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मंदार शिंदे
Mandar Shinde

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

No questions please!

Disclaimer: This incident is a work of imagination. Any resemblance to persons living or dead, or incidents happened or scheduled will be considered nothing but a coincidence.

A Ph.D. student from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi is arrested for shouting anti-national slogans in the University campus. The student, Umar Khalid is accused of having direct links with terrorist outfits operating from Kashmir. Umar Khalid is presented in the Court after ceremoniously beating him up at the Court gates. The lawyers who generously participated in the national act of 'teaching-him-a-lesson' have also taken their selfies with the wounded 'deshdrohi' and are now busy updating their profile pictures on WhatsApp and Facebook. Inside the court, the Public Prosecutor starts the proceedings of the case with permission from Honourable Judge.

Public Prosecutor (PP): Which book would you prefer to take oath on, Umar Khalid? Geeta or Quran?
Umar Khalid (UK): I'm an atheist, sir.
PP (to his assistant): Do you know which is the book for atheist religion?
Assistant: Atheists don't believe in any religion, sir.
PP: Oh, I see. So Umar Khalid, it means whatever you are going to speak today cannot be taken as a truth, since you will not take an oath. Point to be noted, My Lord.
UK: I don't believe in a religion, sir. I believe only in truth.
PP: I see. So my first and important question to you is - why did you organise an anti-national event in the University campus without Vice Chancellor's permission?
UK: It was not an anti-national event and we even had the permission, sir. We took the permission before declaring the event to students. The permission was cancelled at last moment, so we couldn't do anything about it. In any case, no event as such happened. Only slogan-shouting happened...
PP: Anti-national slogan-shouting?
UK: We didn't raise any anti-national slogans, sir.
PP: Can you prove that?
UK: Prove what, sir?
PP: Can you prove that you didn't shout any anti-national slogans?
UK: There were other students and many outsiders at the venue. We don't know who shouted what...
PP: I'm not bothered about others. Can you prove that you did not raise any anti-national slogans? Do you have any evidence of your innocence?
UK: I'm telling you, sir, that I didn't say a word against the nation.
PP: We cannot believe on words of a traitor. You'll have to prove your innocence. You'll have to prove that you didn't raise anti-national slogans.
UK: How can I prove this, sir?
PP: Simple! Produce a video showing yourself standing silently among hundreds of other students who were shouting anti-national slogans.
UK: I don't have such a video, sir.
PP: So you cannot prove that you didn't raise anti-national slogans. (Smiles) That means we have a reason to believe that you were one among those who shouted anti-national slogans. (Turns to the judge) Point to be noted, My Lord.
UK: (Looks aghast!)
PP: Umar Khalid, now that the primary evidence has turned against you, can you prove that you're not a traitor?
UK: I'm certainly not a traitor, sir.
PP: I have not asked you whether you are a traitor or not. I'm asking - can you prove it?
UK: And how does one prove that, sir?
PP: Simple! Just repeat after me - (Shouts) Bharat Mata ki Jai!
UK: Bharat Mata ki Jai.
PP: (Shouts) Vande Mataram!
UK: Vande Mataram.
PP: (Shouts louder) Hindustan Zindabad!
UK: Hindustan Zindabad.
PP: (Shouts even louder) Pakistan Murdabad!
UK: Pakistan... Why sir? I said Hindustan Zindabad. Why should I say bad words about a country I don't know much about?
PP: To prove your deshbhakti, Umar Khalid! Pakistan is our national enemy. We should feel proud in abusing and cursing that nation. Now say - Kashmir sirf Hindustan ka hai!
UK: I can't say that, sir. The people in Kashmir think otherwise.
PP: Really? Then they are all traitors. If you want to prove you're not a traitor, say - Kashmir sirf Hindustan ka hai!
UK: No sir, I can't say that. I'm not convinced on this topic.
PP: Point to be noted, My Lord. Umar Khalid does not hate Pakistan. That means he loves Pakistan. Similarly, Umar Khalid does not accept that Kashmir is a part of India. So he is a separationist. I request to the Honourable Court to declare Umar Khalid as a traitor, a Pakistan-lover, a separationist...
UK: But that would be a wrong judgement, sir...
PP: (Shouts) Contempt of court! You're doubting the court? Which country are you living in, Umar Khalid? In our country, if the court declares that an actor is not guilty of driving over a man sleeping on the footpath, we suspect whether there really was any man killed or not. We do not suspect the court's judgement. If the court does not find anyone guilty of demolishing a religious building, we suspect whether any such building was really demolished or not. We do not suspect the court's judgement. If a court acquits ministers of a state in a case of riots and mass-killing, we suspect whether such riots and mass-killing really happened or not. We do not suspect the court's judgement. If the court does not find anyone guilty in case of a scam worth thousands of crores of rupees, we suspect whether such a scam had really happened or not. We do not suspect the court's judgement. So Umar Khalid, if the court declares you as a traitor, neither yourself nor your friends and wellwishers will have the right to suspect the court's judgement. They'll all have to call you a traitor from the moment you're declared a traitor by the Court. If anyone tries to raise a question against this judgement, he or she will also be called a traitor. Mind it! (Huge applause)
Honourable Judge: (Wiping their glasses) Bas Kar Pagle, Rulaayega Kya?


Sunday, February 21, 2016

The JNU and Kanhaiya Kumar case as I see it

There are several videos being circulated online in defence and against JNU students. The police have arrested Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition based entirely on a video footage provided by Zee. Kanhaiya Kumar is elected president of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU), which is similar to what we had at school called School Cabinet. The event about Afzal Guru was organised by some other students' groups on 9th of February. Kanhaiya Kumar was present at the event as it was his duty to oversee events happening in the campus. He was not the organiser. The event was approved by Vice Chancellor well in advance and publicity was done through posters and handbills. The office of the Vice Chancellor cancelled the event at last moment, reportedly on request by ABVP members who informed the office about 'possible' anti-national activities that 'may' happen at the event. Even the University security officer called police at the event venue. Three policemen in civilian clothes visited the place and found students and media persons already present there. There was slogan shouting but no one could tell who shouted what. Even the policemen didn't find anything objectionable on the spot. (This is mentioned in the FIR which I have read.) Kanhaiya Kumar and others were trying to calm down the students. Next day, Zee broadcasted the unclear video captured day before, but with anti-national slogans highlighted audibly and as on-screen captions. The police requested Zee to submit the footage, upon receiving which they arrested Kanhaiya Kumar on 12th of February. Between 10th and 12th of February, the media had already invited and humiliated Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid (who was the organiser of 9th February event) on their debate shows. As you can see in many videos available online, the TV anchors did not let these students present their views and targeted them and labeled them as 'terrorists'! Fortunately, we do not have to depend only on TV media. Several other videos of speech by Kanhaiya and interviews of JNU students and faculty are available for us to know more about the case. If Kanhaiya was not the organiser of the said event, why was he arrested? If three policemen were present at the event as witness to anti-national activities, why didn't the police arrest Kanhaiya or anybody else same day or next day? Even the police have admitted that the Zee video is the 'only' evidence of charges against Kanhaiya. There's also another version of the same video published by ABP, which exposes manipulation done in Zee video. I cannot confirm which video is true and which one is false, but I can definitely question the police action which is based merely on a suspicious unverified video. Beyond all this, when Kanhaiya was taken to Patiyala House Court for hearing, the lawyers shouted Bharat Mata Ki Jai and attacked him. Kanhaiya was beaten by the lawyers within the court premises and in the presence of entire police force. Even the students and faculty of JNU were beaten. Reporters and journalists at the court were also beaten. No action has been taken against those lawyers and some of them have expressed their wish to 'shoot' Kanhaiya and 'deshdrohis' like him. Please note that the court has not yet declared him guilty in slogan shouting or any other anti-national activity. Still the lawyers want to 'kill' Kanhaiya. ABVP is taking out rallys demanding 'Shut Down JNU'. The media has already declared JNU as a 'Deshdrohiyon ka Adda'. All of this information is gathered through different sources within and outside media. Now coming to my opinion on this case. It is not whether I support JNU students or not. It is that I support the freedom of expression and I question the attempts to kill questioning spirit among students. I condemn the media for declaring someone 'terrorist' without verifying facts. And without understanding how their lust for TRP is going to destroy the lives of these students. Today it is Kanhaiya Kumar, tomorrow it could be me or you. We will be charged based on false reports, we will then be trialed in media before entire nation, without giving us a chance to present our case. Then we will be beaten by the lawyers whom we consider to be part of our judicial system. The idea itself horrifies me. Think about the students who are going through it. Watch Kanhaiya Kumar's 20-minute speech to know about what he is and what he wants. (My views on Kashmir and my definitions of being national and anti-national are separate issues that can be discussed in detail some other time some other place. Right now, let us focus on the JNU and Kanhaiya Kumar case.) I may or may not stand with Kanhaiya Kumar. But I definitely stand against the oppressive attitude of self-declared nationalists. I strongly deny to accept their definitions of national and anti-national. Above all, I believe in the Constitution of India. Period.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Truth only prevails, or should it?

I don't have a television at home. I never had. I simply don't want to be misled by the hyperactive (so-called) journalists and media owners who are spreading no truth and only biased information. I don't rely on this media for news because what they broadcast is not news but opinions. I am educated and aware enough to make my own opinions on every subject. What I need from media is simply information about what is happening around - who said what, who did what, where, when, and how. Unfortunately, no media entity is able to provide me with these facts. All of them are interested in injecting ready opinions in my brain, which are not true and are visibly biased. I believe in gathering the facts myself. I believe in talking to real people instead of relying on edited footage of some news channel or edited article in some newspaper. I am ready to leave the convenience of my own house in search of truth. I don't want to know the truth by sitting inside my house and make my opinions on those half-baked stories. Shame on media who have betrayed their purpose of existence. Shame on media who have sold their souls and consciousness for either money, or popularity, or idiotic ideologies. The media today is destroying the faith and trust it had in the past. And this is going to be the most dangerous thing happening to our democracy. We, the people of India, do not have a media entity to channelise our thoughts, and expressions, and opinions. What we have is numerous paid journalists barking at representatives of the public and framing them all in some unimaginable cases which no real Indian citizen would ever be able to comprehend. I sincerely urge to all of you reading this post to STOP being misled by the media. Stop reading newspapers and stop watching (so-called) news channels, which are nothing but disturbing your life and mine. If you want to find out the truth, develop your sources which are 'human'. Walk out of your home and office and college and every place in search of the truth. Talk to people, ask questions, seek answers until you are satisfied. If your opinions are based only on media reportage, there would be no one more unfortunate and pitiful than you. I am genuinely worried about the kind of atmosphere we are going to leave for our future generations - fearful, hypocrite, nonsense atmosphere. I am genuinely worried...


Friday, February 5, 2016

सक्तीची सुरक्षा

हेल्मेट सक्ती (आणि सीटबेल्ट सक्ती) म्हणजे 'आग रामेश्वरी, बंब सोमेश्वरी' असा प्रकार वाटतो. हेल्मेट वापरणं किंवा सीटबेल्ट लावणं हे स्वतःच्या सुरक्षेसाठी केलं पाहिजे, हे मान्य. पण या गोष्टी न केल्यास आपल्या स्वतःलाच फक्त त्रास होईल. याउलट लेनची शिस्त न पाळणं, लेन कटींग, सिग्नल जंपिंग, नो एन्ट्रीत गाडी घालणं, ओव्हरस्पीडींग अशा जास्त धोकादायक गोष्टींकडं ट्रॅफीक पोलिस सर्रास दुर्लक्ष करतात आणि हेल्मेट घातलं नाही किंवा सीटबेल्ट लावला नाही म्हणून अडवून अडवून पावत्या फाडतात. वर सांगितलेल्या लेन कटींग, सिग्नल जंपिंग, नो एन्ट्रीत गाडी घालणं, ओव्हरस्पीडींग वगैरे गोष्टींनी स्वतःपेक्षा जास्त इतरांच्या जीवाला धोका निर्माण केला जातो. त्याबद्दल आधी कडक उपाययोजना झाली पाहिजे, मग 'सक्तीच्या सुरक्षे'चं बघू! मी स्वतः कित्येक ठिकाणी सिग्नलवरच्या ट्रॅफिक पोलिसांना आणि कंट्रोल रुमला असे प्रकार दाखवून दिले आहेत. यावर मिळालेला रिस्पॉन्स जबरदस्त डीमोटिव्हेटिंग आहे.

सातारा रोडच्या एका सिग्नलला तीन ट्रॅफिक पोलिस थांबले असताना लोक सर्रास सिग्नल तोडत होते. मी याबद्दल विचारलं तर पोलिसांनी मला काय सांगावं? "आम्ही बिनपावतीपुस्तकाचे पोलिस असल्यानं आम्हाला कुणी घाबरतच नाही. पावतीपुस्तक मिळालं तरच आम्ही लोकांना अडवू शकतो." दुस-या एका नव्यानं जॉईन झालेल्या पोलिसानं तर मला स्वतःच्या पायाला बांधलेलं बँडेज दाखवलं. सिग्नल तोडून येणा-या एका बाईकला अडवण्याचा प्रयत्न करत असताना त्या बाईकवाल्यानं याच्या पायावरुन गाडी घातली होती.

पुणे स्टेशनजवळ मालधक्क्याच्या सिग्नलला एक पीएमपीएमएल बस तुफान वेगानं सिग्नल तोडून माझ्यासमोरुन गेली. समोरुन येणा-या काही गाड्यांना जवळजवळ घासूनच बस निघून गेली. मी बसचा नंबर घेऊन तिथंच उभ्या असलेल्या ट्रॅफिक पोलिसाला दिला. त्यानं सांगितलं की असे शंभरजण दिवसभरात सिग्नल तोडतात, आम्ही सगळ्यांवर कारवाई करु शकत नाही. मी ताबडतोब शंभर नंबरवर फोन करुन त्या बसचा नंबर, ठिकाण, आणि ड्युटीवरच्या ट्रॅफिक पोलिसांचा रिस्पॉन्स हे सगळं सांगितलं. कंट्रोल रुमचा रिस्पॉन्स अजून ग्रेट होता. त्यांनी विचारलं, "सिग्नल तोडणा-या बसनं तुम्हाला किंवा तुमच्या गाडीला धडक दिली का? तुम्हाला किंवा तुमच्यासमोर कुणाला दुखापत झाली का? बसच्या धडकेनं कुणाचा मृत्यू झाला का?" मी म्हटलं, "म्हणजे हे सगळं व्हायची वाट बघून मगच तक्रार द्यायची का?" यावर ते म्हणाले, "साहेब, इथं पुण्यात माणसं मेली तरी त्याचा तपास करायला आम्हाला फोर्स पुरत नाहीत. तुम्ही असे सिग्नल तोडल्याबद्दल फोन करायला लागले तर आम्ही काम कसं करायचं?" मी म्हटलं, "म्हणजे अपघात आणि गुन्हे टाळणं हे तुमच्या दृष्टीनं कामच नाही. अपघात किंवा गुन्हा होईपर्यंत तुम्ही वाट बघणार आणि मग फोर्स अपुरी असल्यानं त्याचाही छडा लागणार नाही..." त्यांचं स्टँडर्ड स्पष्टीकरण मला पटणार नाही हे लक्षात आल्यावर त्यांनी स्पष्ट सांगून टाकलं, "आम्ही यात काहीही करु शकत नाही. तुम्ही पीएमपीएमएलकडं तक्रार करा." मी पीएमपीएमएलच्या हेल्पलाईनला फोन करुन पुन्हा बसचा नंबर, वेळ, ठिकाण, घडलेला प्रकार, हे सगळं सांगितलं. यावर त्यांनी ताबडतोब सांगून टाकलं की, ती बस नक्कीच कॉन्ट्रॅक्टवरचा ड्रायव्हर चालवत असणार. आणि मग ते कॉन्ट्रॅक्टच्या ड्रायव्हरचे अनेक प्रॉब्लेम मला सांगू लागले. मी म्हटलं, "तुम्ही माझी तक्रार नोंदवून घ्या आणि चौकशी करा. इथं ड्युटीवर असणा-या ट्रॅफिक पोलिसांनीसुद्धा ती बस वेगानं सिग्नल तोडून जाताना बघितलीय." यावर उत्तर मिळालं, "बघा, ट्रॅफिक पोलिस तिथं असून कारवाई करत नसतील तर आम्ही काय करणार? त्या बसनं काही अपघात केला किंवा कुणाचं नुकसान, दुखापत केली तर आम्ही तक्रार घेऊ शकतो..." या घटनेनंतर आठवड्याभरातच मी हा सिग्नल क्रॉस करत असताना स्टेशनकडं जाणा-या एका पीएमपीएमएल बसनं सिग्नल तोडून माझ्या कारला धडक दिली. कारच्या मागच्या दरवाज्याला स्क्रॅचेस पडले आणि क्वार्टर पॅनल चेपलं. मी सावध असल्यानं गाडीचा स्पीड वाढवला आणि मोठा अपघात टाळला. पण मी पुढं निघून आल्यानं बस सिग्नल तोडून पळून गेलीच आणि मला नंबरही नोट करता आला नाही. माझ्याकडं गाडी नंबर असताना मिळालेला रिस्पॉन्स इतका खतरनाक होता की आता गाडी नंबर नसताना कम्प्लेंट करायचा विचारसुद्धा मी केला नाही.

एनएच फोरवर (किंवा एकंदरीतच कुठल्याही हायवेवर) प्रवास करणा-यांना नेहमी येणारा अनुभव म्हणजे जड वाहनं उजव्या लेनमधे डिव्हायडरला चिकटून जात असतात. या जड वाहनांचा स्पीड चाळीसपेक्षाही कमी असतो, त्यामुळं हलकी आणि वेगानं जाणारी वाहनं अक्षरशः सूरपारंब्या आणि पकडापकडी खेळल्यासारखी चालवली जातात. वास्तविक हायवेवर ठिकठिकाणी 'जड वाहने डाव्या बाजूने चालवावीत' असे बोर्ड लावले आहेत, पण हा नियम कुठंच पाळला जात नाही. याबद्दल हायवे हेल्पलाईनवर फोन करुन तक्रार देण्याचा प्रयत्न केला तर ते म्हणाले, "आम्हालाही माहिती आहे हा प्रॉब्लेम. पण आम्ही तरी कुठं-कुठं पुरे पडणार? देशातल्या सगळ्याच हायवेंवर हा प्रॉब्लेम आहे..." मी म्हटलं, "देशाचं सोडा. मी आत्ता अमूक-अमूक ठिकाणी आहे. माझी तक्रार नोंदवून घ्या आणि इथं जेवढी वाहनं नियमभंग करतायत त्यांच्यावर कारवाई करा..." मी हे बोलेपर्यंत फोन कट झाला (की कट केला माहिती नाही) आणि मी परत चार-पाच वेळा फोन लावला तर नुसतीच रिंग झाली, फोन उचलला गेला नाही!

टिळक रोडवरुन ग्राहक पेठेजवळ खजिना विहिरीकडं वळलं की वन-वे सुरु होतो, तो थेट नागनाथ पारापर्यंत जातो. या रस्त्याला नेहमी (नेहमीच!) राँग साईडनं लोक येतात. वरुन आवेश असा असतो की बरोबरच रस्त्यानं चाललेत. मी स्वतः या रस्त्याला तीन-चार वेळा पोलिसांनाच बाईकवरुन उलटं येताना थांबवलंय. यावर ते एकतर ओशाळवाणं हसून काहीतरी बोलून वेळ मारुन नेतात किंवा पोलिसी अरेरावीची भाषा वापरायचा प्रयत्न करतात. तरीही प्रकरण अंगावर येईल असं वाटलं तर चक्क पळून जातात. यामधे महिला पोलिसही पुरुष पोलिसांच्या खांद्याला खांदा लावून नो एन्ट्रीत गाडी घालताना दिसतात. पुणे विद्यार्थी गृहाच्या शाळेत मुलांना सोडायला येणारे पालक आणि रिक्षावाले-व्हॅनवाले काका मुलांसोबत नो एन्ट्रीत गाडी घालून देशाच्या भावी आधारस्तंभांना प्रात्यक्षिकातून नियमभंगाचं ट्रेनिंग देतात. पालकांना अडवल्यास "तुम्ही काय कधी नियम तोडतच नाही काय?" किंवा "तुम्हाला काय करायचंय? आमचं आम्ही बघून घेऊ" असं मुलांदेखत बोलून त्यांना वर निर्लज्जपणाचंही प्रशिक्षण देतात (यातही स्त्री-पुरुष समानता आहेच). रिक्षा-व्हॅनवाले तर मुलांदेखतच अर्वाच्च्य, शिवराळ भाषेत उलट डाफरुन मुलांना दादागिरी आणि गुंडगिरीचं ट्रेनिंग देतात.

पर्वतीला गजानन महाराज मठाकडून शाहू कॉलेजकडं जाणारा रस्ता वन-वे आहे. तिथं तर समोरच खुद्द लक्ष्मीनगर पोलिस चौकी आहे. या रस्त्यानं सर्रास उलट्या गाड्या येत असतात. ब-याचदा त्यात पोलिसांच्याही गाड्या असतात. पोलिस चौकीत जाऊन तक्रार केली तर 'हे आमचं काम नाही, ट्रॅफिक ब्रँचला कळवा,' असं सांगतात.

बीआरटीच्या लेनमधून गाड्या चालवून अचानक बाहेरच्या रस्त्याला येणारे, सिग्नल सुटला की डिव्हायडरच्या पलीकडून रस्ता क्रॉस करणारे, आपण रेड सिग्नलला थांबलो की मागून कर्णकर्कश्श हॉर्न वाजवणारे, सर्कल असणा-या चौकात बरोब्बर सर्कल चुकवून घुसणारे तर जाता-येता केव्हाही कुठंही दिसतील. पण ट्रॅफिक पोलिस यावर काहीच करु शकत नाहीत. प्रशासनाकडं हे प्रकार थांबवण्यासाठी फोर्सच नाही. आणि गप्पा कसल्या मारतात तर, स्मार्ट सिटी आणि हेल्मेटसक्तीच्या!

(वर दिलेली उदाहरणं प्रातिनिधिक पण खरी आहेत. ज्यांना हेल्मेटसक्तीपेक्षा हे प्रश्न महत्त्वाचे वाटत असतील त्यांनी अन्याय्य हेल्मेटसक्तीविरुद्ध आपला निषेध पुढील व्यक्तींकडं नोंदवावा - (१) मा. श्री. के.के. पाठक, पोलिस आयुक्त कार्यालय, साधू वासवानी रोड, कॅम्प, पुणे - ४११००१; (२) मा. आमदार श्री. गिरीश बापट, पालकमंत्री - पुणे, २१२ शनिवार पेठ, अमेय अपार्टमेंट, पुणे - ४११०३०; (३) मा. श्री. दिवाकर रावते, परिवहन मंत्री, महाराष्ट्र राज्य, चौथा मजला, मुख्य इमारत, मंत्रालय, मुंबई - ४०००३२.)