Scam in ticketing at Sarnath exposed

Sarnath

CNN IBN contacted me a few weeks ago asking about corruption related stories from Varanasi. They said that they have a show called citizen journalist in which the people themselves become the journalist and expose the crime. I already knew about this program as it is very popular in India and decided to give them some stories. Actually they had contacted me after reading my blog so they had already read a few corruption stories that I had written on my blog. I had also been noticing corruption on ever level just like another Indian citizen and now I had a platform to talk about it.

excavation site

Anyways, I gave them total of four stories- one about corruption in MNREGA, corruption in drinking water supply system in Varanasi, corruption in sewage treatment plants, encroachment over old and sacred ponds of Varanasi and scam in ticketing at Sarnath. They asked me to find someone who was personally affected by these corruptions and would like to come on camera and talk about it. I contacted Lok Samiti to find someone who had faced any kind of corruption in MNREGA. I knew about a social worker named Shanti Lal Jain who has worked a lot on Ganga and contacted him to talk about corruption in sewage treatment plants.

Stupa at Sarnath

I had recently read a magazine which talked about a retired engineer who used his right to information act to ask government about the present condition of ponds in Varanasi and High Court of Uttar Pradesh asking Varanasi city administration to restore all the ponds that were illegally captured after 1957. I contacted this gentleman and he also agreed on telling the story to CNN IBN. Now it was turn of scam in ticketing at Sarnath which I had personally noticed several times, actually every time I went to Sarnath ever since I got my tourist guide license.

entrance gate of the site

The scam in Sarnath was that the ticket collectors at the entrance of the excavation site would keep the whole ticket with themselves and resell it. Whereas by law they are supposed to tear off the ticket into two parts, keep one part with themselves and give one part back to the tourists. This scam was going on in Sarnath with the support of government employees and tourist guides as well. If tourist guides support them then they also get a cut. I was also offered the same service several times but I never supported them as I always believe in this Hindi saying- खाना है तो हांथी का लीद खाओ, गधे का नहीं (if you want to eat the shit then eat the shit of an elephant better than the shit of a donkey :))

filming of the show

The area of my work is full of such opportunities where I can get commission all the time when I feel better asking for money rather than bringing my guests to shop so that I get some money. Anyways, I had always thought to do something about stopping this corruption and now I had a chance. But I was a little bit worried about about my safety. I called my brother who is also an Italian interpreter and works in tourism industry to have his advice and he was like go and fuck those people.

explaning the corruption

So I agreed to work on this story with CNN IBN. In order to prepare for the story CNN IBN asked me collect some evidence of the corruption. I went to Sarnath with my friend Babu and we filmed the ticket collector taking the tickets and keeping them direct in a sack. Finally the crew arrived in Varanasi and at first they worked on other stories. All of the stories were successful and affective. The woman who had faced corruption in the MNREGA got her salary and Varanasi administration started working on the ponds.

volunteer Erica

I needed a few foreign volunteers to act like my guests. I advertised on couchsurfing and a few people wrote me also but finally I ended up choosing a British couple staying at my guesthouse. We went together to Sarnath on the filming day and first they filmed me working, talking with people, doing things… Finally they went close to the entrance and sat about 30-40 miters away and filmed people coming inside, handing over the ticket to the ticket collector and ticket collector keeping the whole ticket in the sack.

the ticket collector at the gate

After they had enough evidence we went for lunch. I was not enjoying lunch at all as I was really tense about what was going to happen next. I was mostly worried about ASI taking some action against me. They could easily cancel my license by saying that I was found scratching the monument or something. I knew that the local officers would not be happy with myself after exposing the crime. Finally lunch was finished and I was asked to come on camera and explain the crime by standing right next to the entrance gate.

very tense moment

As the big camera appeared and I was holding the mic, so many people came to us. I was surrounded by at least 50 people who were trying to understand what I was talking about. Luckily the show was in English hence not many people understood what I talking about. At first they asked me to explain the corruption and then we bought a ticket and gave it to one of the volunteers and asked her to go inside, give the ticket to the ticket collector and see what happens.

filming

Obviously the ticket collector took the ticket and kept it right away in the sack and this was the moment when we entered in with the camera. As the ticket collector saw us he immediately teared off the ticket, went to our volunteer to return half portion of the ticket. We asked him why did not he tear off the ticket right away and then ran away from there. Now there was no government employee at the entrance so we checked the sack and found more than 500 fresh tickets which were all going to resold.

Babu, Erica, Chitra and I

We were filming all this and suddenly one government employee who was posted at the ticket counter came. We asked him how come all these tickets were not teared off and he had this really funny excuse that all the Sri Lankan tourists who come to Sarnath just throw the tickets on the street so they collect it and finally tear them off in the evening time after the monument is closed which was completely false because I had personally seen them taking the tickets out of sack and bringing them back to the ticket counter so that they could resell it.

the officer in charge's office

After he could not answer us, he asked us to come inside his office where he had this another funny excuse that the young couples who come to Sarnath everyday throw the tickets on the street because they do not want to be caught at home that they went to Sarnath. I was kind of laughing after hearing all these funny excuses. We came back to the entrance gate to talk with a few visitors and suddenly this lady showed up asking what was going on. She asked us to ask her questions as she was also an employee of ASI who was posted at the museum.

We asked her if she was aware of the scam and she was like yes, I have seen it hundreds of times. We were shocked but it was really good that she admitted it. She also said that tickets are resold and each and every government employee working at the excavation site is involved. Finally we went to the officer in-charge of Sarnath but he also ran away as he saw us. Story was completed and I was feeling so proud to have done it. I was really happy with the public support.

When we were filming at the entrance gate, we were surrounded by 100s of people who shouting fuck these corrupt people, don’t leave them…I think this support gave me real power and energy that I was able to expose the crime. The next morning all of the news papers reported this news but none of them talked about me or CNN IBN. Although they said that the officer in-charge of Sarnath, who had ran away after seeing us, said that he was not aware of such corruption and would take action against the people involved in it.

I know it very well that he was also part of the corruption and had intentionally given this news to media so that people think that he did not know about this corruption. I asked CNN IBN to contact the regional office of ASI in Patna and head office in New Delhi and ask them to take some action. I hope that ASI will take some action and now I also feel much secured because of that lady officer of ASI who had admitted that this corruption of reselling of tickets was going on in Sarnath. Here is the link of the show on CNN IBN website-

http://cj.ibnlive.in.com/fullvideo/cnnibn/193435

Interview with Mr. Rajendra Singh

I interviewed Mr. Rajendra Singh, one of the members of the National River Ganga Basin Authority, also known as Waterman of Rajasthan when I was visiting his NGO to get a training about ecology of Ganga. I made two interviews- one about his thoughts on why Ganga Action Plan was a complete failure and other one was about the current National River Ganga Basin Authority. I was really happy to have it done.

Rajendra Singh talking about the complete failure of Ganga Action Plan-

 

2nd interview of Mr. Singh where he talks about the National River Ganga Basin Authority-

Union Carbide Gas Disaster, Bhopal

union carbide gas disaster

I went to Bhopal a few days ago with my friend to visit the city and the NGOs working on Bhopal gas disaster that took place in 1984. I had no idea about NGOs working on this issue so I called my friend Nandlal Master from Lok Samiti, Varanasi to see if he knew someone and he named me an NGO called Chingari Trust.  Nandlal Master is a social activist from Varanasi and he knew about Chingari Trust because Chingari Trust gives award to the women working against bad corporations and they had chosen 5 women from Nandlal Master’s NGO in Varanasi. I was sure that there would be other NGOs working on this issue but after reaching there I learnt that Chingari was the only NGO in all of Bhopal working continuously on this issue.

wall paintings around factory are

I was really surprised to see that no other NGO was helping the people affected by that disaster. Anyways, I called the NGO and they seemed so helpful and invited me to visit their office and working site. Their office was very close to the affected area. By mistake we reached their rehabilitation center instead of their office and to be honest I was hoping to see an office with a few people working there and was not expecting to see anyone who was personally affected but as I stepped in the office building I was shocked to see the number of affected people.

families with the affected kids

There were so many families who had brought their kids to the office because the Chingari Trust offers physical exercise classes to the affected people. I saw at least 100 kids, all aged starting from a few months to 20 years old. I just could not believe how badly they were affected. I had heard about this issue several times before and knew that the people who were present near to the affected area during the accident time were the only people who got affected and now no more new case is seen but after visiting Chingari Trust and talking with people there I came to know that still new kids are born with the diseases.

really sad

The Chingari Trust was just awesome, doing really honest business. The president of the Chingari Trust, Rashida Bee, was awarded with almost Rs. 50,00,000 in San Francisco, USA for her work with the affected people and she used the same money to form the Chingari trust and donated the rest to the Chingari trust itself. She told me that they were working on another project to open a new hospital for the affected people as the hospital they had was not enough to host all of the affected people. Now I was more shocked to hear that there were more people needing help.

newpaper cuttings

I was talking with the IT guy of the Chingari Trust and he told me that all the ground water near the affected area is completely contaminated due to the chemicals leak after the accident and is causing huge problems to the local community. Many people living around the affected area complain about it. He gave me a tour of the affected area which was hardly 10 minutes walk from the Chingari Trust. There was another surprise waiting for me near to the affected area. Now I was surprised to see that the government has allowed people to live just across the road from the Dow Chemical factory.

he was trying to say something to me

It just seemed like any other neighborhood in India. I was talking with Lane about it and he told me that in the United States usually such factories are setup away from the city so that in case of any problem the community doesn’t get affected which made sense to me and I was wondering if our government never thought about it while giving the license to Dow Chemicals. Don’t they think that they should at least moved people away after that accident took place? So many questions. We all know that there is huge politics involved in this issue also but government should never play with the lives of thousands of innocent people. After talking with Rashida Bee and other people at the NGO my idea about the issue completely changed. Now I also believe that not only Dow Chemicals but Indian government people working with Dow Chemicals in India are also responsible for the condition and they must be punished.

Please click here to see more photos of Chingari Trust office

beggars in India

I worked with an anthropology student named Sophia from University of Berlin. I had already worked with her before a few years ago and it was my second time of work with her. This time she was not working for her university but for a big private publication company in Germany. She just wanted to interview different kind of people and listen to their stories. We met several different kinds of people but most striking news came out of the beggar community living in Varanasi. I had a shop few years ago near to Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi and I knew that there was a group of beggars living near to Dashashwamedh Ghat so I took Sophia there.

I had already heard some crazy stories about beggars living there but had no idea how serious the condition was. They told us so many things but the worse story was about their sexual harassment by local people. We interviewed an old woman who told us that she was raped several times by a local bully who comes to them every night and rapes whoever he wants. There were several girls and all aged women living there and many of them said that this person rapes really young girls who are just 14-15 years old.

They went to the police several times but the police never entertains their complaint only because they are poor and they don’t have any connection in politics. A chai shop keeper who had a shop near to the place where this community lives also said confirmed it. When I asked him why locals don’t take any action against this person, he said that he is a big criminal and nobody can do anything, not even police. He also said that he comes almost every night, chooses any girl or woman he wants and take them away with himself. He doesn’t even take the girls at his home but he rapes just somewhere on the road.

I was shocked to hear all these things happening openly in my society. I just did not know what to do with poor beggars. They also talked about corruption in government policies for them. They said that Government of Uttar Pradesh also has a program for rehabilitation of beggars in Uttar Pradesh but there is so much corruption involved in it and beggars are not benefited by it at all. They talked about a housing program where government is providing free housing to the beggars but government officers ask for bribe in order to provide them a house which is built for them and which is supposed to be free of cost.

They said that government is asking for a lot of documents including local residential proof which sounds hilarious to me. How come a beggar can have a residential proof? They live on the road! This idea of asking for residential proof and other documents seemed really stupid to me. I was thinking about these corrupt government officers who don’t forgive even the beggars. They are begging from the beggars which means that they are bigger beggars. There is a saying in Hindi चोर के घर चोरी Chor ke ghar chori (stealing in thieves home) and now we need to start another saying- भिखमंगा से भिखमंगई Bhikhmanga se Bhikhmangai (begging from beggars).

Varanasi bomb blast

Dashashwamedh Ghat

affected area

Again something happened which I never like to hear about. Varanasi faced another bomb blast at Dashashwamedh Ghat during Ganga aarti. My profession brings me to this place at least 15 times a month but luckily I was there today hence I am in good enough condition to write this post but I am really sad for those people who are affected by it. The central government of India, the UP state government and media also is hiding the fact about the real number of victims. I have seen at least 10 ambulances full of injured people passing by my neighborhood but media and government says that only 20 people are injured and 1 girl died.

Empty ghats

empty ghats

The ambulances I saw were going to BHU only and I know that there are at least three more hospitals treating the victims so I am sure that the real number is at least over 100. I don’t have any words to express my feelings but enough is enough now. Indian Mujahideen which used to be a Muslim students organization in India called SIMI is taking responsibility of this attack. But I think Indian government, Indian police and our intelligence department is more responsible for it. I was surprised and sad both to hear the comment by Indian prime minister, Sonia Gandhi and UP police. The Indian prime minister and Sonia Gandhi are appealing people to be calm and UP police’s comment is that it was a terrorist attack.

Sad faces

Sad faces

The whole India knows that it was a terrorist attack and they don’t need to inform us about it but unfortunately this is what we hear all the time. But enough is enough and really need to do something. I can’t really do anything alone just by writing a post here on my blog but I want appeal to all those people who are reading my blog to come and unite against Indian police, our corrupt government, our intelligence department and terrorists. Think several times before voting and every time a policemen asks you for a bribe or if you ever see anything illegal happening, please document it and publish it somewhere so that we can raise awareness about it.  I am really sad and angry.

Sheeta temple near bomb blast place

Sheetla temple near bomb blast place

Bomb blast place

Security for VVIPs visiting the afftected area

Security for VVIPs visiting the afftected area

Road cleaning for VVIPs

Road cleaning for VVIPs

The whole city was closed in the protest against the bomb blast

The whole city was closed in the protest against the bomb blast

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Injured man refused hospital admission

Yesterday I saw something inhuman crazy activity in BHU. I have already had so many bad experiences with BHU and what I saw yesterday really shocked me. I went to IMS (Institute of Medical Sciences) at BHU yesterday. After parking my bike I saw a bunch of people standing together near the main gate of IMS building which looked unusual because the security there doesn’t allow public gathering. I also went to see what was happening there and found that there was an injured fainted person, very close to death, was lying down on the ground.

He had injuries on his face and maybe he had epilepsy attack also. I heard people saying that somebody had beaten him. There were at least ten people standing around him but nobody wanted to take him to the hospital. They said that they had informed the police and when police comes then they would take care of him. Since IMS is medicine studies center, a lot of doctors were going in and coming out of the building. They also saw him but did not show any interest in helping this person. All of this was going on in the premises of one of the best medical colleges in India and very well known all over the world.

Finally police came, asked the people what had happened to him but they also did not seem interested in helping. They sat on a bike just next to this person and were talking about something of their interest. They were laughing and seemed like not concerned at all about this injured person who seemed very close to death to me. Finally after a few minutes one policeman came and started asking this person to wake up and go out of the IMS premises. They were hitting him slowly by their foot, they dragged him on road hoping that he would wake up but it was impossible.

Finally police left without doing anything. I was like what the hell is this? Somebody needed urgent medical assistance but nothing happened even he was inside the premises of the one of the best medical colleges of India. Doctors saw him, the police saw him, many other people saw him but nobody helped. Finally I saw two students coming with a first aid box but they were not doctors and this person needed more than first aid box. They said that they would also inform the police because it was not safe for them to help this person without informing the police.

They said that this person was a thief and was trying to steal something from IMS building hence it was not safe for them to help this person. I understand them because I know how crazy our police is but what about those doctors or the policemen who came to see him? It was really cruel. Doesn’t matter whether he was a thief or what but he was dying. We are spending Rs. 8,00,500 per day to keep Ajmal Kasab in our jail who had killed hundreds of people at Taj but not even general medical assistance to this person only because he was a thief ? I was really socked to see this crazy behavior of police and the doctors. I have no words to explain that cruelty.

Commonwealth Games 2010, New Delhi

India was so excited about Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and we were preparing for it for years. The Indian government was saying so many things like a lot of money would come, tourism will increase, we will get international identity… which is in fact true if we would have organized it well but because of the corruption everything turned out to be just opposite of what the government was promising. We lost billions of rupees, less tourism this year and very had reputation all over the world.

I was always suspicious if were prepared to host this huge event and I always had this idea that it was going to be bad for us and same thing happened. The bridge which was being built for the visitors collapsed only a few days before the event, how is this possible? and then Chief Minister of Delhi Sheela Dixit says that fortunately there no foreigners when the bridge collapsed.  What the hell is this. We were told by the government of India that the total budget of the games would be close to Rs. 16.2 billion ($365 million) but the final costing was Rs. 300 billion ($2.6 billion). How this huge difference is possible?

The games were full of corruption and I am sure that all the government officers and people involved in the games ate all of that money. They were holding the tickets hoping for foreign visitors to come and buy them but finally they had to give free tickets to the school kids so that they could show that stadiums were full. Games village was also a great example of the corruption involved in the games. They had built several flats for the players and we were always getting news that the roof was leaking, the bed was broken, the toilets were super dirty, animals were here and there, cobra snakes were also found… I don’t know what to say about this.

When I was doing my tour guide training last year in Gwalior, we were told several times by professors and tourism ministry officers that a lot of tourists would come to see commonwealth games in India and this was the only reason why our training was organized and we needed to ready to work hard but in reality not even regular number of tourists came. I think it happened only because of all the news people were getting all over the world. And of course the news said nothing nice about India and commonwealth games.

An Australian journalist was able to walk with a bomb inside the games village and nobody check him. What kind of security arrangement was this? Anyways, the government must have realized how happy people were by their corruption by the hooting on Kalmadi during the inauguration ceremony. I hope that government learnt something and would not even think about hosting any other event like commonwealth games in near future but the biggest question is that does government ever learn?

untouchables in India

Casteism has always been a big issue in India. It was started with the idea of organizing the society and was very successful and nice but people changed this system as per their need and benefit. The real casteism worked this way: caste of a person was decided by his profession and not by the parents caste but now it is decided by what caste parents come from. In the past everybody was free to change their caste only by changing their profession but now it is just not possible at all. Once you are born Bramhin, you stay Bramhin forever.

This system was that all the castes had their work like Kshtriyas were the warriors or king, Bramhins were the learned people who studied religion and teach it to others and Vaishyas were the business class people… but this system changed completely with the first kingdom in India. Actually as per the real casteism the king was supposed to be only and only from the Kshtriya caste or the Kshatriya were the only one who could become a king.  I like this system and I don’t think there was anything bad about it but our kings and higher caste people made it really worse.

The kings were worried that if their sons would not be interested in becoming a soldier and started to learn religion then the society would not accept them as their king because if they would study religion then they would become Bramhin hence they changed the system and said that the caste of a person would be decided by their parents caste and not by their profession means son of a Kshtriys would stay Kshtriya forever which meant no threat of loosing the power for them.

I am also born Bramhin but my profession is entirely different and I should not be treated as a Bramhin in the society but people treat me as a Bramhin all the time. It doesn’t offends me, in fact I enjoy it because there are a lot of benefits of belonging to a higher caste in India. But when I think of those people who come from lower caste, it really offends me and I don’t like it at all. There are so many people who are born in a lower caste family but have changed their life completely by getting education or having a job but people still treat them as a lower caste person.

Actually there is no problem with rich people who come from lower caste. If they have money then they are treated as a king. And at least nobody can say anything bad about their in front of themselves. All the problems are with poor people, all the rules are made for them. The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh is the best example. She is a Dalit woman and Dalits are still considered as untouchables in most part of India but no problem for her. She is one of the most powerful woman of India and many big people touch her feet. She rules India.

There are also so many misconceptions about Dalits and untouchables. In fact, nobody is untouchable all the time and everybody becomes untouchable some times by doing certain things. I have worked with so many untouchable caste people and believe me they are in terrible condition. Usually they stay together in a group and are not allowed to use common services for common people like common hand pumps, wells and ponds etc… sometimes they are not allowed even in the schools. There are so many beautiful laws to protect them and to provide them equal rights, in fact, extra rights but it is not practiced in reality and they have problems all over India.

There is a Hindu caste called Doam and their traditional job is help people cremating the dead bodies. I worked with them three years ago and learnt a lot about them. These people are seriously discriminated against in the society. It is really tough for them to get admission in the school or get mixed in the society. They are also considered untouchable. Nobody takes anything touched by them. Working with them raised a lot of questions to me and I decided to learn about it. I did some research and found that there is conecpt of unaccountability in Hindusim but it nowhere close to the concept we have now at present.

In reality anyone can become untouchable by doing certain things like by participating in a funeral and then they can become touchable again by taking a bath and that’s all. But since the Domes work at cremation place they are considered untouchable all the time which is just not right. By rule, they should be considered untouchable only during the time they work at cremation place but once they are done from their work and take a bath they become touchable again and should be treated as any other person in the society.

Whenever anyone participates in any funeral, they take a bath in the river before entering in their home. Nobody shakes hands with them or touches them because they are untouchable that time. I have also become untouchable so many times. I don’t understand why people don’t understand it or question it that how come a domes are untouchable all the time. I read an article yesterday (24/09/10) in a news paper called Amar Ujala about a dog who was declared untouchable by his owner only because he ate a Roti given by a woman who was a Dalit.

Actually what happened is that the dog owner was a Yadav means Vaishya. His dog was just outside the home when a Dalit woman offered him a roti. The owner saw this  and became angry on the woman only because she offered her roti to the dog. He declared that his dog was untouchable. A meeting was called by the Panchayat where they decided that the dog was really untouchable after eating the roti of a Dalit woman and they decided that the woman has to keep the dog from now and pay Rs. 15,000 as penalty to the dog owner.

How come this poor woman could afford Rs. 15,000 penalty, I don’t know what to say about it. This is really crazy and cruel. The most shocking thing about this issue was that this decision was given by the Panchayat which is a government body and has a lot of legal and social powers. How come they can make such decisions? These crazy people did not even think about Lord Ram’s life when he ate leftover food given by Sabri who belonged to an untouchable caste or allowed a Mallah (boat rower caste) to touch his feet.They should have thought about it if they make the decisions based on religious rules.

Finally the woman went to the police station and instead of taking any action against the Panchayat and that crazy dog owner, the police officers asked that woman why did she feed the dog. They did not register her complaint.Then she went to the DIG and same response there also, her complaint was not registered. Finally she went to the DSP SC (schedule caste)/ST (schedule tribe) and only then her complain was registered and I have heard that investigation is going on now. I am cent percent sure that they would not take any action either against the dog owner or the Panchayat.

Maybe they would just end this matter by creating pressure on the woman or by doing something. And I know that they will even these small steps only because media is involved now otherwise they would have just kicked this woman out of the DIG office as well. Such incidents always questions me if I am part of the same 21st century India we proudly talk about? Is it the same India which is becoming one of the super powers of world? Is it the same India which is the fastest growing economy of the world? Is the same India of the Lord Rama who ate leftover food of Sabri?

Times of India also reported this news.

Scanned article of Amar Ujala Hindi newspaper. 24/09/10

Poem about Indian Court system

All of the Indians always talk about our lazy and corrupt court system and I am also one of them and definitely hate getting involved with any kind of court activity. In fact India has most number of legal cases pending in the whole world which is over 30 million and the average time to clear one case in an Indian court is about 15 years.

Anyways, my friend Ravi who recently completed his law degree and is now a registered lawyer sent me a poetry about Indian courts. This whole poem talks about what happens in our court and says that do anything, just anything but never go to the court. I also think it is true. This poem was written by Mr. Kailash Gautam from Allahabad. My friend Ravi, who is a lawyer by profession, also believes in this poem:).

भले डांट घर में तू बीबी की खाना, भले जैसे -तैसे गिरस्ती चलाना
भले जा के जंगल में धूनी रमाना,मगर मेरे बेटे कचहरी न जाना
कचहरी न जाना- कचहरी न जाना.
कचहरी हमारी तुम्हारी नहीं है,कहीं से कोई रिश्तेदारी नहीं है
अहलमद से भी कोरी यारी नहीं है, तिवारी था पहले तिवारी नहीं है
कचहरी की महिमा निराली है बेटे, कचहरी वकीलों की थाली है बेटे
पुलिस के लिए छोटी साली है बेटे, यहाँ पैरवी अब दलाली है बेटे
कचहरी ही गुंडों की खेती है बेटे, यही जिन्दगी उनको देती है बेटे
खुले आम कातिल यहाँ घूमते हैं, सिपाही दरोगा चरण चुमतें है
कचहरी में सच की बड़ी दुर्दशा है, भला आदमी किस तरह से फंसा है
यहाँ झूठ की ही कमाई है बेटे, यहाँ झूठ का रेट हाई है बेटे
कचहरी का मारा कचहरी में भागे, कचहरी में सोये कचहरी में जागे
मर जी रहा है गवाही में ऐसे, है तांबे का हंडा सुराही में जैसे
लगाते-बुझाते सिखाते मिलेंगे, हथेली पे सरसों उगाते मिलेंगे
कचहरी तो बेवा का तन देखती है, कहाँ से खुलेगा बटन देखती है
कचहरी शरीफों की खातिर नहीं है, उसी की कसम लो जो हाज़िर नहीं है
है बासी मुहं घर से बुलाती कचहरी, बुलाकर के दिन भर रुलाती कचहरी
मुकदमें की फाइल दबाती कचहरी, हमेशा नया गुल खिलाती कचहरी
कचहरी का पानी जहर से भरा है, कचहरी के नल पर मुवक्किल मरा है
मुकदमा बहुत पैसा खाता है बेटे, मेरे जैसा कैसे निभाता है बेटे
दलालों नें घेरा सुझाया -बुझाया, वकीलों नें हाकिम से सटकर दिखाया
धनुष हो गया हूँ मैं टूटा नहीं हूँ, मैं मुट्ठी हूँ केवल अंगूंठा नहीं हूँ
नहीं कर सका मैं मुकदमें का सौदा, जहाँ था करौदा वहीं है करौदा
कचहरी का पानी कचहरी का दाना, तुम्हे लग न जाये तू बचना बचाना
भले और कोई मुसीबत बुलाना, कचहरी की नौबत कभी घर न लाना
कभी भूल कर भी न आँखें उठाना, न आँखें उठाना न गर्दन फसाना
जहाँ पांडवों को नरक है कचहरी, वहीं कौरवों को सरग है कचहरी ||


Kashmir

I returned from a trip to Jammu & Kashmir state a few days ago. Although my trip was not successful because  the police stopped us from entering into Kashmir valley due to the bad weather and violence there but I was not regret as I got to talk with the locals and Indian Army about the biggest social issue of India: Kashmir and tension between Hindus and Muslims. I wanted to go to Amarnath temple which is one of the holiest places on planet for Hindus.  I had been to Kashmir before about ten years ago and that time was the beginning of good times in Kashmir valley.

When I was Srinagar ten years ago, I did not see any violence and people seemed so happy. I had talked with locals that time also and they seemed so welcoming and were happy that tourists had started to come to the valley again and terrorism was getting defeated. The income of Kashmir valley is completely dependent on tourism but whenever there is any tension between India and Pakistan, the tourism collapses completely in Kashmir. We arrived Jammu by train and hired a taxi for Pahalgam which is the base camp for pilgrims going to Amarnath.

We left the hotel around 10 o’clock and were so excited for the trip but police stopped us saying that the weather was bad in Kashmir valley that nobody was allowed to move further. My taxi driver said that sometimes police just stop people for nothing and suggested to us that talk with them. We asked J&K police and they told us to wait and contact them later. I saw an Army check-post near where we were stopped and saw a few pilgrims going inside their office and thought that I should also talk with them.

We went to the army office and explained our situation to them. We were told by our driver to tell that we did not want to go to Amarnath but that we wanted to go to Katra, another pilgrimage about 40 kms from Jammu. We told the army guy that we wanted to go to Katra but the police were stopping us from going there and he said that he would have helped us if we had any connection with the army means any of my relative or someone whom I knew working in the army. I have relatives working for the Indian Army but I did not want to delay the process by calling them and asking them to talk with this army officer so I told him that I did not know anyone working for the army.

The army officer told us that in this case he could not help us. He asked me where I was from and fortunately he was also from a city near Varanasi and after knowing this he became more friendly to me. I asked him if there was any way to go and he told me that it is neither his nor Indian Army style to suggest or accept a bribe but if we really wanted to know how J&K police work then we should offer the police a bribe of Rs. 500 and then the police would let us move. He said that he knew that police do such things but he would not go to the the police and talk for us because the army hates J&K police because they do such things.

I was surprised to hear that such thing was going on in J&K also but I was happy that now at least we had a way to reach our destination.We went to a police and offered him for bribe and he agreed to let us go by taking Rs. 300 per taxi. Unfortunately when we were giving him the money, one other police officer saw us and got really violent and this officer who had agreed to take bribe also changed and got angry on us. Finally we were in the line again. I was just walking here and there and saw one army guy standing alone and thought just to talk with him about his job.

I went to him and we started talking and he told me something that really shocked me. He said that J&K state is not in India anymore, even he did not know where it was. He said that army is there to protect people and that’s all. He told me that we should also just go to the pilgrimage and enjoy our journey. He was seriously angry at J&K police. He said that if the army leaves the state only for one day then the J&K police will sell the whole state and people living outside of J&K state will not be able to enter J&K by the very next day.

He said that J&K police are completely corrupt and they are one of the biggest reasons of terrorism in the state. I had also heard similar things several times before and after seeing that they agreed to let us go only by taking Rs. 300, I believed that army guy. We were asked to go back to Jammu after waiting for ten hours. The police told us to come the next day at 4 am. We went back to the hotel and again came back at 4 am but were stopped again and were asked to get in the line. While we were in the line, I saw a young guy who looked local to me so I thought to talk with him.

I asked him where was he from and he told me from a village near Anantnag which made me excited because I often read and hear about terrorist activities around Anantnag area. I asked him if he was a student and he said that he could go to the school because of the poor condition of his family and had been selling hot water to the pilgrims going to Amarnath. After talking for a while with him I asked him something which surprised him and he felt uncomfortable answering my question. I asked him if he had ever seen any terrorist and after hearing my question, I could easily see by his facial expression that he was uncomfortable.

First he told me that he had never ever seen any terrorist but I knew that he was hiding something so I kept talking to him and told him that I was a general tourist and was just curious about the situation and finally he told me something that really blasted my mind. He said that terrorists often come to his village and stay with the locals. Locals do not want to host them but they can not do anything either. If they inform army about it then they will be killed someday for sure so it is their compulsion to host terrorists and help them in achieving their goals.

He said that when terrorists stay at his place, they sleep with his sister and he can not do anything to stop them. He started to cry saying this and I was also really sad and shocked to hear this true story. How is this possible? He told me another story of his very good friend who once hosted a group of 3 terrorists in his house. The same day army did routine checking and showed up at his house. They knocked on the door, came in and asked for ID of all the family members. Everyone had an ID but these three new guests did not have any ID because they were terrorists.

He told me that one army guy was inside the house doing his business and rest of the army people were outside the home. As the army guy asked for the ID card of one of these terrorists, the other ones started to fire on the army guy and killed him and started to fire on other the army officers standing outside the house. The army also responded and blew up the whole house. All three terrorists along with the family members were killed which became a huge issue and people came on the road and started protesting against the army. I don’t know what could have been the right decision, either to blow up the house or wait and see who was terrorist and who was not.

Once I asked my driver about what Kashmiri people want and I was surprised to hear his answer that Kashmiri people want neither India nor Pakistan and instead they want to be an independent state. I do not know how this thinking came because if they become an independent state then they will have to start from beginning which means poverty and so many other problems for a really long time. I think it is a much more practical choice for Kashmiri people to be with India rather than being an independent state or go with Pakistan because we have more money, we are developing faster than Pakistan and there is more security and opportunities in India.

When I asked my driver about tension between Hindus and Muslims and terrorism in Kashmir Valley, he did not want to agree with this fact that there is any terrorism or tension between Hindus and Muslims at all in Kashmir Valley. He said that the Indian Army and politicians are responsible for all the problems in Kashmir Valley. He said that the Indian Army kills innocent people of Kashmir for nothing which obviously I didn’t believe but he was seriously angry with our army and politicians. I also hate politicians but I don’t believe that the army kills innocent people.

My driver blamed America for all the problems and tension in this whole world. He said that Barack Obama, George Bush and other American politicians should be brought on the road and should be killed by beating with shoes because they want to rule the world and make people fight. I couldn’t talk with many locals but whomever I talked with was very angry with Indian Army, Indian politicians and America. I do not understand where this America stands between our problems. I think it is terrorist organizations, politicians and crazy religious groups that make us fight and create tensions, not America.

I could not make it to Amarnath but my two other friends went to Amarnath only a few days before I left Varanasi and they were able to reach the temple as the weather was nice when they arrived. They also told me shocking stories. My one friend Sonu told me that once they were stuck in a traffic jam near Sringar city and were just standing on the road when they saw three young kids, hardly 10-12 years old, passing by. Sonu called them because he just wanted to talk with them. Sonu asked them what they were doing on the highway and these young kids said something that shocked Sonu and his other friends traveling with him.

Instead of replying they asked Sonu what he was doing there. Their wordings were “Why do you come here? Do you come here to pray to the ice (Shivalingam in Amarnath temple is naturally formed of ice)? It’s not any God, it’s ice only which melts by heat and you should not come here to Kashmir as it is my land, not yours, you fucking Indians”. Sonu got angry and scared both at the same time. I wonder how much poison was there in that kid’s blood. Kashmir is the biggest issue and the biggest reason of tension between Hindus and Muslims in India and I always thought that Muslims wanted to stay with India but such things make me think about the issue again.

Sonu said that locals of Kashmir valley were throwing stones on vehicles of pilgrims going to Amarnath and that his taxi was also attacked. He saw over 200 cars with broken window glasses. People were throwing stones on the vehicles and were asking pilgrims and tourists to go back from Kashmir which sounds really scary. I would not like to go to such place where people welcome me by throwing stones on my vehicle. It is a really bad situation for innocent people of Kashmir because it is they themselves whose lives are most affected.

I don’t know what will be the future like of Kashmir Valley but one thing is very sure that if such condition continues in the future also, people of Kashmir will face serious problems and it will take them a really long time to make the situation better again. After hearing all these true stories and spending four days in J&K state, I really felt sad and questioned myself if I was really somewhere which was part of India. How can an Indian citizen call me an Indian visiting their land? I don’t know what happened that made people think that they are not Indian; but if this is the case, then what we are fighting for?

Are we fighting for a piece of land or we are fighting for the rights of people of Kashmir? So many questions and actually I don’t even know if I have any rights to question about the issues of Kashmir because it seems like the people of Kashmir want something else but I am an Indian and I feel like questioning each and every thing going on in India and my personal feeling is that Kashmir is part of India. I hope some day terrorism will be defeated and people of Kashmir will find wealth and a green life but for the time being my friends and I have decided that we will not go to Kashmir Valley again until this terrorism problem is solved and people welcome the pilgrims and tourists again with the idea of Atithi Devo Bhav. अतिथि देवो भव. Peace.