Perspective | Oped


On Record
SYL issue can be resolved amicably, says Soz
by Prashant Sood
NION Minister for Water Resources Prof Saifuddin Soz wants to improve the per capita water availability in the country by involving the people in conservation efforts.

Man with a mission
by Kuldip Nayar
LL my life I have believed in commissar, not Yogi. Not that economic considerations have goaded me in my life but religion has become such a compilation of mumbo jumbo that it has become beyond my comprehension.

Dealing with parricide offenders
by Akanksha Bhalla
HEN the 28-year-old son Pawandeep gunned down his father and bludgeoned his mother and aunt to death in Chandigarh the other day, shockwaves travelled across the country.


Murder of justice
February 24, 2006
Truth as defence
February 23, 2006
French perfume
February 22, 2006
Teachers as vultures
February 21, 2006
Firmness on Iran
February 20, 2006
US and India: Time to think
February 19, 2006
The President speaks
February 18, 2006
Forces of integration
February 17, 2006
Tying the knot
February 16, 2006
Dangerous trend
February 15, 2006
Third front — a non-starter
February 14, 2006


Foreign affairs his first love
by Harihar Swarup
NAND Sharma has been the public face of the Congress during the gruelling days when the party was in the Opposition and, later, when Sonia Gandhi returned to power by cobbling together a coalition. 

Women must build on competence
by Kiran Bedi
HIS fortnight I was at a National Conference of Women Professionals. The audience consisted of women in governance and management. Most of them were in the middle level leadership positions. I was invited for an interactive session.

Diversities — Delhi Letter
Bringing writers together on a platform
by Humra Quraishi
HERE has been great focus on the written word in the past few days. Three major meets on the literary front — The Indian Council for Cultural Relation’s Africa Asia Literary Conference, the Jamia Millia Islamia’s three-day convention ‘Pen for peace’ and the Sahitya Akademi’s annual award presentation meet wherein the country’s writers from different languages were honored.



On Record
SYL issue can be resolved amicably, says Soz
by Prashant Sood

Saifuddin Soz
Saifuddin Soz

UNION Minister for Water Resources Prof Saifuddin Soz wants to improve the per capita water availability in the country by involving the people in conservation efforts. A former minister for Environment and Forests, he has served on several parliamentary committees and led delegations to international conferences. He voted against the National Conference whip on the trust motion of the Vajpayee government in 1999 and joined the Congress some time later. An educationist-turned-politician, Mr Soz, 69, has been a member of both Houses of Parliament. He was involved with backchannel efforts in strengthening the dialogue process with the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir. Mr Soz was inducted in the Manmohan Singh government last month.


Q: With growing pressure on water resources in the country, how do you see the future?

A: Though there are enormous difficulties, we must not get frightened. People have to be involved in the water conservation efforts. The country has enormous water resources but there is difficulty in use. There is divergence of opinion between some states. But I am an incorrigible optimist. Despite the difficulty I faced in the realm of my mind on the first day (of assuming office), I am hopeful something better will happen.

In this ministry, Chief Ministers and ministers come with problems. In the first week I spent in the ministry, I could feel it is not an easy job. But when you get a challenge and decide to face it, a way has to be found out and I think I will find it. Dialogue is necessary and we can do something in this difficult situation.

Q: The water crisis will be alarming in a few decades. How do you assess the situation?

A: Despite rising population, water for irrigation is woefully inadequate. The shortage will accentuate in the days to come. Every drop of rainwater has to be saved. Rainwater harvesting should be promoted by a vigorous campaign. Unfortunately, this is not the Ministry’s main concern. Several ministries are dealing with it.

Drinking water is not with us but all questions are put to the Ministry. There is a suggestion to bring drinking water under this ministry. Clearly, it is the Ministry’s constitutional duty to supervise water resources. All the Chief Ministers must appreciate this position. We are the monitoring and coordinating agency.

Q: How do you look at the Standing Committee’s recommendation to bring all water related issues under one ministry?

A: The Planning Commission has also done a study. I don’t say everything should be transferred here. But rainwater harvesting is a movement. That is a work I want to do. Our per capita consumption of water is quite low. We have to ensure quality drinking water. This Ministry must supervise rainwater harvesting. We are getting in touch with those who have done good work in this field.

Q: India’s storage of water per capita is far less than countries like the US, Russia and China. What steps are being taken to improve the situation?

A: Earlier, there were ponds for water storage. Today there is greater need for small and big dams. We cannot waste a drop of rainwater. We have to tell people to conserve water.

Q: Why has India built far fewer dams than China?

A: We will have a dialogue with the Chief Ministers on the construction of dams. Dams are necessary but the displaced have to be properly compensated.

Q: What is the future of the Baghliar project?

A: There is arbitration. We have placed our point of view.

Q: What should be done to resolve disputes like the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal?

A: We have to wait for the Supreme Court verdict. But we also propose to assist the court. We will be transparent and do everything in the national interest. There is some disagreement between Punjab and Haryana because things are not being discussed across the table properly and harmoniously. I will try to create harmony between the two governments. It is not an insurmountable problem.

Q: Will you call a meeting of the two Chief Ministers?

A: A formal meeting may not do any good. I want to understand and explain it to the Chief Ministers. One should be openminded and fair. I feel this approach may yield results.

Q: What about the recommendations on the interlinking of rivers?

A: It was earlier thought to be a dream project but it may not fructify. I have not gone into the issue in depth. It may be possible to link rivers between two to three states but a national water grid may not be possible.

Q: What about Jammu and Kashmir’s demand for compensation for the Indus Water Treaty?

A: The treaty is in shape. There is a point of view that the state was not consulted but that is history now. We are bound by the treaty. Compensation to the state is that it has received proper funds for development and the Centre is doing quite a lot. But linking compensation to the treaty is not workable.

Q: How do you assess the situation in Jammu and Kashmir?

A: People have rejected violence as an instrument to settle disputes. People want peace with dignity and they want to enjoy good life. People who wield guns should realise that dialogue is the only basis of settling issues. The gun will not help anyone.

Q: How do you assess the Congress’ position in the Valley?

A: The Congress is the largest secular edifice in the country. It has to be strengthened. People are interested to join the mainstream. We will go to the people and explain our achievements. This government has done a lot for the minorities. Take for example, the Minorities’ Education Commission and the Bill to prevent communal riots. Rioters will be punished and there is provision of compensation. The law will be a great relief to the Muslims including the Kashmiri Muslims.

Q: Who is the Congress’ main political adversary in the Valley?

A. The National Conference. We are in coalition with the PDP and there may be occasions when we have a friendly match on some seats. This coalition will remain and has to be strengthened. It is advantageous for both the Congress and the PDP.



Man with a mission
by Kuldip Nayar

ALL my life I have believed in commissar, not Yogi. Not that economic considerations have goaded me in my life but religion has become such a compilation of mumbo jumbo that it has become beyond my comprehension.

Marxism impresses me when it explains certain historical processes but it deters me when I think how the system enslaves man. Still my reverence towards religion is not because what it says but because the belief it stirs in the minds of people to bow in prayers. Forms of worship appear strange to me but in that moment I find every man at his best.

He is trying to analyse different facets of life; happiness and sorrow, faith and skepticism, religion and revolt. What does this all mean?
One Yogi Baba Wirsa Singh has interested me. He looks like restoring civility to civilisation. Like Mahatma Gandhi, he believes in basic things: wrong means will not lead to right results and that this is no longer merely an ethical doctrine but a practical proposition. This is Babaji’s dharma also.

In the same quest, Babaji visits Russia, the country of commissars, and says: Dharma is the foundation not just of civilisation but of the entire universe. When its laws are flouted, society suffers. Humanity suffers. Restore Dharma and society will rise again.

Russia is a perfect example. Once a great civilisation, the Russians cast out God and quickly fell. Now they are returning to Dharma and once again they will rise to a position of leadership both spiritually and economically.

Babaji was only 13 at that time, living happily in his village 9 Phagan Raja Jung, Lahore district. He migrated to Sarawan Bodla. His present abode are the outskirts. His biggest shock was the killing of 10 lakh Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs during Partition.

Adherents of one religion killed that of the other. He saw religious institutions themselves failing in their responsibility. Their leadership was to blame for turning people away from Dharma.

In order to restore Dharma, Babaji first set out to restore people’s faith in the Power of Dharma and to deal with the corruption within the religious institutions and religious leadership. Then he has set out to heal the world.

Based on Guru Nanak’s model of hard work, Babaji began developing barren land to create an economic base not just for his residence, but to set an example with hard work and of how poverty could be overcome.

Babaji started plowing with his own hands — the picture that has now become Gobind Sadan’s logo — and would not even take money from anyone for petrol to the extent he wouldn’t accept speaking engagements in Punjab until he could pay his own way.

Babaji then showed that Dharma could overcome the plague of terrorism when, to quell one of India’s worst insurgencies, Babaji’s great devotee, Gurnam Singh Randhawa was appointed the Inspector-General of Police, Mizoram. In 1978, Babaji himself was invited to Mizoram by the Governor, S.K.Chhibber and within three months restored peace.

Babaji has brought to public notice that textbooks commonly in use for the last 20 years throughout India contained literally slanderous material about Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh, as well as other Prophets and religions. Babaji and the Gobind Sadan Institute supported the work of the NCERT to have the textbooks revised: a cause that was debated in Parliament and ultimately by the Supreme Court.

He is the one who wrote a letter to Bhindranwale urging him to come down from the Akal Takht and preserve both the sanctity of the Akal Takht and the Panth. In their religious goals, men do not differ much from one another, no matter where they live, or when. They seek the favour of their gods. They long for religious protection against the dangers of life. They desire spiritual community with their fellow human beings.

They pray for courage in the hour of conflict, comfort in the hour of grief, guidance in their daily concerns. They want release from the pangs of conscience. And most — but not all of them — hope for some sort of immortality. The ways by which followers of the different religions pursue these common ends vary beyond all telling, though within all the great faiths there have been mystics who have risen above the level on which most of us live to a very similar sense of the Divine.

Through the centuries men have died for the right to believe. But other men, equally sincere, have died for the right to disbelieve. For atheism too is a faith in the sense that it is based on belief rather than scientific proof. In the Western world atheism, as meaning those who deny the existence of any and all gods, was more popular in the last century than it is now. It has yielded to the agnosticism.

Is there a God? I do not know. Is man immortal? I do not know. One thing I do know and that is that neither hope nor fear, belief nor denial, can change the fact. It is as it is and it will be as it must be. I wait and hope. Believers such as the present writer may draw their own conclusions about the significance of that final sentence.

Since pure atheism and agnosticism obviously do nothing towards answering the ultimate riddles of life, some non-believers have turned to humanism — a term which has had varied meanings.

However, today, according to Corliss Lamont in Humanism as a Philosophy, humanism “is the viewpoint that men have but one life to lead and should make the most of it in terms of creative work and happiness; that human happiness is its own justification and requires no sanction or support from supernatural sources; that in any case the supernatural, usually conceived of in the form of heavenly gods or immortal heavens, does not exist; and that human beings, using their own intelligence and cooperating liberally with one another, can build an enduring citadel of peace upon this earth”.



Dealing with parricide offenders
by Akanksha Bhalla

WHEN the 28-year-old son Pawandeep gunned down his father and bludgeoned his mother and aunt to death in Chandigarh the other day, shockwaves travelled across the country. As public disgust for the monster-son grew, there also trickled in tiny sound bytes of the accused about an unhappy childhood, of pain and rejection suffered by him at the hands of his father and step-mother and so on.

Looking beyond, society’s alarming trend reveals its most alarming undercurrent. These are neglected and abused children who grow up to emotionally distraught adults. A dysfunctional family life propels them to deviant behaviour and they honestly think they have no other way out.

Says Dr Adarsh Kohli, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, PGIMER, Chandigarh, “Already overwhelmed by the family situation, they turn parricide offenders when the conditions in the home become intolerable which leads them to contemplate murder in response to some new overt to perceived threat.”

In the US, parricide was almost a daily event. Between 1977 and 1986, more than 300 parents were killed each year by their own children.

There are three types of individuals who commit parricide — the severely abused child who is pushed beyond his limits; the severely mentally ill child; and the darling of the tabloids, the anti-social child. Studies reveal that more than 90 per cent of parricide offenders had been abused by one or both parents. They suffered physical, sexual and emotional abuse or neglect. They did not typically have histories of severe mental illness or of serious and extensive delinquent behaviour. They were not criminally sophisticated. “They might brag about their acts outwardly, but they do experience conflict over its effect — repugnance at the very act, yet relief that the victim can no longer hurt them. They do not see themselves as murderers or criminals,” says Dr Kohli.

Prison may not be method for their justice system. The true killer in these cases is child maltreatment. They have been abused for years and carry a great deal of anger and pain. They need to appreciate that their actions were wrong and that they could have chosen a non-destructive course of action. They need to work through their many losses — the loss of their childhood, the loss of a clear future as well as the loss of a parent. They need help to realise that they did have positive feelings for their parents and let the deeply buried feelings come to the surface so that they can be resolved.

Societal intervention is a must to increase their “value” and prevent their stigmatisation. There is need for a debate on parenting and child management, loss of the family system and gaps in communication. These are children with special educational, psychological or medical needs. Since most causes of child abuse centre on the parents’ needs and problems, we must help them to save our most vulnerable patients from the nightmare of abuse and neglect.Top


Foreign affairs his first love
by Harihar Swarup

ANAND Sharma has been the public face of the Congress during the gruelling days when the party was in the Opposition and, later, when Sonia Gandhi returned to power by cobbling together a coalition. He faced many tricky situations, hostile media persons hurling irritating, at times, humiliating questions at him. Anand faced them deftly; at times replying forcefully; at times skillfully evading them. His advantage has been his effective articulation both in English and Hindi. He established himself as the best AICC spokesman after the late Vithal N. Gadgil. The job of a political party’s spokesperson has been, perhaps, the most difficult one. Its magnitude can be judged by those who attend daily briefings of both the Congress and the BJP.

Compare Anand Sharma of the 21st century (he has been the spokesman from April 2000 to January 2006) with that of 1985 when Rajiv Gandhi appointed him the AICC spokesman for the first time. He was barely 32 then, rash and short-tempered, easily provoked by irritating questions of newsmen and picking up row with a correspondent (which a spokesman should never do) at the drop of a hat. Vexed issues like Bofors, HDW submarine deal and Bhagalpur riots dominated the political spectrum at that time and each day Anand had to handle vexed questions.

Doubtless, his replies to many tricky questions were apt, showing his knowledge on the subject. But some reporter would put an embarrassing question, an irrelevant one, and the spokesman would enter into a running argument with him. Consequently, the apt answer to a difficult question would be buried in the brawl of words between the reporter and the spokesman. In 2000, Anand was a much mature spokesman. He would stump out a reporter by his reply and would do that with a smile on his face. Doubtless, the AICC spokesman of the eighties was now a much mature and experienced person.

As the Union Minister of State for External Affairs, one of the works allocated to him is the XP Division — External publicity, an apt choice indeed. Few know that foreign affairs has been his first love. He espoused India’s views at various international fora forcefully and convincingly. He played a pivotal role in the anti-apartheid and liberation movement of South Africa from the scourge, having established contact with Nelson Mandela, when he was imprisoned in the forlorn Robin island, off the Cape town coast where the Atlantic and the Indian ocean meet. His contribution was providing material support to the captains of the movement.

Anand met Mandela for the first time in 1990 when the Congress was out of power in India. He accompanied a high-power delegation consisting of P.V. Narasimha Rao and Natwar Singh to South Africa. Mandela instantly recognised Anand and his words were: “Here is Anand Sharma; I have him in the photographs during our struggle”. Five years earlier (1985), when a youth conference with focus on anti-apartheid was held in New Delhi, Anand was able to “smuggle out” Nelson Mandela’s daughter, Zenani, to India to the acclaim of the delegates. He was also in constant touch with Thabo Mbeki, second in command during the movement, when Mbeki was in exile in London.

Anand began his political career in Shimla when he was in his twenties as a Youth Congress activist. He had no intention of moving out of the hill state but in the course of his meeting with Indira Gandhi, destiny took a new turn. She asked him to come over to Delhi. That was 1982. When he was reluctant to leave Shimla, Indira Gandhi told him, “I am asking you to work with Rajiv and am not punishing you”. Anand shifted to Delhi, associated himself with Rajiv Gandhi, who was then the AICC General Secretary. Subsequently, he was appointed the party’s spokesman. He was among the young team of leaders whom Rajiv wanted to build up when he became the Prime Minister.

Anand has personal tragedies too, about whom he rarely speaks but the agony is sometimes writ large on his face. His son has been suffering from autism, a disease that retards development and impairs communication skill. In the moments of despair, he made a silent resolve to work for children afflicted with the dreadful disease. He moved on with his resolve, appealed for help from public and private sectors and succeeded in setting up the National Centre for Autism: Advance Research and Training in Delhi. The Centre will soon be expanded to include vocation training to impaired children like painting and other avocations. The idea is to provide a caring environment.

Anand, now 53, has many little known facets of his personality. He is a connoisseur of western and India classical music. In his house and office, one can hear the soft note of these melodies. Also, in his spare time, he would like to cook — pasta with salad has been his speciality. The delicacy goes very well with red wine.

He is no Krishna Menon but has one common trait with India’s controversial Defence Minister and Jawaharlal Nehru’s top adviser on foreign policy. Like Menon, Anand too drinks cups of weak tea without sugar and milk. He consumes over two dozen cups of tea daily.



Women must build on competence
by Kiran Bedi

THIS fortnight I was at a National Conference of Women Professionals. The audience consisted of women in governance and management. Most of them were in the middle level leadership positions. I was invited for an interactive session.

The first question put to me was: “How can we (women) be heard”?

My answer was direct and straight!

“With your competence!” I said. “You will be heard not by your decibels but by your reputation of profession and capability. Others will want to hear you more when you remain silent. Often times your silence will speak louder. Your colleagues will probe you. They will even provoke you — to read your mind.

You are of value”! “Remember to contribute only if you have something useful to add. Being a learner and a good listener is equally respected and noticed. Do not speak for the sake of speaking or to mark your presence. Speak only to add value, not presence”.

“Remember never raise your pitch. Speak softly with measured words. Hear your own self while speaking. Never ever be critical of the past speakers of the views expressed. Thank them for their perspectives and then offer your own. If you are known for your competence, people will instinctively wait to hear your views. In fact, they might ask you to say something. If you are known only to speak for the sake of speaking, then people will wait for you to shut up and even interrupt your speaking. The bottom line is you will be heard only for your competence and capability. If you have it, then your contribution will always be awaited and valued: To be heard raise your worth, not your voice”.

Naturally, the next question was: “How do we raise our worth”?

“By respecting your own work — through regular and daily preparation: Do not put your work on hold at every home or personal pressure (as some women do). Work has to be kept on a parallel priority to run alongside all others. And it must have its time and space. Women as mothers, wives, daughters-in-law or relatives, tend to lower work priorities more often (comparatively) by all ‘other’s’ needs. (Even when there is no urgency). This makes you (women) taken for granted. Please volunteer for advanced training opportunities. Keep yourselves updated on the latest at work. Do not postpone learning. It must run parallel if you wish to remain centerstage...!

The next question did not come as a surprise:

“What do we do if we are sidelined”? “Make the sidelines the centre of your commitment”.

“Whatever you get, make that work the centre of your attention. Give it all your best. Find ways and reasons to like it. Make it grow as much as you can. Think and be creative in it. Do not sulk. Take it or leave it. Exercise that choice. If you do not leave, because you do not have a choice, or you want to stay, despite the situation, then adopt it. Mother it! Do not orphan it. Nurture it. Reward it.”

“By your ignoring and sulking, you punish yourself and your work. Never punish your work for it hurts your employees even more. They look up to you for leadership, guidance, care, growth and recognition — all that you want from your own senior. Learn the art of self-reward. Dependence on external recognition creates dependence. Train to be independent of it. Or else it will be a weakness others could exploit. It will become as favours done in the expectation of returns of all kinds which may compromise you professionally or personally. Let rewards happen naturally. Make “sidelines” (if you think they are) your centre. Let others wonder what is so special in your work that keeps you contented and happy. Remember no one has time for complaints. State your mind when there is an opportunity to do. You are the best judge. Meanwhile, learn to be centred yourself.

I then asked if I could ask a question of the women in the audience.

I queried where is your next generation? They said, “very few are interested in networking”.

The audience mostly consisted of middle-age professionals and very few in 30-35s. Remember, I said, “we need to co-opt, and prepare to pass on batons. Also deepen the expectation of making the difference! We need to build on our positive perspectives which people still have of women in leadership and decision-making positions. (We have exceptions of course)”.

In the end I wondered if these issues were not equally of the other gender. Yes indeed. But certainly more for women in management! The primary reason being women in professional leadership are the first generation. Work culture they are working in is not their creation. It is inherited.

Change is taking its time along with, its toll. Women must not pass on the hurt. This is if this cycle of being sidelined or “not being heard” is to decrease...!



Diversities — Delhi Letter
Bringing writers together on a platform
by Humra Quraishi

THERE has been great focus on the written word in the past few days. Three major meets on the literary front — The Indian Council for Cultural Relation’s Africa Asia Literary Conference, the Jamia Millia Islamia’s three-day convention ‘Pen for peace’ and the Sahitya Akademi’s annual award presentation meet wherein the country’s writers from different languages were honored. There was also focus on the literature of Latin America — ‘Myth, magic, history — contemporary fiction in Latin America’.

Interestingly, all the three meets seemed to have bypassed Europe and the US at least for the time being and focused on the countries which, though close to us, have remained cut off for various or varying reasons.

How many of us know a single literary aspect about the African continent or about the Latin American countries? Few amongst us, for all these years the fashionable trend was to focus on the cowboy belt of the world. It’s just about two years back that I was introduced to Mexico’s one of the leading writers and columnists — Juan Miguel De Mora. I was impressed by his knowledge. He was visiting New Delhi with his wife Marja Ludwika to do research on the Jain Ramayan.

He is closely associated with the Institute of Philological Research, National Autonomous University of Mexico). He has translated several Spanish books into Sanskrit and has also done an in-depth study of the two Ramayans — The Valmiki Ramayan and Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas.

He was here to meet the Jain monk Acharya Mahaprajna and interact with Sanskrit scholars. His association with India goes way back to the 50s when he had first come to India with the then Mexican President Adolfo Lopez Mateos on the invitation of President Radhakrishnan.

Whilst we conversed, he spoke on the varying aspects of Latin American literature together with the politics of the region. He had also moved beyond — from Latin America to US. He did not conceal his rather hard-hitting views. He criticised the US by quoting two former Mexican Presidents — General Porfirio Diaz (who said “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the US!”; and Adolfo Lopez Mateos who said that “the biggest problem faced by Mexico is the US”. He felt both Presidents were too diplomatic. I feel US President Bush’s democracy is like Stalin’s. His policies are a danger to humanity.

People-to-people contact

The question whether such literary meets or international seminars as they are called actually help bring people together on a platform or otherwise is often asked. Yes, they do. It’s not just the writers who get to meet other writers but even the non-writer, if I may so put across.

At the three-day ‘Pen for peace’ meet, the leader of the delegation from Pakistan Ashfaq Saleem Mirza told the audience that whilst he and his fellow delegates crossed over to the Indian side they were received at the border by academics and students from a particular Punjab-based university.

A people-to-people contact does develop and some sort of bonding takes place especially if the language is common. Most members in this Pakistani delegation were apparently Punjabis; one could sense the warmth with which they recounted how they were received at the Wagah border and taken on sight seeing tours.

Let us not overlook the fact that some do speak out and that again holds out much. The chief guest at this meeting, Outlook Editor Vinod Mehta, spoke about the missing basics. “Why can’t we buy newspapers and magazines of each other’s country? Publications of Europe and the US are sold in the Indian market but not those of Pakistan. It is the basic means to know what is happening in each other’s country”…

Another vital aspect is that on a one-to-one you get to know and hear much. For instance, when I had attended one of these meets last summer, I was introduced to Saadat Hasan Manto’s grand nephew Abid Hasan Minto.

Similarly, whenever I meet a writer from Africa, I make it a point to ask and query about literature from that part of the world. In New Delhi, one of the well known Sudanese writers is posted as Sudan’s envoy to India. Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Moha-mmad is well versed in English too and there’s so much to hear from him. I have been almost nagging him to do a book on the literature of his continent. He had very recently told me that the nagging has borne some fruit. He has almost completed his book on India. It will be released shortly. His next book will be on his home country. Hopefully soon.

Amazing it may sound but whilst going through the literature of those Indians writing in the 1930 and 40s (during the Progressive Writers’ Movement), there have been instances of bonding between Indian and African writers and people. But then, after that this long gap. Why?

Award-winning documentary

When Khushwant Singh was honoured at the Canadian High Commissioner’s residence (the Centennial Foundation of Canada represented by Sher Singh honoured him for his literary and journalistic works spanning so many decades) recently, I had spotted a face I had seen in some newspaper clippings. Yes, it turned out to be the Canada-based filmmaker Ali Kazmi. He recently made the award-winning documentary about the Komagata Maru incident of 1914.

This particular incident revolves around a Japanese ship — Komagata Maru — which had arrived in Vancouver carrying over 376 immigrants from India. It was not allowed entry. It was made to turn back after two months but the real tragedy befell when all those Indians on board were killed here on their return, at the Calcutta shore, by the British authorities.

What I found touching in this documentary is the fact that this young filmmaker Ali Kazmi (looked in his mid-thirties, he traces his roots to Old Delhi) went delving into those facts of that great tragedy and getting them across to us, through his unique and significant work.


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