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The people of Punjab had a harrowing experience during the militancy which lasted over a decade. However, one facet of that period the old timers still remember with reluctant approval. At some stage during the prevailing anarchy, the militants had imposed on the people their own code about marriages. No more than 11 persons were allowed to be included in the baraat.

This code they enforced in a peculiar way. Generally during the marriage seasons, there was a surprise check of the vehicles carrying the baraatis. The militants, or their representatives, made the head count. If the number of baraatis exceeded 11, they first declared that those in excess of 11 should voluntarily get down. The offer was initially ignored by the baraatis. The militants then picked up arbitrarily those in excess, brought them down, stripped them of their clothes except for undergarments and ordered them to walk in that condition to their homes. The vehicle with the remaining 11 baraatis was then allowed to move on.

After the militancy was checked, life in Punjab returned to the old norm. A marriage ceremony is a near disaster in the middle and lower middle classes, particularly for the family of the girl. There is too much extravagance in the name of tradition and imaginary fear of society. In a marriage I recently attended, the number of baraatis alone was around 200 and dozens of dishes had to be prepared for over 400 persons. Besides, gold rings and other valuables for the elders of the bridegroom’s family plus the items of furniture, etc, for the bride which is the standard practice in the society. After attending the marriage, a teenager, studying to become CA, remarked that she felt like becoming a militant to control this wastage.

Now 20 village panchayats of Sangrur district have taken the initiative to restrict the profligacy in marriages. According to a report in a Punjabi newspaper, the major decisions of the panchayats are as follows:

  • There will be no ring ceremony because it is not part of our society.
  • Liquor and non-vegetarian food will not be served in the marriages.
  • The baraat will consist of not more than 31 persons including women.
  • The family of the bride will accord a simple reception to the baraat whether at their home or in a gurdwara.
  • There will be no bawdy songs nor a display of weapons at the marriage.
  • No speaker or DJ will play in loud voice after 10 PM.

The panchayats have decided to impose a fine of Rs 10,000 to Rs 51,000 on those defying the panchayat decisions. It was also decided that each of the 20 panchayats would constitute its own committee to oversee the implementation of the decisions. The panchayats also decided to take whatever measure is necessary to create awareness among the people.

It will be interesting to watch if other panchayats in other regions also frame and enforce such codes. 

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Santosh Bharti, a social activist of Damoh, has, in sheer desperation, written to the National Green Tribunal (Bhopal Bench) that he would no more appear before it. That, in a way, shows how clumsily the Tribunal has been functioning. Bharti has sent copies of his letter to the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court, among others.

Bharti has for several years been moving the Tribunal with matters of public interest such as forest felling and corruption. He has been regularly coming to Bhopal to appear before the Tribunal on scheduled dates with the evidence meticulously collected in support of his claims. What happened, in his own words: mostly the respondents don’t submit their counter affidavits/replies, then the Government lawyers seek adjournments on flimsy grounds and the Tribunal, barring one or two exceptions, promptly accepts their prayers for adjournments. The purpose of seeking these adjournments appears to be to exhaust me as I have to travel from Damoh, hundreds of kilometres away, to Bhopal at the age of 76 and the Tribunal becomes a party to their nefarious design. Moreover, I have been receiving threats to my life as the politician-bureaucrat-criminal nexus feels threatened with my complaints and the evidence that I possess. I escaped an attempt on my life on June 23, 2013 and one such attempt earlier also.

Dineshwar Sharma, Centre’s interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, reached Srinagar on November 6 on a five-day visit to the State in his quest for peace. Questions have been raised about his mission by opposition parties mainly on the ground that his domain and jurisdiction have not been clearly defined.

 

 

An observation of former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Dineshwar Sharma spotlights the contrary pulls in the Modi government on Kashmir problem. In an interview to The Hindu, he said that the ‘fear of guns has to go. There can be no solution under the shadow of the gun’.

Sharma was appointed on October 23 as a Special Representative by the Modi government to start a dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir in a bid to find a solution to the persisting problem. The announcement was made by Home Minister Rajnath Singh in pursuant to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech in which he had specifically pointed out that the Kashmir problem could not be resolved either by bullets or by abuses and that a solution could be found only by embracing them (Kashmiris). Modi’s observation was welcomed by all parties in the Valley including the moderate Hurriyat Conference.

However, two days after Rajnath Singh announced Sharma’s appointment as a Special Representative, Chief of Army Staff Bipin Rawat announced that the Army’s operations in Kashmir would continue ‘unabated’ in spite of the government’s attempt to have a dialogue with the stakeholders of the strife-torn State. Gen Rawat also said that the appointment of Dineshwar Sharma would have no impact on the Army’s activities in the Valley.

This was contrary to the Prime Minister’s promise of no bullets or abuses but embracing. Now the Modi government’s Special Representatives has specifically pointed out that the fear of guns has to go as there can be no solution under the shadow of the gun. Dineshwar Sharma may be the government’s emissary for exploring the ways to restore peace in the Valley but Gen Rawat’s threat cannot be just brushed aside inasmuch as he is supposed to enjoy full confidence of Modi. It was not the first time that he had issued a statement with political overtones; even earlier he had been issuing similar hawkish statements supposedly with the approval of Modi, or at least unchecked by him. No other Army Chief had in the past addressed press conferences and issued statements on issues which should be addressed by the political leadership. Once even a neighbouring country was constrained to ask if the Army Chief was expressing the views of the government.

A significant hint dineshwar Sharma dropped in his Hindu interview is that the present Kashmir problem started after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. He said: ‘when I became the IB chief in December 2014, Kashmir was not the problem….Kashmir became a problem during the latter part of my tenure. Though there were problems initially, we did not expect the kind of unrest that happened in 2016.’

BJP, and Narendra Modi as its leader, always viewed the Kashmiris with a suspicion and always believed that only the bullets can bring them to their senses. Ruthless suppression of trouble-makers was what was reportedly recommended by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. This apparently boomeranged and the situation in Kashmir at one point appeared to have gone beyond control. Dineshwar Sharma’s candidly expressed views on the Kashmir problem give a hope that he may try to win the trust of Kashmiris in order to find a lasting solution to the problem. But will the BJP’s 65-year-old prejudices and Modi’s apparent support to army’s not so discreet operations allow him to complete his mission?


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Outright Perilous!

An egoist as the head of the government is bad enough. An egotist is a nuisance as his constant chant of I…, I…., I….. jars on the listeners’ years. But when he loses touch with the reality and starts believing his imaginary achievements to be his real achievements, that’s outright perilous.

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