Thought Box



by HUMRA QURAISHI January 26 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins, 47 secs

Humra Quraishi looks at the events taking place in recent weeks, political and religious, and comments on the systematic silencing of common and privileged people that is taking place for the vested interests of a few.

The unabated violence in West Asia is engulfing more regions and countries. The Lebanon based Hezbollahs and the Houthis of Yemen started firing drones and missiles towards Israel. Most have been intercepted, but it does speak of a furious aftermath.

With Iran and Pakistan launching targeted attacks on each other, the low intensity war is becoming more active than ever before. Let me hasten to add, that these are only some of the players. Behind the scenes are well-tucked-in arms lobbies and suppliers and, of course, the so-called powerful nations and worldly powers with vested business interests and expansionist designs.

If wars and conflicts rage in the front and the back yards, can they be halted from spreading to this continent and the subcontinent? As  of  now  it seems as though an inviable armed force, or call  it a combination of  forces, is trying to  intrude and wreak havoc, moving from country to country…ruining civilizations and the livelihoods of men and women with such targeted force that  generations are going to be affected.

Here in our country, too, eerie build-ups are staring at us in the face. There are fears, as the present government is bent on using religion for political mileage and gain. It’s obvious and even the naïve understand the game plan in this election year, but ordinary people are utterly helpless. After all, the masses cannot outdo State might, especially when political tactics by the use of democratic and academic institutions are compounding the tension. It is noticeable how even the most sensible, educated and worldly-wise across strata are beginning to take sides, mostly of the one perceived, because of the one-sided hyper mainstream media, as likely to win the upcoming election. Irrespective of the visualization of what lies ahead if the BJP is to return to power for the third term, it’s become more untenable for rational, liberal, pluralists to not worry for themselves and therefore accede to protect their businesses, their livelihoods, their kith and kin by bending to the powers.

The congregation at the consecration of Lord Ram in Ayodhya on the 22nd January 2024, where the solo performance of the Prime Minister was televised for the whole world to see, was proof of the fact that, today, the richest, the mightiest and the biggest stars on the Bollywood stage and culture theatre have folded up and joined the scripted audience of a massive television talk show, applauding when asked to by the show runners and parroting the words handed out to them by the scriptwriters when ushered by the cameramen to speak. Each of the names and faces of the highest kind, from industry to Bollywood, has acquiesced and the reluctant have arched because the rottweiler is at their tails, and the ostracization of those who resist bending is now quotidian.

This is a crisis our democracy is facing. Voices of dissent are becoming extinct day after day. Yet there is one who goes on fearlessly - Professor V.K Tripathi. Until his retirement he taught Physics at IIT New Delhi. He has been walking for hours at a stretch distributing pamphlets and fliers in Delhi’s colonies and also in the NCR region to awaken the masses, warning them not to fall in the Right-Wing trap. He told me, “On Jan 16, I distributed 400 copies of the flier "Ram Give Us Strength to Walk on Truth and Bear the Pain", walking 7km in Jahangirpuri-Bawana area. Jan 17, 300 fliers in Faridabad, Ballabgarh, walking 5 km. I did not encounter hostility. Rather a few people expressed their appreciation. The build -up on Ayodhya is a frightening display of muscle power, money power and state power.”  

Yes, perhaps, there is fear of the State, and the private senas under its direct control. The worry grows as more unfolds, which goes unnoticed because of the glitz surrounding the media events specially organised to distract people from the reality. As citizens of the country we ought to question whatever happened to the promises made by the government that there’ll be jobs for the youth – in the previous elections the PM promised 2 crore jobs per annum. Where are those jobs! Why, instead, are our young generations being  packed off to Israel!

I’m sharing, below, parts of a column written by Vappala Balachandran (former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat), published in The Tribune  on 18th  January 2024:

There  are reports that the National Skill Development Corporation and state employment departments are recruiting Indian citizens for work in Israel. The Haryana Kaushal Rojgar Nigam is reported to have registered 550 candidates from Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh in a day for a skill test. These unemployed youths have chosen this option instead of approaching unscrupulous touts who charge Rs 40-50 lakh, as was seen in the recent ‘donkey route’ case.

While the government route is preferable for overseas workers’ recruitment, what is disconcerting is the report that those selected will not undergo the statutory immigration clearance to ensure that their interests are protected at the destination. The report also said that the workers will not have insurance, medical coverage and other guarantees, which the government usually insists on for such overseas employees. It is also said that our labour unions are agitated over this and intend to seek judicial remedies. If all this is true, this scheme is not advisable.

Our workers’ contribution to the foreign exchange earnings has always been higher than the foreign direct investment. During 2023, the foreign inward remittance, mainly from our overseas workers, had touched a record $125 billion. During the same period, the FDI was only $70.9 billion…  

I will end with Nida Fazli’s verse ‘Just keep on Living’ (Translated  from Urdu  by Baidar Bakht and Lesilie Lavigne):

‘Just keep on living /Just keep on living like this /Say nothing /When you get up in the morning /Take a headcount of the family /Slouch in the chair and read the paper /There was a famine there /And a war raged somewhere else /Be thankful that you are safe /Switch on the radio and listen to the new pop songs /When you leave the house /Paste a smile on your face /Pack handshakes in your hands /Keep a few meaningless phrases on your lips /Be passed through different hands like a coin /Say nothing /A white-collar /Social respect /A few drinks everyday /What else do you need /Just keep on like this /Say nothing.’  

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.