Friday, 29 January 2016

Death of a Hyderabad Student

Rohith Vemula was about 27 years old and a student working for his Ph.D. in the University of Hyderabad.  His name appeared over all news media recently when he hanged himself in the hostel room of a friend, leaving a suicide note.   A sad event, no doubt.

Television and newspapers covered leaders of many political parties who flocked to Hyderabad, met Rohith’s grieving mother and his friends at the university premises and issued statements demanding sacking of some ministers and the university’s vice chancellor.  Raising issues and grabbing media’s attention is what all political leaders would do, but there is something the Hyderabad-bound leaders did not do, which is worrying. 

Rohith excelled in studies and had scored high marks in the Ph.D. admission interview, according to his guide in research.  He and four other Dalit students, all members of Ambekar Students Association, had been expelled from the university hostel for some misdemeanor, after holding enquiries.  That action did not curtail their access to university library or labs or suspend their study programme.  In this scenario Rohith took his own life.  However his suicide note does not name or blame anyone as driving him to die.

Reports differ on whether Rohith was a Dalit or not.  Whatever the truth, we see politicians clamour and protest more over events and issues that concern Dalit citizens than if they relate to other citizens.  Here politicians play clever over hapless people.  Indian politicians know that among the country’s population women count about 48.5%, religious minorities roughly 20% and Dalits close to 17%.  So they jump to project any issue touching a single individual of any group as one affecting his or her whole group.  With that stance the politician could portray himself as espousing a cause of millions of people and hope to reap their votes in big numbers in one harvest.  A controversy of this nature may attract arguments of many shades, some genuine and some pretentious.  Here it is not easy to decide if a politician really takes up a public cause which benefits huge numbers of people or he is blowing up an individual issue pretending it as a group cause.  Mostly irresponsible politicians occupy the filed, make unfair choices and have a merry game for votes.  They cannot be checked until our democracy matures and our electorate becomes truly discerning to show their judgement at election time.   
Leave alone the question if the university had a good cause for expelling Rohith Vemula from its hostel.  Any answer to that question should not cloud an important issue about which most of our political class remains silent.  That issue is: Should Rohith not have decided to live, stand up and strive to succeed in the wide world rather than take his life following an expulsion from a university hostel?  The battles to be won for anyone in India are harder to go through than an expulsion from a university hostel, and Rohith would have certainly spared his separated mother deep agony by continuing to live.   And, staying alive, if he completes his Ph.D. and does other acts of good value he will lastingly inspire many in his community, which his rash act cannot do.  An example of braving odds and achieving heights of success more than seventy years ago in unmodern India was B. R. Ambedkar, in whose name Ambedkar Students Association is named – which had Rohith as member.
Stories of women traumatized by rapes but pulling themselves up over time abound in every region in India.  And there are girls whose faces were disfigured badly by acid attacks, mostly from males they had spurned, but they survived the violence and live on – some even modelling garments or otherwise succeeding to their best.   We also read about youngsters who fall in love and marry out of their caste or religion but are harassed by families of their birth, sometimes leading to injury and bloodshed for the newly-weds, and yet the couples stay together, get police or court’s protection and live their lives.  Some young men serving our army or doing other security duty lose a limb or suffer other deformity while coming under enemy fire or bomb blasts, but still they keep themselves alive and get on.  Each one of them deserves our claps for getting over great personal calamities and raising themselves, and they all make our miseries look smaller and our lives brighter by comparison.   If any of them had willfully ended their lives following their misfortune, have no doubt that our many politicians would have crowded the victim’s home and released statements blaming the police or the government for the suicide.  Because there lies a chance to bag some votes of innocents.  But those politicians would not applaud the fortitude and courage of those troubled individuals for facing up to life.  Because that does not get votes.  Perhaps this happened with Rohith too after he killed himself. 

If Rohith lived on he could have also spoken about the expulsion event – in any court also if it comes to that.  So, to that measure, his passing away is a loss in public sphere.  But the saddest part of the event is that such a young man, whatever his religion or community, took his own life in this background.  Equally sad is the spectacle of our politicians who seemed to speak for Rohith but never said they would have loved to see Rohith live on. One of them, Rahul Gandhi, while addressing about 200 students in the campus of the university is quoted as saying that Rohith “had no option but to kill himself” (The Hindu, Jan. 20, 2016). Another of them, Arvind Kejriwal, said the same thing in different words as he spoke in the university premises – that Rohith was “forced to commit suicide” (New Indian Express, Jan. 22, 2016).  If not anyone, at least the other four Dalit students who were expelled from the university hostel along with Rohith and who live on, and their mothers too, would know for sure these statements are absolutely wrong.  That matters, and we should wish that the other four students grow further, shake off a bad dream and succeed in their lives – though neither the news media nor our politicians may remember their names.

* * * * *

Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2016

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Behind the National Herald Case, Lies a Tragedy

The National Herald controversy takes India’s political life to a new low.  In the old world, events like these would be called highly immoral, and in modern times utterly unethical, but they mean the same thing – wrongful and shameful things to happen. Courts are looking into all connected incidents to determine if they are crimes.  There is something else we must look at.

Details coming out in the National Herald affairs hold a sordid tragedy.  Consider some accepted facts – which should be accepted by the Congress Party itself – to gauge the scale of the tragedy and the shame it brings along.

1. The Congress had lent Rs.90 crores to Associated Journals Limited (AJL), the company that published the daily newspaper National Herald - which stopped for good in 2008.

2.     Young Indian is another company, a closely held charitable company formed in 2010, in which 76% of its shares are collectively held by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi – enough to give them authority to take every decision for that company.

3.   AJL, though not doing anything, owns immovable properties valued between Rs.2,000 crores and 5,000 crores.  It has about 761 shareholders.  (Another report says the number is 1,057 – but that does not affect the story). Between them they held all its share capital, until one event happened.

4.    The Congress transferred to Young Indian all its rights to receive Rs.90 crores from AJL.  In return, Young Indian paid the Congress – hold your breath – just Rs.50 lakhs.    The Congress accepted it for transferring its right to collect Rs.90 crores from AJL and wrote off the balance Rs.89.5 crores as irrecoverable.  With that transfer, AJL had to pay back Rs.90 crores to Young Indian instead of the Congress.

5.    If Young Indian could get Rs.90 crores from AJL, or get anything even more valuable from AJL, the Congress Party loses from its foolish bargain  or obedient act  all that Young Indian gains. Young Indian did get that more valuable thing, and got it in an amazingly quick time of two months after acquiring the debt.

6.     AJL had only one debt to repay, which was that Rs.90 crores.  AJL paid it back to Young Indian in a special way.  Instead of paying money, AJL issued to Young Indian new shares in AJL for Rs.90 crores in value.  Here lies a twist, as it means much more than AJL clearing its debt. With that issue of shares, all the poor existing shareholders of AJL suffered the greatest loss.  This is how it was.

7.  With AJL’s new shares for Rs.90 crores going to Young Indian, the holding of the 760-odd shareholders in AJL’s share capital instantly plummeted from 100% to a pitiful 1%.  This means their notional entitlement in the value of AJL’s assets got depleted likewise, from about Rs.2,000 crores to Rs.20 crores – with a stake in the balance Rs.1,980 crores going away to Young Indian.  If AJL’s assets are really worth Rs.5,000 crores, the drop in the market value of their shareholdings is from Rs.5,000 crores to Rs.50 crores while the market value of Young Indian’s shareholding in AJL would zoom to Rs.4,950 crores. So finally, that is what Young Indian got in return for Rs.50 lakhs it paid to the Congress Party.  Any 10-year old may guess that no existing shareholder of AJL would have sensibly or smilingly agreed to take a 99% loss in value of his or her shareholding and stand by watching Young Indian strike such a huge bonanza.  That child, if asked to decide for the Congress, could also wonder whether it was wise or ethical to give away a 90-crore-rupees-recoverable to another company for a measly Rs.50 lakhs and watch that company acquire a fortune stake in AJL two months later.  And remember, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have influential voices within the Congress and a 76% holding in Young Indian.        

The Congress Party has a historic place in the country, since it pioneered India’s fight for freedom and ran the Central government longer than any other political party.  As our democracy is still taking shape, the Congress and its front-ranking personalities must set an example in walking the straight path. But Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi who are viewed as monarchs in their party have failed here so obviously. 

If chiefs of smaller or regional political parties did what Sonia and Rahul have done for themselves with Young Indian, it would be equally wrong but not so much of a national affliction.  When the grand old Congress Party and its topmost two leaders are themselves in this sorry picture, heads of other parties with similar cunning genes would feel less troubled about whatever misdeeds they performed till now, would smile within themselves and feel encouraged to do more.  After all, how a big brother is allowed to behave, or is kept in check, tells on the smaller ones.

The list of things to bemoan is not over.  Let me explain. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, C.R. Das, C. Rajagopalachari, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and many like them were active in India’s freedom movement.  They had one thing in common. Yes, Mahatma Gandhi too came in that category. That is, they were all competent lawyers.  They were deeply devoted to their cause and had high integrity in public life.  You cannot imagine any of them heading the Congress Party in their times and doing anything like what Sonia Gandhi is called to answer now. 

 If Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi cannot be seen in high honour in the National Herald matter – I am not talking of legalities at all, as I said – they should take just 50% of the blame.  A few other persons who are not legally charged should take the rest of the blame, the other 50% of it.  That should be clear when we see something connected.  The long-winding alleys, by-lanes and dark corners of law thought out and laid for the two Congress leaders in their takeover transactions could have originated only from deep-thinking lawyers.  And finally, or from the beginning, the plans would have been passed by a few leading lawyers who are front-ranking Congressmen – and to them the remaining 50% of the blame belongs.  Here is why.

In pre-independence days, any lawyer who was a leader in the Congress Party would not have advised any other leader – lawyer or not – to be part of anything that Sonia and Rahul have done now.   If today’s lawyer-leaders of the Congress had advised the mother and son against takeover of AJL in this fashion – that is, even if the takeover plan had been drawn up by others – because any day all these transactions could get exposed, the law could catch up with them and unpredictable results might follow, the two of them would have saved some good honour for themselves.  A loss of honour this way for the President of the Congress and her son, its next in command, is more of a national shame than when it happens with any other party.  The shame gets bigger when it concerns a daughter-in-law in the family of Jawaharlal Nehru, an illustrious Congress leader who valued personal honour.  Leading lawyers of the Congress Party who were concerned with the takeover plans should be keenly aware of all this. Yet they favoured the idea, with all their legal and worldly knowledge – and should take 50% responsibility for the public shaming of a grand old party and its President and her son. 

I am not bashing Congress lawyers needlessly or crossing the line and getting personal against front-ranking lawyers of the Congress Party.  Well-known lawyers of the same party were held in high esteem for all their service and sacrifice during the freedom struggle.  Their cause was noble, and their actions right.  So they got due acclaim from Indians.  If today’s leading lawyers of the Congress Party, who are also public figures in the political arena, did not have a good cause and if their actions were not right in the roles they played for the Congress, Young Indian and AJL, they will get the flak they deserve.  What a tragic fall!
* * * * *

Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2016

Saturday, 9 January 2016

அம்புஜம் பாட்டி அலசுகிறாள் : பெற்ற மனமும் சுட்ட மகனும்

’அலி சகர்’ங்கற உன் பேரு காதுக்கு இனிமையா இருக்குடாப்பா. சிரியாவுல ‘ரக்கா’ங்கற ஊர்ல நீ தீவிரப் போராளியா இருக்கன்னு கேள்விப்பட்டேன். ஆனா உன் இருபது வயசுல அப்பாவியான உங்கம்மாவ பொது இடத்துல நிக்க வச்சு சுட்டுக் கொன்னயே, அந்தப் பாவமோ நிர்பந்தமோ யாருக்கும் வரவேண்டாம்.

உனக்கே இஷ்டமில்லாம மத்தவா சொல்லித்தான் நீ இந்தப் பாதகத்தைப் பண்ணினன்னும் நினைக்க முடியல.  அப்படின்னா நெஞ்சுல ஈரம் இருக்கற எவனும் அம்மாவச் சுட்ட உடனே அதே துப்பாக்கியால தன் பொட்டுலயே சுட்டிண்டிருப்பான்.  உன் விஷயத்துல அது நடந்திருந்தா அவள நினைச்சு இப்ப வருத்தப் படற உலகம் உன்னை நினைச்சுத்தான் கண்ணால அழுதுண்டு மனசால பெருமைப் பட்டிருக்கும்.  

கோபம் வந்தா யாரை வேணும்னாலும் அடி, உதை, குத்து. அதெல்லாம் எப்பவும் ரைட்டுங்கற அர்த்தத்துல சொல்லல. எதிராளி மேல குத்தம் இல்லேன்னாலும் அந்தச் செயலுக்கும் பல காரணங்களச் சொல்லி ‘பரவால்ல, கொஞ்சம் தப்புதான், ஆனாலும் மன்னிக்கலாம்’னு பரவலா பேசிக்கற அளவுக்கு சமூகமே மாறிண்டிருக்கு. அதுக்கெல்லாம் உனக்கும் மன்னிப்பு கிடைக்கலாம். ஆனாலும் உங்கம்மா பண்ணின காரியத்துக்கு அவ உயிரை எடுக்கறதுதான் நியாயம், அதுவும் பெத்த பையனே அதப் பண்றது உத்தமம்னு நினைக்கற அளவுக்கு எந்த தேசமும் மாறிருக்காது.

என்ன பண்ணிட்டா லீனா, அதான் உங்க அம்மா? உன்னைக் காப்பாத்தத்தாண்டா நினைச்சிருக்கா! அதாவது நீ உங்க நாட்டு போரளிகள் குழுவோட இருந்தா உனக்கு நல்லதுல்ல, நீயே ஜீவிச்சிருப்பயோ மாட்டயோ, அதுனால நீயும் அவளோட சேர்ந்து வந்தா ரண்டு பேருமா வேற தேசத்துக்குப் போய் உன்னைக் கரை ஏத்திடலாம்னுதான் உங்கம்மா உன்னைக் கூப்பிட்டிருக்கணும்.  தானா ஏற்பட்ட தாய்ப் பாசத்துக்கு இப்படி ஒரு தண்டனையா?

ஒரு பேச்சுக்கு சொல்றேன் - ஒரு வேளை உங்கம்மாக்கு குழந்தைகளே இல்லன்னா, தான் மட்டும் பல ஆபத்துகளத் தாண்டி உன் நாட்டுலேர்ந்து தப்பிச்சு ஓடிப் போகணும்கற எண்ணம் அவளுக்கு இவ்வளவு தூக்கலா வந்திருக்காது. இன்னொண்ணையும் சொல்றேன் – இப்ப உங்க நாட்டுலேர்ந்து தப்பிச்சுப் போறதுதான் நல்லதுன்னு ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கற உன் வயசுப் பையன்கள் அனேகமா அம்மாக்கள விட்டுட்டுத்தான் போயிண்டிருப்பா.   அப்பவும் அந்த அம்மாக்கள் பையனாவது பொழச்சுட்டானேன்னு கொஞ்சம் நிம்மதிய வச்சிண்டிருப்பா.

உன் கதை எப்படி இருந்தாலும், உங்கம்மாவோட இக்கட்டை நினைச்சா கண்ல ஜலம் வரதுடாப்பா. அவளுக்குத் தெரிஞ்சிருக்கும்: நீ வரேன்னு சொல்லி இருந்தாலும் சிரியாவை விட்டு தப்பிச்சுப் போறதே பலநாள் பேராபத்துதான் - அதுக்கும் முன்னால நீ அவளோட யோஜனைக்கு உடன்படாம அவளை காட்டிக் குடுத்து உங்க ஊர் முச்சந்திலயே அவ மரண தண்டனைய ஏத்துக்க வேண்டிருக்கும்னும் அவளுக்குப் புரிஞ்சிருக்கும். துளிக்கூட தன் நலம் இல்லாத பிள்ளைப் பாசத்துக்கு உங்க அம்மாவ உலகப் பிரதிநிதியாத்தான் நினைச்சுக்கணும்.
சரி, உங்கம்மாவப் பார்த்து துப்பாக்கிய நீட்டினயே, அப்ப மனசுக்குள்ள அவ என்ன நினைச்சிருப்பான்னு தெரியுமா? “என்னையே கொல்ற என் பிள்ளை நாசமாப் போக”ன்னு உன்னைத் திட்டிருப்பான்னு நீ நினைச்சா அது சரியா இருக்காது. “ஐயோ! இவனுக்கு ஒரு பிள்ளை பிறந்து அவனும் இருபது வயசுல என் பையனை சுட்டுக் கொன்னுடுவானோ கடவுளே!”ன்னு பதறிருப்பான்னு எனக்குத் தோண்றது.

* * * * *

Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2016