she lost a huge chunk of her hard earned money, and was reared by her overprotective mother. Her mother had invested in a series of bad real estates, leading to more loss. In the 1990’s Sridevi’s mother had a brain tumor, but the surgery was botched leading to damaged brain function. In the midst Srilatha, Sridevi’s sister eloped with her neighbor. Sridevi’s mother signed a will putting the remaining assets in Sridevi’s name, but Srilatha filed a case stating that their mother wasn’t in the right frame of mind to make a sound decision.

When Sridevi finally met Boney Kapoor they were both broke, they fell in love but Boney Kapoor was married. Sridevi was called a ‘home wrecker’ and punched in the stomach by Boney Kapoor’s mother. Many actors and personalities of the industry have come forward and said that Sridevi was unhappy, that she had a miserable personal life, but the one place she was at peace is in front of the camera.

Sridevi was one of the highest paid Bollywood Actress in the 1990’s, at times paid more than her male costars. She is the one and only actress who was capable of huge box office success without the support of a male hero, in fact she would overshadow her male costars and many actors would fear working with her. In the movie ‘Khuda Gawah’ Sridevi managed to overshadow fellow superstar and now King of Bollywood Amitabh Bachchan.

After an 8 year sabbatical she made her return with the movie ‘English Vinglish’ which according to Komal Nahta is “the best comeback in Bollywood history”. Established as a formidable actress on-screen with versatile roles each time she did a movie, Sridevi was a shy and humble person off-screen. In her last advertisement she created a homely feel on set, she was keen on being punctual, and didn’t have the ‘star tantrum’ that are usually heard of in celebrities. Her passion and love for acting reflected with the ease she would perform.

Two decades of her life she has spent as the wife of Boney Kapoor and the mother of Jhanvi and Khushi, her daughters. She let her rising career take a step back and placed her family in the forefront, even after her experience with her family she gave all her love to her husband and daughters. Frequently the family was seen together, often times she was seen holding her daughters hands and promoting them for upcoming movies. At the core of her being she was a woman with abundant love, self-sacrificing and humble. Let us remember Sridevi not for the manner of her untimely demise, but for the beauty she shared with her devoted fans.