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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 20, May 9, 2015

Salman, Vishwas, Gadkari, Badals

Saturday 9 May 2015, by Humra Quraishi

MUSINGS

With Salman Khan convicted under culpable homicide in the 2002 hit-and-run case, the coming days will lie fitted with news reports and endless discussions focusing on him and what lies ahead... for him, for his clan, for his films and fans. The build-up had begun last week itself, with news channels churning out hurriedly gathered details to him, his hold in Bollywood... Just about slight disruption last evening, with the spotlight changing gear, on the AAP’s Kumar Vishwas, and together with him on the Delhi Commission on Women... It was a sight not to be missed, with DCW chairperson Barkha Shukla Singh and one of the members, Juhi Khan, throwing about allegations at each other, pushing the very case in the backdrop. The so-called ‘illicit affair’ case against Vishwas seems fizzling out; what with political accusations gaining ground.

Perhaps, only the thick-skinned can survive, can flourish in the thick of politics. Even the greenery grows thicker and wider under their watch... One of the Right-wing politicians, who is manning the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, has no qualms detailing the special treatment he inflicts on the plants and trees and shrubs growing well inside the compound of his New Delhi situated official bungalow. He inflicts his very own urine on those hapless plants! And does so, day after day; after collecting his urine in plastic pouches trans-ferring them into cans which are duly handed over to those officially appointed gardeners!

No, no embarrassment, no shying away, this Central Minister talking openly about collecting his urine and its ready distribution. Together with that, that pat on his back—according to him his urine formula is doubling the growth of those plants, of the fruit growing on those branches... detailing the size and shape and what not of the oranges growing on those trees. Don’t know whether he alone consumes that juice-dripping fruit or offers to others too. Those who come calling, travelling along long rocky terrains, for a this or that favour. Perhaps, by now somewhat knowledgeable and well aware of the fact that those Gadkari-cultivated oranges have much more than juicy drops trickling down!

It could be somewhat worrying if Gadkari gets charge of the Agriculture Ministry. He could compel farmers to sprinkle urine on their crop; quipping to the dehydrated labourers and tillers, ‘So what if canals and lakes are drying up... use your urine. I use mine!’

Even at the cost of sounding repetitive, one has got to be equipped with a thick hide, to hide and camouflage all those ill-doings and with that last in politics. How else would the political rulers of Punjab, the Badal family, be surviving after last week’s horrifying incident—when a teenaged girl in Monga, was thrown off a moving bus after she was molested by the staff of the bus belonging to the transport company owned by the Badals.

After a day’s hue and cry the dead girl’s family was made to shut up; had to, otherwise they would have faced the aftermath of going against the State machinery... The Badals continue to be political rulers of the State, where the law and order situation is said to be fast deteriorating.

Tell me, if the accused bus driver was driving his own bus, then wouldn’t the situation been different. To begin with, the particular bus would have been halted, the licence cancelled. But here, the situation is special. This bus is owned by the Badals, and so the ground realities cannot be expected to change…

A New Book on Jnu

Each and every time I am well inside the sprawling campus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, I have wondered why people have moved outside it! After all, it comes across as a well-structured university township, with an air of connectivity to it. Unlike a typical university campus, there is less of chaos and more of the sprawling spread; complete with lush greenery and tall trees and well-defined roads which lead to a destination of sorts. To an ‘outsider’ or a casual visitor, the JNU campus seems an extension of a dreamy academic get-away, set in an isle of calm. Yes, the calm does get somewhat dented by stray dogs holding fort at each single turn or crossing or road of this university campus; indulging in dog bites and much more along the strain... but most, insiders and outsiders, seem to overlook this aspect, highlighting the other aspects.

There is no denying the fact there is something to this university which makes it stand out. It is well known not just in the country but also in the subcontinent and beyond. Why? In fact, the recently launched book—JNU: The Making of a University (Harper Collins) by JNU academic Dr Rakesh Batabyal—carries a whole new insight to the very inception of this university together with those lesser known aspects to it.

Why did Batabyal think in terms of putting together this volume? And he details—“I do not know at what point of time I began writing this book. It was most probably the words of a dear colleague, Richa Malhotra, that motivated me seriously to look deeper into the university whose air I breathed every day. History of the institution, I began to understand as the research and writing progressed, requires special historiographical treatment. There are innumerable people associated with an institution and all wish to see reflection of their own lives unto the institution. A historian’s account, I realised, needed to be approximate to that larger canvas of the institution and at the same time not allowing the little histories to be treated merely as reflections of the real big entities ...”

Batabyal has perhaps well connected the ‘two streams’, and done so with much detail and focus and flow... in fact, last week at a detailed discussion on this volume at the India International Centre, it was obvious that the discussion could have gone much beyond the evening as those lesser known facts and factors together with myths and misconceptions to this university were discovered by many of us in the audience—right from the details to its first Vice-Chancellor, to the political ideologies, to campus life... though I must add here that in this volume the history of this university is captured only till about 1989. Perhaps, that is the year that Batabyal had himself joined this university and he did not want his personal views to trickle into the text.

It is a very interesting read and Batabyal’s style is akin to that of a dastangoi/story-teller, so that makes it an effortless read.