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Mainstream, VOL LII No 26, June 21, 2014

When Iraq was Iraq

Saturday 21 June 2014, by Humra Quraishi


Near complete mess in Iraq. The once flourishing land is breaking apart, as rebel groups are taking over. Without taking you towards those details of the grand past of an unparalleled civilisation which this land boasted of, I’ll take you just about till the early nineties, when Iraq was Iraq. That is, before it was intruded into and ruined by American and Allied Forces. They used that alibi of ‘looking for weapons of mass destruction’ but didn’t find any. Instead destroyed that land, its very fabric, its people, an ancient civilisation.

 Right from the mid-eighties, I have been covering the cultural-cum-diplomatic scene in New Delhi. And that took me to cover those receptions and dinners and on-the-circuit events. Though I have never been a foodie (diabetic, so can’t dare even stare at food!) and a teetotaler, so it wasn’t food or drinks that held sway but what I found refreshing was meeting and interacting with people from different lands.

And this brings me to write that the Iraqi Embassy—then situated at New Delhi’s posh Jor Bagh locality—was one of the largest embassies with over 40 Iraqi diplomats stationed here. And the Iraqi envoy to India resided in an impressive, sprawling bungalow on Prithviraj Road. In fact, he had detailed the very history of that mansion—in the fifties, it was gifted to the first Iraqi envoy to India by our then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Getting you back to the cultural evenings and events of that decade—the nineties—it was the cuisine and the cultural troupes and scholars /academics from Lebanon and Iraq and Libya that had held sway on the circuit here. There was much warmth and intermingling. Yes, language barriers did come in the way but not really; as we Asians know how to bond because of our very basic connecting factors.

And in the last few years I have been seeing and sensing the very decline of these republics. Ever since Iraq was intruded into, those Western intrusion tactics took off. Resulting in the virtual collapse of the Middle East and the West Asian countries. It’s rather too obvious. ... The political games played by America and the Allied forces through military might-cum-diplomatic strategies in the Middle East have brought about anarchy and ruined these lands.

June 21, 2014—World Humanist Day 

Lawyer-activist N.D. Pancholi informs that “June 21 is the Humanist Day. According to the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), the day is a way of spreading awareness of Humanism as a philosophical life-stance and means to effect change in the world. It is also seen as a time for Humanists to gather socially and promote the positive values of Humanism. And to ‘celebrate’ the World Humanist Day, Humanist Union and the Indian Radical Humanist Association and Indian Renaissance Institute have organised a talk by Virendra Dayal, former Member of the National Human Rights Commission ...”

Should Young Students be Arrested for their Comments/Posts?

On this World Humanist Day, it would be appro-priate that we in India sit and discuss whether our young college students should be arrested for their posts/comments/writings/quotes.

You could criticise or rebuke or even counsel these youngsters for some of their crude or obscene comments, but should these students be arrested!

No, not in this 21st century and not in a democratic set-up!

In fact, whilst keying in I’m reminded of Professor Mushirul Hasan’s volume—The Avadh Punch: Wit and Humour in Colonial North India (Niyogi Books) wherein he writes of those Raj days when we hapless Indians could criticise the Brit rulers only and only through those indirect and discreet ways—through cartoons and verse! In fact, the take off for the Lucknow-published The Avadh Punch was exactly this—to lampoon those rulers through safe ways. And so heady was the outcome and response of the Avadh Punch that within a short span over 70 such Punches were published in several cities of this country.

Don’t tell me that in this age and stage, our youngsters would have to get back to those Avadh Punch days ...