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Fasting as blackmail

Much as I respect Patkar, I disagree with her tactics. I have no doubt she will succeed in getting fair compensation for the ousted farmers of MP. Dams are a must for increasing agricultural production.

india Updated: Apr 28, 2006 23:59 IST

Medha Patkar went on indefinite hunger strike for one side; Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, on a token fast for the other. Patkar was concerned with the fate of thousands of villagers, whose lands were being submerged because of the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat; Modi harped on the water and power shortages in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, which would be met by the project when it was completed. Which of the two is right? Is either justified in going on hunger strike to put pressure on the government and the Supreme Court?

In such cases, our point of reference has to be Bapu Gandhi. He often resorted to fasts when he was convinced that the truth was on his side. And invariably succeeded in convincing those opposed to him of their error. Would he have undertaken a fast over the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam? I don’t think so. Fasts should not be reduced to arm-twisting exercises.

First, take a look at the facts. For facts, I turn to my friend Ashutosh Tuli of Delhi. Dams are a must for increasing agricultural production and hydro-electric power. In 1952, our farm output was 52 million tonnes. Last year, it was 210 million tonnes (wheat, paddy, jawar, bajra, makka, pulses, chana etc.), mostly due to water stored in dams like Bhakra and others. People displaced were provided adequate land and housing as compensation. Nevertheless, as much as 70 per cent arable land still depends on the bounty of the monsoons: if they are good, we have bumper crops; if poor, we have droughts and go short of food.

Barsaat ka baadal to diwaana hai
Voh kya jaaney!
Kis kay raah say bachna hai!
Kis chhat ko bhigona hai.
(Rain cloud is a rum kind of guy
He does not know the reason why
He should avoid soaking one field
While leaving many roof-tops dry.)

Consequently, much as I respect Patkar, I disagree with her tactics. I have no doubt she will succeed in getting fair compensation for the ousted farmers of MP. And much as I dislike Modi’s communal politics, I support the Gujarat government’s resolve to complete the Sardar Sarovar Dam as originally planned and approved of by the central government.

Urdu map of India

If I were to draw a map of India showing the prevalence of Urdu in the country, I would paint the Hindustani-speaking north, extending from Kashmir to Kolkata, in fading colours. Here, Urdu is dying out, except in towns and villages where there are a sizeable population of Muslims. South of Hyderabad, I would mark a few cities like Bangalore, Mysore, Chennai and Tiruchi, where Urdu survives among some Muslim families. Have you ever heard of a Kannadiga, Malayali or Tamilian poet of Urdu? I am sure there must be some we, in the north, are unaware of. I was in for a pleasant surprise when I received the rubaiyat of Asghar Veloori, Nectar of Thoughts, translated into English by Faheem Ahmed, and printed along with the original in Urdu and Hindi (Sarmadi Publications).

Veloori (b. 1931 in Vellore), while serving in the Railways, published an Urdu magazine from Chennai and composed rubais in Urdu so simple that any Hindustani-speaking person would understand them. Ahmed of the Revenue Service is a product of Osmania University, and is a Class I officer in AP. He is additional commissioner in Customs and Excise in Chennai. He is evidently well-versed in both Urdu and English: his translations are accurate as well as poetic. I will give a couple of examples to whet the readers’ appetite. The first is the opening verse:

Dekho koi darwaazey pey deyta hai sadda
Khairaat kee khaatir koi aayaa ho gadaa,
Tum do naa do dhutkaar kay awaaz naa do
Mumkin hai kisee bheys main aayaa ho

(Watch out: someone is calling out at the door,
Must be some needy, for alms, nothing more,
Reluctant you may be, but don’t drive him out,
God might come in any guise, to implore.)
The second is about living in a world of

Voh paas bhee rah kar meyrey paas naa thaa
Lagtaa hai meyra piyar issey raas
naa thaa
Ab chahney vaalon kaa hai kitna
Iss baat ka shayad issey ihsaas naa
(Her nearness took her away from
Adequacy of my love, perhaps she
couldn’t see,
Dearth is there of true lovers, these
Unmindful of such matter was she.)

In black and white

On a British Airways flight from Johannesburg to London, a White woman of about 50 was seated next to a Black man. She complained to the air-hostess: “You placed me next to a Black man. I do not like to sit next to Black people.” The hostess replied, “The plane is full, but I will see if another seat is available.” She came back a few minutes later and said: “Just as I thought, there is no available seat in economy class. I spoke to the captain and he tells me there’s no seat in business class either. But we have one in first class.”

Before the woman could say anything, the hostess continued, “It is not usual for us to permit someone from economy class to sit in first class. But the captain feels that it would be scandalous to make a person sit next to someone so disgusting.” She turned to the Black man and said, “Sir, if you would like, please collect your hand luggage, a seat awaits you in first class.” At that moment, the other passengers, who’d been shocked by what they had just witnessed, stood up and applauded. (This is a true story.)

(Contributed by Vipin Bucksey, New Delhi)