Thought Box



by HUMRA QURAISHI March 9 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 45 secs

Humra Quraishi dwells on two disturbing reports dominating the news - about the demolition of Wakeel Hassan’s home and about the young Indian men trapped in Russia, compelled to fight in a war.

In the latest round of the bulldozing spree, the home of Wakeel Hassan in Delhi’s Khajuri Khas locality has also been demolished. Yes, he’s the man who along with his team saved the lives of the trapped miners in Uttarakhand.

Today, along with his family he is on the streets and without shelter. One can imagine his anger at the treatment meted out to his family and him. Only when ordinary citizens raised a hue and cry to point out that the man was one among those who saved the trapped miners, that the authorities offered him alternative shelter - which he has rightfully refused. It’s a matter of his home he built over years with his hard earned money. And, with school going children to look after, why the hell should he be dislocated?

It isn’t a matter of only one person, but of hundreds who found themselves standing outside their demolished homes, staring at nothingness. Ruined are the lives of these men, women and their children. One is provoked enough to question: where are all those who harp about the safety of girls and women? Don’t they know that with homes demolished, entire families are forced to live without a roof over their heads? That they are made vulnerable?

Even if the demolitions are carried out because the structures were built on unauthorized lands, one needs to ask: Who gave the initial go-ahead? Who are the people, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, a part of this unholy nexus? Is there no other civilized way…measure, to ensure that innocent citizens are not uprooted in such a ruthless manner?

And, when school sheds and madrasas are demolished, it is the end of the road for the education of the children of the most needy among us. Can’t alternative buildings be offered before the structures are brought down so that the learning process is not disrupted for the children of a lesser God?

The news of young Indian men trapped in Russia, compelled to fight in the ongoing war there is disturbing, as much as Wakeel Hassan’s. Reports of the first Indian mercenary death of a 30-year-old man, Mohammed Asfan, from Hyderabad, has been confirmed by the Indian Embassy in Moscow, which said it was trying to get his remains transferred to his hometown.

Unconfirmed reports of another 23-year-old Indian getting killed in a drone attack on a Russian army formation in Donetsk are also floating around. According to the reports, the killed youngster, Hemil Ashvinbhai Mangukiya, was from Surat in Gujarat and died on February 21. There is no official confirmation about the death. There are also reports of 18 youth from Telangana duped by travel agents into fighting for Russia in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

It's bizarre how young men from Haryana and Punjab who went to Russia to celebrate the new year, have also been taken hostage. As per reports coming in, they arrived in Russia on December 27 to celebrate the New Year and were guided by someone who offered to take them to Belarus. To quote one of the men: “We were not aware we needed a visa. When we reached Belarus, the agent demanded more money and then abandoned us. The police caught us and handed us over to the Russian authorities who made us sign some documents.”  

What happens to our citizens heading to Israel to earn their daily bread? Worries surmount for them as well, in the backdrop of such news reports and the ongoing war in the region. Their logic for undertaking the risk-ridden journey is simple: Here in their own country they were promised jobs but without jobs they were starving, so where was the option for them but to travel out in search of survival?

I’ve been reading the New Delhi based writer-poet Seeme Qasim’s verse from her recently launched book – ‘Corona And Gulmohars’. A catchy cover design by her opens to a diverse range of verse, which only a sensitive observant poet could, perhaps, portray so spontaneously.

She writes in the preface to her book, “This book first began with poems written sporadically. I jotted them down as they came to me – on napkins in cafes, in the waiting rooms of doctors and functionaries. Some were keyed into my mobile, others were developed from outline fragments. Many were written on my walks. I did not seek them, they happened. Especially during the intense summer of Delhi, where I live, I wrote about love, memory, health issues, fear, pain, and nostalgia…”

I’m leaving you with this verse from her latest book:

“All around there are reminders /All around /there are reminders /of what will come. /Like the beads of sweat /on the faces of jaded men /staring glassily, waiting for the night /to appear. /Or that corner /near the flaking pillar/where patient bronze /sentinels stand /in solitude /on the edge of a wall /decked with marigold. /Or on pitted footpaths, /on road dividers /where sad bundles are left overnight /by the homeless, /minded by smiling politicians /from huge hoardings /above. /Why does all this /make me long /for your hands, /voices /and the moon?”  

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