Is India killing democracy?
By Mahfooz UN Nabi Khan
It is another tragic incident of violation of human rights and abuse of civil liberties in India when two innocent women were sentenced to prison on the charges of sedition. The only fault of theirs was that one was a teacher and the other, the mother of a minor girl who staged a drama in a primary school in southern part of India.
It is ironic that a piece of fine art was taken as a crime against the state. The minor student of the primary school along with her school mates took part in a stage drama in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi was lightly criticised for his recent brutal and unwarranted actions of the passage of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). A section of the Indian population, especially the Muslim minority, has the impression that the legislation will hurt their legitimate and legal fundamental rights in India. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime, started cruel attempts to crush the peaceful protests against the said laws all over the country. Similarly, the women and youth protesters in Delhi were also knocked down by the police force, where they were simply peacefully protesting – a fundamental right.
The incidents of excessive use of state power are apparent in Uttar Pradesh (UP) a province of North India. Earlier, India had revoked the provisions of its own constitution that relate to the status of Jammu and Kashmir, and violated the resolutions of the UN Security Council declaring the valley as disputed territory. The Indian held territory of Jammu and Kashmir is in a state of lengthy lockdown and as a result, the basic human rights of inhabitants of the valley have been denied. The situation is alarming and the human conscience world over needs to pay heed to such state of affairs.
It is gratifying to note that the Indian population has begun to revolt against fascism, extremism and expansionism of Indian politicians. The ruling BJP has lost elections in the Indian Union Capital province of Delhi at the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). How can Indians, who have been practicing democracy for decades, tolerate such escape from secularism, an inherited right from their founding fathers Mahatma Gandhi, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru or Abul Kalam Azad? It is hoped that the international community particularly the leaders of public opinion will use their pious influence on the Indian rulers to refrain from committing atrocities and respect the human rights of their citizens.
- The reader is a resident of Pakistan.
India’s obssession with fair skin
Qashish Dhiraj Mehta
I was eight years old when my middle-aged aunt worriedly asked my mother what she planned to do to make my complexion reasonably fair. My mother like all wonderful mothers, responded with a smile and left it at that. Till date, I do not know whether she was offended by that question or didn’t have an answer.
Obsession with fair skin is not specific to India. It’s a global phenomenon which divides the privileged from the unprivileged. The fairer you are the more opportunities you’re likely to get. From being your teacher’s pet to being a favourable match for a boy, fair skin wins. I know it sounds awful, but it’s the truth.
When I gave birth to my son, I had a plethora of suggestions from friends and family alike on how to make sure he’s at least two shades lighter than his actual skin colour.
Fair skin discrimination was perpetuated and strongly reinforced by colonialism, not just in India but in dozens of countries. All around the world, it was assumed as a fact that wealthy people were fair because they did not have to labour outside in the sun, unlike the poor.
Western beauty ideals dominate worldwide, and with these ideals comes products to service them. In Nigeria, 77 per cent of the country’s women use skin-lightening agents; in Togo, 59 per cent do.
In my home country, India, a typical supermarket will have a wall of personal care products featuring “whitening” moisturiser or “lightening” body creams. Movies, television programs and advertisements reinforce the bias.
In 2014, the Advertising Standards Council of India banned adverts depicting people with darker skin as inferior, but products are still marketed. Such ads still appear in newspapers, on television and on billboards, featuring Bollywood celebrities.
The year 2020 has come as a beacon of hope. The government of India has proposed five-year jail term, Rs50-lakh (Dh257,765) fine for ads promoting fair skin. We will be battling age-old preferences for lighter skin. This move will prevent brands from glorifying the idea that only fair-skinned people become successful.
The bogus fairness advertisements feed into the insecurities of people. I hope the next generation will see things differently – not just in India, but across the world.
- The reader is a writer based in Dubai.
The nostalgia of listening to a box-radio
Every year, the World Radio Day is observed on February 13. In the busy city of Dubai when I travel by car, I listen to the radio and it is my companion during the long journeys.
At present, we live in an age where we do not have to carry transistors and walk around. These are now accessible in our vehicles and even on our mobile phones. The rectangular boxes with two knobs, one for controlling the volume, and the other for tuning into radio stations were a common sight in most homes, before the television.
History says radio broadcasting began in the US in the mid 1920s. In India, it began in 1923 while India was still under the British Rule. The All India Radio came into existence in 1932, and until then, this service was known as the Indian State Broadcasting Service (ISBS).
In my childhood, the radio was the medium of communication. We got to know about the hourly news update in vernacular language and the English news at nine in the evening were eagerly waited for, especially during the elections and on the day of results. We also listened to quizzes and songs. Our teachers would insist we listen to the English news to help improve our diction and increase our general knowledge. The radio connected us with the world and was next only to newspapers. People would listen to cricket commentaries on radio and that was pulsating.
My innocent mind at that time could not understand how we could hear people talking through a box. There was always eagerness to find out how it worked. It was magical and we were awestruck. With the dawn of the television, during the early 80s the radio lost its place in the living rooms of homes. But even today the nostalgia of listening to the radio brings back some sweet memories of childhood.
- The reader is a Dubai-based logistics manager.