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“If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin”.

Hyderabad today is an embodiment of well-heeled city in terms of its representation in mainstream media. The rapid growth phase since last decade has placed Hyderabad among the apical cities of India .Hyderabad as technological and knowledge hub has made its mark both nationally and internationally. With all these accomplishments, this historical city of Nawab’s has also a very gloomy side to it. The city is partitioned on nomenclature basis into two major areas named as old city and new city. As the name is titled on the concept of time, old city part of it tells a story of exploitation and stands out in sharp contrast to the new city. While the information technology and biotechnology boom has brought people from different parts of the country, it is local residents of old city who are unable to get benefited from their native city’s acclaimed potential.
It was in month of July when I got an opportunity to Visit rural areas of Hi-tech Hyderabad. The NGO at present I am working with Naandi Foundation endowed me with documenting the activities of the workshop, conducted in three different areas. Naandi Foundation works with Government of Andhra Pradesh to reach the children in public schools in order to ensure them learn. By virtuousness of its Ensuring Children Learn (ECL) Program, 64,250 government schoolchildren in 450 schools across 11 Mandals in Hyderabad are catered with basic amenities while pursuing their education. A 4 days workshop to serve this purpose was conducted by ECL Hyderabad in Charminar, Dayanandagar and Vijayanagar Colony. The primary intention of the program was to train the community activists (CA’s) and making them understand the theory of engaging with the children. Charminar, being the celebrated place fascinated me more than the other two centers. I was thankfully allowed to exercise my choice for documenting processes at workshop conducted in Urdu ghar ( Home of urdu) near Asra Hospital, Charminar. The Streets surrounding Urdu Ghar were installed with numerous pan Shops and Tea stalls. The overwhelming response of people to tobacco consumption make these pan shops the places of eminent importance. The so-called exposed section of the locality conglomerate several times a day to discuss day to day to problems of the world on these pan shops. The street corners had turned brownish red as the pan and tobacco chewers regard these corners as enviable spots for spitting. This chaotic Milieu of Charminar gives an impression of alien in the wonderland for the people who know Hyderabad from Indian Newspapers. The distance of 5 km from new city to old city is an incommensurable transition that any one can rarely find in other parts of the world.
Old City of Hyderabad especially Charminar is inhabited by Muslim majority who widely have Urdu as medium of their instruction. In this inherent part of Hyderabad education is in lamentable shape. The state machinery is unable to deliver goods in old city of Hyderabad. The area has plethora of schools and genuine number of schoolchildren, despite all these positives, nothing is commendable. The unconcerned politics,bureaucratic structures and negligence of people has deeply contaminated primary education status in poverty stricken old city. While some criticize callous attitude of the government towards old city, while as others criticizing negligence of parental care, no one is ready to take the initiative to handle the system and face the ground realities. Numerous discourses used to happen in the form of seminars, conferences but all these intellectual discourses on changing the scenario have modicum or no effect on the practical grounds. In this sense the initiative taken by Naandi Foundation with the help of government is laudable. To meet the ground realities, Naandi Foundation with the help of Government of Andhra Pradesh has taken the initiative to meet these ground realities in order to bridge the gap.
My visit to three schools in highly backward areas near Charminar gave me an opportunity to personally engage with parents, children and school teachers. My first visit was to Tabela Donger (TD) Singh Govt. High School (Urdu Medium) in Hafez Babanagar established in 2002 by Govt. of Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Department. Naandi runs one of its many academic Support Centers (ASC’s) in T.D School. The area is inhabited by a whopping population of approximately 1 lakh people. This prominent and colossal School has only able to attract 749 children, (443 girls,306 boys), having teacher to student ratio as 1:40 ( Teacher:student). The school from outside give a very good impression with its well constructed building. On the day of visit it was merely 50% of children present in the school. While speaking to Head master of the School M.A Jabar, for the reason of the low attendance.
Mr. Jabar remarks
“Attendance has remained a major problem in this school as the parents prefer their children to attend various ceremonies in homes rather than school.”
While Mr. Jabar believes that it is the negligence of the parents due to which the condition in the schools is so much deplorable. While this being a perspective of headmaster, I had no option than to meet some parents of the children whether they really accept the blame. My first talk was with Nazima Begum’s ( 5th standard student) father, as in this part of the world you are always your fathers child than mothers. Nazima’s father Mohd. Hussain was a mechanic, who’s work is to repair motor bikes in the nearby area. Here I was clueless whether really to blame Hussain Saab, who takes it all to meet his both ends meal. How can be a mechanic, being himself overburdened with other family responsibilities with no knowledge of education held responsible for his child’s studies. At least his child has got the chance to make it to 5th standard, the old father had never been able to get a chance to visit a school, else than some introduction to some deeny- taleem (religious knowledge). It is the whole structures that are to blamed for this distressing condition. Naandi has adopted Nanhi Kali program by the virtue of which it tracks the girls annually in order to ensure them at least to qualify 10 th class. In India out of 10 girls admitted in primary schools it is only 3 girls who make it to 10 th standard. One can imagine the fate of girls in this area where men are of paramount importance.
Now the School teachers are planning for door to door campaign to force parents to send their children to school. My visit to other schools was of similar experience with only slight increase in the intensity of problems faced by the children in poorly managed schools.
During the workshop the conducted in Urdu Ghar Community Activists (CA’s) were said to solve worksheets for the children and identify complexities in the worksheets that are later provided to children. The Community Activists (CA’s) with the guidance of Academic Resource Coordinators (ARC’s) tried to demystify every complexness in the worksheets for the Children. In schools a specific focus is on low performance children, who are often alienated in the classroom thereby resulting their “drop out” at an early stage. Such children are identified during the base line assessment conducted in all schools where Academic Support Centers (ASC’s) are being set up by Naandi Foundation. The majority of the children under this program are from subaltern families. The parents of most of the children are daily wage laborers for whom it becomes difficult to guide their children.
Hyderabad claimed to be the Cyber-City has huge task before it to be the among the vanguard cities of the India and off course of the world. The self centered vested interests need to be exposed and work for education of Muslim students and protect and improve the Government schools in the city is needed to be done. Development is a contested term lets give it a meaning in the form of fighting for educational development in the city.

If Kabir Khan in Shahrukh Khan starred Chak De India puts question mark on the loyalty of the Indian Muslims towards Indian nation, here is Zaid Ahmad Khan (ACP), a true, secular, modern Muslim struggling to prove his credentials of being a loyal citizen towards India. Mukesh Bhatt’s Muzammil Ibrahim starred ‘Dhokha’ or ‘Betrayal’ is the Bollywood’s latest offering that raises several questions about Muslims and their identity in India. Coming for the first time out the rhetoric of his fluffy musicals, Mukesh Bhatt’s Dhokha tries to get to the bottom of delicate question of Hindu-Muslim antagonism. Dhokha displays the actuality of terrorism and its endless costs. As someone has rightly remarked partition is an unending process, beginning of the cultivation of categorical Hindu and Muslim dichotomy, the process that was instigated with partition. After 60 years of partition, there is a continuing dilemma on the subject of Muslims constituting 16% of the total population in a Hindu majoritarian state.                       Muslims in Dhokha are symbolized as misguided, disloyal other worldly communities that have taken other form of living to retaliate namely world celebrated term jihad (holy war). Zaid Ahmad (Muzammil Ibrahim) a true Muslim nationalist, police officer is suspected of his fidelity towards Hindu India. On the night of a lethal bombing at the New Century Club, Mumbai, Zaid helps the horrified victims in the blast. Zaid affirms of donating blood to one of the injured supposed to be a Hindu. The dilemma mounts when the father of the injured repudiates to receive any aid from Zaid as he would like to see his daughter dead rather than letting the blood of a Muslim, a traitor, perfidious creature to flow in his daughters veins. Though the film progressively engages itself in denouncing the people who spread terror in the name of religion and tries to find out reasons for the root cause of terrorism still it doesn’t provide the solution to Islamophobia that’s deeply inculcated into the psyche of general masses. When the media reports about the blast without investigation jihadi group compulsorily is supposed to take the take the responsibility. In an interview with Anti Terrorist Squad head Raj Mehra (Gulshan Grover) it is made clear that Jihadists or Jihadi Sanghathan by referring to Muslims are responsible for the Blast. How often do we   see naxalites being termed as Jihadists? By referring jihad without any inquiry involvement of Muslims becomes necessary. Islam is seen as equivalent of jihad and Muslims as Jihadists thus terrorists as for the mainstream goes. Muslims are shown as community never to be believed, as they can be betray at any instance “yeh qaum Jo hai in ka koi bharosa nahin kabhi bhi kisi ko dhoka desakte hai bloody traitors”.  When Zaid, an honorable police inspector is enquired of his wife’s involvement in the blast, a question that rises in mind is can a Muslim be an Indian?                            

         Zaid till now respected, trendy, dedicated young Indian Muslim abruptly falls in an ambush of proving his dependability as true Muslim Indian police officer. He is typified as person who has a bit commonnality with Arabs “hindi samajh main nahin aati Arbi (Arabic) main samjaoon”. There are two sections of Hindu’s represented in Dhokha. First is the section who believe in Zaid’s innocence despite knowing infidelity of his wife. This section supporting a Muslim is branded as pseudo liberals, pseudo secularists by the opposition. The other group has always remained suspicious of the Muslim loyalty towards India. Their terminology for Muslims appears to be as terrorists, treacherous (jis thali main khate hai usi main chedte hai).         

        At the end even it is shown how the injustices done to person can transform human beings into human bombs. The question that will remain is why only Muslims have to prove their loyalty towards India. There can a bad Hindu, but she/he is never labeled as anti nationalist. Like Hindus, even Muslims have struggled and strived for the independence of India.

 


Cinema is a fascinating subject but Indian cinema popularly known as Bollywood is more so because of the peculiar traits of the people who watch it. Bollywood goes deeply into the psyche of the younger generation of Kashmiri youth. Unlike rest of India Kashmir is not privileged with cinemas which after 1989 were burnt due to the rise of major strife in the valley. As the movement itself was directly or indirectly involved in Islamizing the valley, the religious cream of the crop looked at cinemas as a stigma in such a society and mere tools of moral degradation. At present rarely any cinema halls are running in valley, put out of your mind the concept of modern multiplexes. New born if has eager to know practically how theatres look like she/he must has to come out of the valley to fulfill that craving. Frankly speaking it was in the 19th year of my age when I had for the first time glimpse of how cinema theatres look like. If in this time we even assume of theatres in valley it necessary to take care of assumption. First it is threat from the militant groups, religious leaders then personal security that has to be taken care of. It should not be like any mine being planted in theatre you are watching the movie. But despite all this there is Bollywood wave circulating in the valley.                                            

                           From last one decade it is Bollywood music and Bollywood films have brought the major cultural change in the valley. I will not be exaggerating while saying that the day of Bollywoodized Kashmiri youth start with Bollywood melody and ends with the same. From portable cassette player to cable TV, the dissemination and consumption of Bollywood culture has caused a major transformation in popular culture in Kashmir. The inexpensive sources accessible to common man to get exposed to Bollywood world like music tapes, audio cassettes, pirated compact discs etc. have revitalized local subcultures and community values throughout the valley. Stickers of Bollywood films and stars decorate the autos and buses, posters of film stars adorn the walls of tailors, shops and mechanics, garages. Bollywood films have entered into dialogic construction of Kashmir popular culture by offering youth alternative world.                   

                    The main sources from where Bollywood enters valley are cable TV, music tapes, audio cassettes, pirated compact discs etc. All sources themselves are questionable that is overall different issue.  What is needed here is to question the relation between Bollywood and Kashmir.  How Bollywood and Kashmir look upon each other. How do the people relate these movies, how they reconcile their antagonistic feelings towards the Indian state and nationalism. If we look at the number of films that has been made of Kashmir it comes more or less 10. These films are fine manifestations of representation of Kashmir by Bollywood. Starting from the image of Kashmir as a paradise as evoked in the films of the 60s (Kashmir ki kali), has in some ways carried over into recent films dealing with the Kashmir issue (e.g. Roja, fanaa). Recent trend by looking at films like Roja, fanaa is caricaturing Kashmiri’s as terrorists, un-national, perfidious. But fat reception of Bollywood films by youth of Kashmir raises the question arises how far Hindi films have been successful in soothing their antagonistic feelings towards the Indian state and nationalism with their love of Bollywood.                  

                    Bollywood films are made for a pan Indian audience and the makers of the films are aware of the necessity of constructing a filmic style that crosses both linguistic and cultural boundaries. More specifically these films carry largely message of oneness and strong sense of Indian nationalism. These films make constant reference to classical Indian mythology, folk, drama and literature and Hindu religious practice. Bollywood has now become largely primary part of Kashmiri youth thus proving religious leaders erroneous in their assessment of smoldering theatres in valley so that it can thwart Bollywood from inflowing valley. While on the other side watching Bollywood cinema has made people to compromise their age old customs and traditions of valley. Modernity has made effortless itinerary to Kashmir from last one decade which has made people to satisfy their false needs.


Horse-drawn-cart or locally called tonga, the traditional vehicles are dwindling like the traditions and customs of valley itself. Spaces reserved for them across the towns and cities in Kashmir are invariably shrinking in the valley of Kashmir.
From dawn to dusk these Tongawallas used to move, look for passengers and drop them to their destination. But due to advancement of technology and the concept of global village these historical environment friendly have been slowly and steadily replaced by other means of transport like passenger buses, multi utility vehicles and are on the path of extinction.
One of such historical Addas even today can be seen in southern part of valley, Anantnag, commonly known as Mattan Tonga Adda. This Adda is having the history from Maharajas and was established 93 years ago. But today the chronicle has drastically changed as one can see by the condition of the Adda and Tongawallas in the Adda. The Tongas are no more thought to be historical but are only considered as liability as police always find these strange vehicles comical and mere root of traffic problem.
The Tongawallas are blamed for everything, they are held responsible for any kind of nuisance in the traffic. Tongawallas are dominated by the structures of domination like traffic rules and their life has become a tragedy. Though they are hardly managing to hire Tongas which cost them around 50,000muncipal corporation of the area always treat them as low class people without identity.
Ghulam Nabi Peer, 70 year old, in the profession from last 45 years, who manages to feed 7 members depending on Tonga say’s “Police are always unsympathetic towards us, they rarely respect us as our profession they think is not relevant in modern era. We are being ill treated and totally discriminated against”.
Government initiatives have completely failed in providing better life and livelihood to them. The Adda comprises an area of around 1 kanal in which nearly 50 Tongas are accommodated. Many of the times Govt. has tried to relinquish these Tongawallas from the area even though Tongawallas claim that it is their own property, property of their ancestors. But being illiterate and having no proof of their property against written word of Govt. they are in despondent and desperate condition, as obviously their oral culture can’t challenge the written word.
“Governments of different times promised us several times to provide passenger autos for every two persons but they completely failed in doing so” remarks Ghulam Mohi-uddin, which runs 15 member family having Tonga only source of income.
In this cosmopolitan world and bollywoodization of new generation in the valley, the profession of generations has turned to fade and has largely become matter of social status. The young generation are unwilling to take the profession as the profession itself is considered mediocre by this bollywoodized generation.
Showkat Ahmad, in the profession from last 15 years Says “Pulling carts is like insult these days as people as well as people are mediating otherness to us and our children don’t want to be looked as Tongawallas like their fathers”.
Most of the Tongawallas in Mattan Tonga Adda are dressed up as sadhus. Even in this attire the army and police often arrest them, when there occurs some incident like firing in the area. They are reduced to refugee status and its impact is direct as people are abstaining from taking this incorrigible profession.
“It is poor people who suffer (marta hai to ghareeb hi marta hai)” remarks Showkat Ahmad Wagay


Bakerwals of Kashmir, Living On The edge.

After spending harsh winter in their hometown Riyasi, nearly 2000 Bakerwals, hailing from Riyasi are sprinkled at 150 different places in district Anantnag in south of Indian Administered Kashmir. Dispersed in small groups, the Bakerwals have pitched their tents in deserted open fields aside of the inhabited villages. Approximately 1000 members of the nomadic tribe have pitched their tents only in areas of Bumthan and Katran Mirbazar, villages located on National Highway.
Carrying hope for better livelihood even after crossing hurdles to reach their destination they are in dilemma by living despondent life due to lack of amenities. Taking them 20 to 25 days, crossing mountains, gorges rivers they have not succeeded in their hope of living better standard of life. Most are poor and lack drinking water, educational opportunities and health care. The local administration and politicians are callous to their needs.
Rearing livestock and cultivating farmlands in highland areas being their profession from generations they have not yet accomplished any development in any sense. Their so-called “destination” has turned ordeal for them. Now for their survival due to failure in the business of cattle rearing they have taken unusual professions like manual scavenging, hard physical labor work to meet the expense of both ends meal. These Bakerwals have numerous narrations’ to tell but accessibility to enlighten their narration has become impossible in this highly fraudulent and bureaucratic regime.
Zubair Ahmad, 47 year old man, leader (sarfirist) of these downhearted Bakerwals in the area whose job is to resolve all types of conflicts for maintaining peace and solidarity among themselves remarks “It is now almost a decade that we are coming to this place but with the passage of time it is getting difficult for us cope with the conditions here due to lack of facilities”.
The subsidies, which earlier used to be given to these subalterns for taking care of their cattle, have been curtailed drastically with the change in governments. Girl child is considered as huge liability in their families. Their educational rights are deprived from them because of the patriarchy existing in the community. It has become secondary question for these girls to assert their rights for education as right to live has been negated by social constructions prevailing in the community.
Educating male child is the only hope these Bakerwals have to live respectable life in future.
“I want make my child Abdul Satar a “big” officer despite the difficulties that will come in raising him” says Mewa Jaan.
Mumtaz Ahmad pursuing his bachelors degree in government college Khanabal says “It is tradition from decades to marginalise Bakerwals and instrumentalising Bakerwals by politicians in elections claiming pseudo upliftment of the Bakerwals has become common phenomenon”.
In the journey that takes from Riyasi to Anantnag crossing different barriers there is no point of medical facilities available to these Bakerwals.
“If there is any case of pregnancy everything is left to fate (khuda ke hawale)” says Zubair Ahmad.
Lacking accessibility to pure drinking water has led to the deterioration of the health of Bakerwals.
“We have to walk five kilometers to get water for our daily purposes” says Jameel Ahmad 8th class student studying in Akhran.
There is no provision in the government policies to provide them these basic amenities.
Electricity is like alien thing for these Bakerwals. In their five generations they have never seen their tents blanched with electricity. They take their dinner burning flames, which they get from forests.
Zubair Ahmad says “ we have to go to Malwan which is a forest area to get this wood in which we encounter numerous problems like people swear at us”.
They have to sleep before the normal time, as preserving wood is important for them. Their children can’t study at night due to lack of electricity.
These Bakerwals are still happy with the way the people are cooperating with them.
“Still people here are very cooperative and always come to our rescue when we are in melancholy, while comparing to cities where we are being treated as inferior version of human kind” remarks Mumtaz.
They are going to stay in their destination Anantnag for two months and then have to take their route to other destination Pahalgam. While their second destination means more pains to them because of Amarnath Yatri season.
“In Pahalgam we are being seen with suspicious eye and considered as abettors by the security men” says Arshad ahmad the only son of Zubair.

rendezvous with doordarshan kashmir

Posted: September 21, 2007 in Blogroll

In the late 1990s the government was too much concerned over the propaganda against Indian state launched by Pakistan through its television and radio network. Therefore a strong need was felt to set up an official media network for the counter-propaganda. A platform for the promotion of local culture and a nationalist media network to reach every household of the state was, however, the reason explained by the government while setting this channel. DD Kashir was thus a part of Rs 450 crore package for strengthening Doordarshan and All India Radio capabilities in Jammu and Kashmir. For a trial run, the channel came into being on January 26, 2000 –on the eve of Republic Day. It was on June 9, 2000 that DD Kashir was formally launched in Srinagar –the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir –with an unprecedented fanfare. The launch ceremony witnessed best of local culture on the state.
Internship with Doordarshan was a good work experience as I was able to put things that we are taught in the department into practice. I did my internship for six weeks and was assigned with different tasks like editing, translation and importantly reporting. I was being given choice to opt the area in which I want to work. I clearly decided to work in news section as it is the area that I find appealing. I was therefore put under Mr. Ganai, in-charge regional news unit (RNU) Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar.. During the first week of my interns I was meant to observe the things warily and become skilled in working with the staff. I was also given the work of translating the news in Urdu.
After my first week in Doordarshan I was given the assignment of reporting. I did my first report on representation of Sikhs in the valley , it was conference held by Chinni Singh, congress president all Jammu and Kashmir Sikh minority group. After Chinni Singh concluded his speech, I asked him certain questions about the issue and tussle between PDP and Congress in Kashmir. I was new and experience less and asked questions which no media person was able to ask as their thought is already controlled since they have experience and are already entangled in the structures. My boss, after seeing my first report gave me different lesson of how Kashmir Doordarshan is different from other channels in India. How the news is filtered here is the indispensable that I should be acquainted with while working with Doordarshan Kashmir?
My next report was on role of women in society, seminar held in M.ed college Srinagar. Thereafter I did reports on
1) meeting of congress workers where Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad delivered speech to congress workers from Srinagar.
2) On role of Civil Defense in the society conducted in IMPA institute by Indian naval defense force, Nagpur.
By and large staff was very cooperative and assisted to make my uncertainties comprehensible. . The only thing that was depressing was the work culture lacking in the employees of Doordarshan. Most of the time the employees were sitting idle and just discussing their family matters and all sort of narratives. Like other government institutions in Kashmir, DDK presents very good example about the work culture of government employees in the valley.
What is my final conclusion about DDK is it a incompetent media institutions highly controlled from Delhi and structured in such way only to serve nations interest. The administration engaged all such people for making programs and other media packages who had little or no idea of what the culture of Jammu and Kashmir is exactly like, what aspirations do people espouse. Though a 24 hours channel, DD Kashmir has total program length of eight hours every day.
Same programs are repeated twice over next 14 hours. More than 90 per cent of these programs are in Kashmiri serve no purpose with more than 65 per cent of the total population of Jammu and Kashmir. That is the reason why the channel Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar itself is a failure . if it would have been reverse people would have embraced the channel as it is was the only local channel in the valley