Rapes and women rights in India

Woman rights have always been a very issue in India ever since it was affected by invaders. And now the situation has become worse. If we look at India before invaders came, we see that India was a very liberal society with woman and men both having equal rights. But as soon as invaders came, they changed Indian society completely. They implemented so many rules to keep women behind curtain which kind of separated them from the society and caused serious discrimination against them and now these practices have become part of life in India. I travel a lot across India and as a person interested in human behavior, I try never to miss any opportunity of talking with people, doesn’t matter what subject.
Every once in a while I encounter in such conversations where people are talking about girls and just listening to them gives me a sense about how do they see woman, even who are their family. People react in seriously strange way when talking about woman. Three of my friends have daughters and I still remember that when I spoke to them first time after their baby was born, all of them told me somehow the same thing that were happy EVEN if the baby was a girl. I mean if someone becomes a parent then naturally they are happy and there is no need of mentioning whether they got a girl or boy. I could easily see that they were so happy, just as any new parent, but at the same time they were depressed also. There was definitely something missing out of their happiness.

The compliments of others who came to visit the baby at the hospitals were also very strange. They would come and ask if it was a male or female baby and as soon as they heard that it was a female baby, they would go like : Oh, but its not a problem, now the world has changed and girls are also doing so many nice things. These kind of compliments easily showed that the people already had an idea in their mind that the parents were not so happy. Noticing such behavior raise serious question of gender issues in India. We heard about Damini rape case in December last year and I noticed how big news it had become. Everyone was talking about it, people were protesting on the streets, media had nothing else to talk about other than this rape case, our politicians got a news subject to talk about : the party in power was promising some serious step and the opposition party also got an issue to make the other party look down.

I was wondering why everyone was so serious about this particular case when such things have been happening and will happen, because I don’t have any hope from the government at all and police is cent-percent corrupt, in future as well??? What about other Daminis who were also raped and murdered in the past? There has not been a single day ever since Damini was raped when some other girl was not raped in such or worse condition somewhere in India, including several in Delhi itself. It is my daily routine to read newspaper as soon as I wake up and I never find my newspaper not talking about some rape case somewhere in India. Reports are same more or less everyday that a girl was raped and thrown somewhere in either half naked or fully nude condition:  when family went to the police asking them to register a complaint police did not register the complaint: but when media got involved, police registered the complaint: ministers also promised something etc.

I have read several articles saying police itself raped someone inside the police station. I also read an article about a 40 years old woman who was raped by 3 men. When she went to the police station, the Police did not register her complain. When media heard about the issue and contacted to the SSP (Senior Superintendent of Police), the SSP himself said on camera that this woman was lying. She was too old get raped. In fact he asked media why someone would rape her if she is already over 40??? I was like what the hell is this? We all know it very well that it is very complicated for a person to get their complain registered and police does it all the time because once they register the complain they have to solve it also and Police never have time to solve any problem, they are always busy either relaxing, making fake reports, taking bribe or planning to torture someone without any reason but having such kind of excuse from a very responsible and senior police officer??? Later the SSP was suspended but I know that he will be back soon.

Last year an IAS officer tried to rape a 16 year old girl on a running train. Under pressure of other people traveling on the train, police had to register a complain but the very next day media reported that several ministers and other big officers either went to the police station or made a phone call asking police to take the complain back. But since the issue had already been noticed by media, police could not do anything and case was still going on. Finally last week I read another article in the news paper saying that the District Magistrate case was closed in the lack of evidence. The District Magistrate never spent a night in the prison and the case was also finalized only within a few months otherwise India has got most number of legal cases pending in the whole world and usually it takes years for a case to get finalized.

Another horrible case, I would say the worse one is of Sonali Mukharjee, a girl from Dhanbad, Jharkhand (Previously was part of Bihar state). Three boys from her neighborhood attacked her with acid while she was sleeping on her roof top in 2003 and the boys who attacked her are out of prison having fun or planning to attack another Sonali and no one talks about her. The only mistake Sonali did that she refused love proposal of a boy and that’s all. He attacked her with his two other friends and threw acid on her face. Sonali’s story is that she belonged to a poor family. Her father was a security guard at some residential building which means not more than Rs. 5-6000 of income per month. Her mother was a house wife and she had a younger sister as well.

Sonali was so smart in studies that her school had given her life-long scholarship, she was so popular in her school and her parents were so proud their daughter. She was also a National Cadet Corps cadet. In 2003, almost one and half months prior to the incident, three alleged assailants – Tapas Mitra, and his two friends Sanjay Paswan and Bhrahmadev Hajra – told her that she was a Ghamandi (arrogant) person and they would teach her a lesson. Her father later complained to the families of the three men. On 22 April, when she was asleep on the roof of her house, she was attacked with acid and left with a burnt face and other severe injuries. Her sister was also injured in the incident. She was studying sociology honours in a Dhanbad women’s college and also juggling a job with a private firm when the horrific incident occurred.

Miss Mukherjee and her family were then forced to abandon their home in Dhanbad, and her mother slipped into depression. Her father Chandi Das Mukherjee said, ‘We appealed in the high court… Nothing happened. They were sent to jail but were released soon after… Now they are busy enjoying their lives.”The law against acid attackers needs to be made tougher. Otherwise we will have many more Sonalis. Police sources said that the victim and her family members are afraid since two of her attackers, Tapas Mitra and Sanjay Paswan, were released on bail six years ago. The third accused Brahmadev Hajra was let off as he was a juvenile at the time of crime. She also pleaded with the Indian authorities to help her find justice, or else allow her to die.

A report about Sonali asking for either justice or mercy killing:

Sonali appealing people to help her by signing a petition

After all these things Sonali never got justice and the criminals are enjoying their lives, maybe planning to attack another Sonali. I just don’t understand all these craziness and in fact it is increasing. More and more girls are raped everyday and different people have different opinion about it. I have talked with several people on this issue and most of them, over 90%, blame girl’s dressing and modern life style. Many people also blame poverty, illiteracy and even Internet. Neither of these sound genuine cause to me. If its girls dressing or modern life style which motivates people to rape them then what about that 5 years old girl who was raped brutally in Delhi and so many like her are raped every day in our society. We heard about her only because media paid attention otherwise I can guarantee that so many other kids are raped everyday but we never hear about them.

I have also heard of so many cases which took place in rich and highly educated families which clearly shows that this problem is not limited amongst poor or illiterate class. I went through a very interesting conversation about Damini rape case in January when I was traveling on a train from Pune to Varanasi. I was in non AC sleeper class which is mostly used by lower middle class families. All of the people around me where from Bihar who were working in Pune and now going back home on vacations. I heard them talking about how do they find people living in Pune so different than the people living in Bihar. They were saying that all of the young people of Pune waste their whole time with their partners because the parents have got a lot of money and kids don’t care about their future at all.

They were also saying that they see young couples kissing in public spaces or showing other form of PDAs which cause frustration amongst the people like themselves who come from other cities or states where they never see such thing happening. They said that Damini was also raped because of such reason. The people who raped her came from Bihar, and as per the people sitting on the train, it was not their fault that they raped Damini but it was Damini’s fault that she was out with her friends in midnight watching a movie. They were saying that the people who move to big cities to work always leave their wives back at home. And if they see such activities like kissing or something else then they also feel like having sex and since their wives are home, either they have quit their job to go back home or find someone in city where they are at that moment.

And definitely nobody would quit the job, instead rape someone in the city. It was a horrible communication but at the same time it showed the mind set of such people. PDAs is serious issue in India. I know that everyone wants to do it but they don’t because of the local culture. But its becoming more and more common which means more and more people are upset with it. I have heard several incidents when a couple was beaten only because they were found kissing. There is a park very close to my place and it has become kind of love nest amongst young people of my city. I know so many people living around the park area who say that every evening they hide somewhere behind the trees trying to find a couple kissing or doing something else and if anyone is found then they either throw stones at them or just jump in between and say that they also want to kiss the girl or just chase them away and later disturb the girl.

I have noticed if people find a couple kissing then they thinking that the girl wants to be kissed, just by anyone and hence they also deserve a kiss. I used to go sit behind the park every night with my friends, have some beer and enjoy the quietness. I noticed certain people who would come every day with a flash light and try to look everyone sitting here and there. It was a very strange thing to see same people every day and once I asked my friends from that neighborhood about those people and they said that these people basically try to find couples kissing or having sex. And if any couple is found doing anything other than talking then problem for them. These people threaten the couples and in some cases beat the boy, kick him out and then have sex with the girl. I have talked with so many people about what do they think about a couple kissing in a park or just at any other public space and most of them have really strange ideas.

I was once talking with one of my friends, who is my age and is a software engineer and he said that if a couple is beaten because they were found kissing in public then there is nothing wrong with it. He thinks that public places are open for all aged people and kissing is something very very sexual and private. In fact he  asked me how would I react if I see a couple kissing in a park where I am present with my family. I don’t know what would I do, most probably just not pay attention to them and let them enjoy their private moment. I have no idea what is the reason behind all these problems but rapes have made the situation worse and it seems like its not going to change soon. But if I have to make a guess about my society, I would say it’s the Police, government of India, late and corrupt judiciary, some cultural problems and regular sick mind which is causing all these problems.

Police is 100% corrupt and they never want to register complaints because if they register a case then it becomes their responsibility to clear it and in any case any Indian police officer can be bought by offering some money. Corruption in police has caused serious problems in India. I feel like Police is somehow responsible for all of the problems we have in India. Late judiciary is also a very big problem in India which basically somehow motivates people to do crime. People know that if the go to a court then it will take 30-40 years for so called judgment to come. And in any case there is always a way : after district court, its high court : after high court, its supreme court : after supreme court, it’s the parliament and after parliament it’s the president where one can appeal. I know several people who were able to get the hearing delayed just by offering a few hundred rupees as a bribe.

Government also makes so many promises but never does anything. All of the political parties do politics in the name of caste, religion and region. They have nothing to do with development, education or any other issue that we are facing. I think that governments can do anything if they are committed to make a change but they don’t have any interest in such issues. Nature is dying, crime has increased, poverty is increasing, inflation is on top, scams are the biggest in the world…but government has no time to think about these serious issues. They are always busy in talking bullshit and doing scams.  India has so many problems coming from its culture. For an example, the problem of hierarchy on the basis of somebody’s caste or wealth. People evaluate themselves by their caste and literally talk about it in their regular conversations.

I know many people who belong to Kshatriya caste and they always say that they have politics in their blood, they are always the best fighters because they belong to Kashtriya caste…although they are really stupid. The male dominant culture in India is also causing such problem like discrimination and violence against women. I find present India really weird because woman power is worshiped by worshiping Goddesses when they are dead statues but real woman are raped so brutally that it becomes an International news. India, particularly Hindus, have a great concept of respecting woman. In fact the term used for women is Shakti which means power but I don’t know where all these concepts are lost? Female infanticide, depressed woman, violence and discrimination… after looking at the present condition of woman in India, it doesn’t seem like there is any concept of worshiping Goddesses or respecting Goddess power at all.

I am upset, India is upset, Mother India is crying and we need to change the situation. Lets pray that India gets its glory again and we become a really great nation where there is no discrimination against anyone….

A painting at Assi ghat

A painting at Assi ghat

Public Display of Affection in Europe and India

a young couple walking in Budapest

Public display of affection is something not seen at all in India. Actually its very strange here. The people who love each other are not supposed to show any physical intimacy in public whereas regular friends can hug each other, hold hands and sometimes kiss on cheeks. Holding hands and hugging is the most common act of physical intimacy seen in India amongst same sex person but it doesn’t mean that they are homosexuals. Its again very strange that homosexuals never want to hold hands, hug or kiss each other in public because homosexuality is very very hidden and homosexual people don’t want to express their sexuality. I have met so many Europeans and Americans who always thought that same sex people holdings hand of each other are homosexual because this is how it works in their world.

a middle aged couple in Vienna

Usually friends do such things and there is no idea making love behind it. If people see a couple kissing or hugging they want to watch it. Holding hands is kind of becoming common and is not kind of issue anymore in big Indian cities. Anyways, I have also grown up in the same culture where I never saw any act of physical intimacy in public. My city gets a lot of western people from all over the world who some time kiss and hug in public so at least people in my city have an idea about it. Every once in a while we see some crazy drunk westerner making love on the street. Making love doesn’t mean having sex but finding a westerner kissing or hugging is not something unknown to the people of Varanasi. Doesn’t matter whether they have seen it or not but they are very well aware of this culture.

an old couple in Vienna

I think that having sex or watching people having sex has always been one of the biggest attractions amongst us humans in our whole history. But the world has changed a lot within past a few decades. There are several countries and cultures where sex is discussed, is opened (doesn’t mean in public: in fact there are places where people can go in groups and have sex but is usually a group activity rather than a public activity), people have a choice and it is seen in a very different way than the it is seen in my culture and country. This idea of watching people making love or just seeing them in their undergarments is very exciting for Indians because we just don’t see such thing happening. And whenever we see someone in such condition, most of the time they are western people.

an old couple in Vienna

I am very well aware that a lot of people go to places like Goa in India just to watch western woman in bikinis. In fact, when I went to Goa first time in my life it was also to watch western girls in bikinis and find cheap alcohol. To be honest most of the woman I saw in Goa were old with ugly bodies:) Still when I see someone kissing on the street my eyes like to stop and watch it. But I usually try to avoid it because I don’t like to disturb people but my mind still talks with me about that picture while I am trying not to watch them. I think situation should be the same with most of the Indians, even the ones who try not to watch people kissing or making love. And I don’t really mind it because we just don’t see such thing happening and foreigners should also learn about these cultural issues before coming here and try to respect and be respected. But at the same time we can’t blame foreigners either because it is very important part of their culture.

a newly married couple in Buda

Anyways, I got to travel to Europe (Hungary, Austria and Slovakia) , in fact anywhere out of India for first time in my life a few weeks ago. Everything was different than what I was used to hence everything was a shock, in fact very interesting shock. I don’t want to discuss about all those things in this post but I would like to discuss the idea of the importance of physical intimacy and public display of affection. I had started seeing couples kissing, holding hands, sitting on the lap, caressing, nestling… as soon as I crossed the immigration area at Delhi airport. The most interesting thing was that very good percentage of Indians were also involved in such act who usually never do such thing in public.

a young couple in Vienna

It seemed like they had planned to do it as soon as they leave India but could not wait for the flight to land:) haha. Maybe they had not planned it together with their partners but they had planned it with themselves for sure. Experience make us feel comfortable and I could easily see that Indians were not comfortable doing what they wanted to and looked completely inexperienced. hahaha. I am sure that they did not want to do sex in public but they just did not know what they were doing. They didn’t seem comfortable even in touching each other but they were trying their best. I am not making fun of those people I saw at the airport but It was really funny and interesting both for a person like me to see them. Because I just don’t see such thing happening in my society by the locals and they had changed their as soon as they crossed immigration area at the airport.

even statues were making love

When I arrived in Europe I saw people kissing and hugging just everywhere even inside a church. They were very comfortable with it and it seemed like it was just not an issue at all. I saw people kissing in the train, at the crossings, shopping malls, restaurants, zoo…just everywhere. It seems like kissing is as important as meat to Europeans. I saw all aged people, literally as young as 14 years old kissing in public. Kissing seems very important to Europeans. Once I saw a young shop keeper smooching her boyfriend in front of the customer and the customer waiting for them to finish.

couples at Szimplakart pub in Budapest

I was very well aware about this culture in Europe years before I went there but I was still surprised when I saw it first and my first few days were shocking for me in terms of seeing people making love on the street. I think I had stopped noticing or watching it after a week or so but it was something which won’t go out of my mind soon. In fact once I was discussing this issue with my host Attila and told him about how I saw Indians involved in physical intimation in public at Delhi airport or in Hungary or other European countries I visited and Attila was so surprised and he asked me why Indians don’t do such things in India also if they like to do it.

men and women dancing together at a cultural event in Kesthai, Budapest

Attila had already spent more than an year and half living in India and he was very well aware of what I was talking about. I did not know how to make him understand but his question was very genuine that why don’t we do it if we like to do it? I knew the answer but it was hard for an European mind to understand. Sex is very very hidden in India, even talking about it with parents and unknown people is something which just doesn’t happen. Everyone does sex but they don’t want to talk about it. I have met so many people, to be honest all of the people all I meet, who find such sexual acts like cunnilingus and several other sex positions very exciting but they never want to admit that they do it with their partners and always relate with something coming from the western world which is very dirty, disgusting and unnatural. haha

temple art in Khajuraho, India

I am sure that everyone does it but they just don’t admit, even when they are talking with their friends. It is again very interesting for me to see why people relate such sexual acts with western world when all of them are mentioned in Kamasutra or if they are present on the temples of Khajuraho and several others all over India. I think we were practicing all of those acts way before western people started talking about it, at least it was very open part of the society thousands of years before the first sex museum was opened in the world or anyone ever tried to document sex in this whole world. Anyways, my issue is about present India so I should about present.

A young couple in Bratislava, Slovakia

I just mean to say that sex is a very very hidden act in India which is one of the reason why we don’t see public display of affection in India. The second biggest reason behind this issue is the safety of woman in India, woman rights issues and in fact safety of couples also who dare to show physical intimacy in public. It was hard for Attila to understand why someone could be upset by watching others kissing but I understand it very well. Anyways, Attila only seemed upset and I could not satisfy him with my answers. The world knows how Shiv Sena was targeting people celebrating Valentines Day in India. If we try to learn how they were protesting against the festival then we can see that they were not actually looking for people celebrating the festival but mostly they were targeting the couples.

In fact kissing is seen as a form of greeting also in western culture. Men are kissing each other in a wedding part for greeting.

They wanted to beat the couples who were found together watching cinema, hanging around in the park or other public places. So it clearly means that they were protesting against the people and not the festival itself. And I know it very well that the all the people who were protesting against the festival either had a partner whom they went out with to celebrate festival the same day or definitely they wanted to have someone. And I personally know so many people from my own city, who were part of the Shiv Sena and were targeting people celebrating the festival, now are either married with the someone whom they loved or they have girlfriend.

a view of Rajdari waterfall from Devdari

Only after a week after I returned from Europe I went to visit a water fall 50 KMs from Varanasi called Raj Dari. This water fall is a very famous picnic spot for people living in Varanasi and nearby districts and hundreds of people visit the fall on Sundays during rainy season. I was there to find rock paintings and to watch people. The whole region of Chandauli district has several sites with ancient rock paintings and tree fossils which are said to be around 1400 million years old. While I was looking for ancient rock paintings I heard a group of people shouting which made me look at them

Couples bathing together in public is no problem in Europe

It was a group of like 15-20 men, all different aged, mostly young who were taking a bath. A young girl who was wearing Punjabi suit was also taking a bath hardly 20 meters away from them. She was with her boy friend and wearing Punjabi suit mean her whole body was covered with cloth. That group of 15 men was taunting at her. They were calling her with the name black panty. And they were doing it repeatedly in front of hundreds of other people who were there. They were taunting such things like- call us also, we are also very good…

usual scene at bathing places in Europe

The couple was doing nothing other than taking a bath, even they were not kissing or doing anything which can be considered as a sexual act. Her dress was also not different than bathing dress of woman in India. I am 100% sure that it happened with her only because she was with her boyfriend. Most probably such thing would have not happened with her if she was with her parents. It happens with woman even when they are with their families as well but it is more likely to face such situation when they are with their boyfriends. The girl was so nervous and uncomfortable with the situation that she came out of the water and walked away from there.

Even when she was walking away another group also joined and they all started taunting at her with vulgar languages. I know that such things are less likely to happen in big cities and one of the biggest reason behind why such happened is because those people were locals and there was no security at all. But the question that raised in my mind was-

  • Does a girl need security if she wants to take a bath at a water fall?
  • Are couples not allowed to be together?
  • What do such people think about the the couples who kiss or hug, do the think that the girl wants to be kissed and hugged by just anyone on the street or do they think that she is a slut?
  • What about freedom to express your feelings?
  • What about constitution of India which allows us to choose our life partner?
  • What about constitution of us human beings which allows us to live and let others live?

a couple in Bratislava, Slovakia

There are thousands of questions but its very sad that because of such practices we just don’t have any answer for them. The bitter truth is that if we try to study the mentality of such people then we find out that if they see a girl doing anything which can be considers a sexual act, even kissing or hugging, the girl is immediately thought to be a slut who is wanting such thing to be done with herself by just anyone. In small Indian cities and villages If a girl is found in relationship with anyone boy then people talk about it and now the whole neighborhood wants to try that girl out.

I don’t know what is right or wrong but it was really upsetting for me to see how that girl was being taunted and abused only because she was with her boyfriend. The radical and nationalist groups in India relate such things with something coming from the western world and we should not allow such things because it is against Indian culture. But I think we as a human have a human culture before we get into any particular country’s culture. Love, hate, emotions, feelings are natural human behavior and it just can’t be stopped. And in any case if something hurts us then we should try to control ourselves first and then think about others.

I still don’t know whether my Indian system is better than what I saw in Europe or not but one thing is very sure that woman are living in very tough condition in India. If we just look at this data it can easily tell the story about woman in India. But one thing I would like say for sure that whatever I saw in Europe looked really lovely and I saw Indians also enjoying it in Europe and missing in their own country. Jai Hind. I got a funny picture online which shows the difference I am trying to talk about-

Is beer sacred than Whiskey?

I have a friend who has a strong belief in spirits, ghosts, demons and they affecting your life because somebody (usually your enemy) has sent them to destroy your life or sometimes you just made a mistake like peed on a grave yard or on a Pipal tree or there are a lot of other mistakes one can make to make ghosts destroy their life. This friend believes that he has some kind of unknown supernatural power which affects his and his family life. He has been trying to know about this power by taking help of a Guru (exorcist) so that he can make his life better.

Its very hard for me to believe in such things but it has always been a very interesting subject for me hence I follow such people and like to talk with them. The Guru who has been helping my friend told him that the spirit which is related with my friend needs certain kind of attention and respect and if it doesn’t get that respect or attention then it will destroy my friend’s life. The Guru suggested certain kind of rituals which usually take minimum of an hour everyday. The Guru suggested my friend to come see him on every Thursdays as it is some kind of special day for dealing with spirits and don’t drink whiskey or any other strong liquor.

He also suggested my friend to spit on every eatable item, especially milk, before bringing it inside the home and only then consume it. He said that there are so many people on the street who can damage his food (mean send ghosts in his food) only by looking at it from their evil eye. The interesting thing is that my friend literally follows it. The Guru suggested him to not eat anything alone, if other people don’t want to share his food then he should throw a small part of the food. I have heard about such believes several times but the issue with alcohol and spitting on the food is something really strange.

My friend says that his Guru has become very famous, powerful and rich now because his suggestions are always very helping and all kind of people come to him and like to give him money. Now the Guru owns several buildings in Varanasi and now he has three assistants. I asked my friend what was the difference between beer and whiskey, after all both of them have alcohol but my friend said that the spirit who has affected his life doesn’t like whiskey and in any case his Guru also drinks beer. Sometimes his disciples bring him bottle of beer as offering. Now I knew the answer why beer is more sacred than whiskey.

Since his Guru likes beer now he has made a rule for all of his disciples that spirits don’t like whiskey and they like beer. hahaha. But one thing I never understood that why he suggested to spit on all the eatable item before bringing them inside the home. It sounds disgusting but sad thing is that people believe in such things. I should really appreciate the smartness of the Guru that he is make people do such things that they won’t ever do usually. My friend sometimes seem to like his Guru a lot and sometimes he seems kind of disturbed. Sometimes he says that his life has not changed at all since he has been seeing his Guru and sometimes he says that whatever he has is because of the blessings of his Guru.

He says that there was huge tension in family before he started going to this Guru but now there is no tension at all. But whenever there is any tension he is upset with his Guru. He says that his sister was having problems with her husband. In fact the husband was kind of prepared to divorce his wife and then my friend suggested his sister about this Guru and Guru solved all of the problems by organizing some rituals. The Guru said that there was a ghosts in their house who was creating all of the problems but he controlled the ghost and thrown him out of the house by the rituals.

It still doesn’t matter to me if someone believes in such things or not but I feel sad when people with limited amount of money go to such Gurus and loose all of their money and finally they nothing to do. The something happened with my friend also. He is unemployed but he had a plan to start a business. He worked on a project, made some money and seemed so excited for this new business. The same time Navratri (nine nights festival) also came which is a very important time for the people who believe in the ghosts. They do some special rituals during this time.

My friend also started going to his Guru everyday during Navratri and by the end of the festival he had already spent good amount of money he had made by working on that project and now he did not have sufficient balance to start the business he wanted to. He was unemployed before working on the project and he is still unemployed. I feel when I see him but it is impossible to make to him understand that he should believe more on himself rather than his Guru. Anyways, I hope someday things will get better with him.

Won Citizen Journalist award

I had exposed a scam in ticking at Sarnath in Varanasi with help of CNN IBN in September 2011. There was a huge scam of reselling of entry tickets was going at Sarnath and I exposed it and as an impact of my report the corrupt government officers were suspended and a reliable system of ticketing was introduced. For this work I was nominated as Citizen Journalist of the year and finally won the award. The selection process of journalists was divided into two parts- First Phase – when the IBN18 Editorial Board generates a list of nominees in the category of Citizens against corruption and Second Phase – which was based on an online voting on www.ibncj.com.

The award event was organized at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi. CNN IBN arranged my flight tickets, hotel and other facilities in New Delhi. The Taj Palace Hotel was just awesome, I was really surprised to see the luxury. Anyways, the event was nicely organized and chief guest of the program was Vidya Balan. When I looked at her first, I just thought that I had seen this girl somewhere because there was a huge difference between the face I see on TV and face sitting in front of me. It again proved that there is a huge difference between real and reel life:)

The event was a delayed by an hour and half but I was not surprised at all as I experience such thing all the time. There were other people also who were nominated and I got to talk with a few of them. It was nice talking and listening to the people who were fighting against corruption. There was a guy from Sonbhadra who was shot, but luckily survived, only because of his fight against corruption in government schemes. I met one other guy who from India-Pakistan border area in Rajasthan who was attacked and beaten so hard that he could not walk properly anymore.

It was a shock to see what could happen if you start fighting against corruption. Anyways, finally my turn came. They showed my story on a big screen, called me on the stage and gave me an award for my fight against corruption in tourism industry. The award was presented by Vidya Balan herself. It was really a nice feeling to get such honor. I had never thought that such thing would ever happen with me. The award motivates me to keep my fight on. Here is the video of the show:

Interview with Arun Pathak

Mr. Pathak addressing a public meeting

Arun Pathakis a politician and a social worker from Varanasi. He is famous all over the world for his style of protest by committing suicide. His protest against the movie water in the year 2000 made him popular all over the world. I had been hearing about him ever since I started hearing, had seen him several times in my neighborhood and had read his name in the newspapers and magazines several times but I got to meet with him last year when I was working with Irene, a researcher from Italy. When Irene asked me to arrange a meeting with Mr. Pathak, I was not really if I would be able to arrange it because Arun Pathak has become a very powerful politician now.

Mr. Pathak on the stage

I was thinking about Arun Pathak like any other Indian politician who do not have time for people after the elections are over but my impression about him completely wrong. I was able to arrange the meeting with Arun Pathak and I was seriously surprised to see how helping nature person he was. I went to interview him with Irene at least 20 times in 2 months and he was always so welcoming. He treated us very well and answered all of our questions. I got to learn about him a lot by interviewing him.

Mr. Pathak at Roja Iftar party in Varanasi

I was seriously surprised to listen his stories about his politics, style of protest and his struggles. Mr. Pathak’s family was very poor. His father worked at Jain Dharamshala in Varanasi as a store keeper. Pathak said that often times they did not have enough money to buy both meals everyday and they slept empty stomachs several times. He had to stop his studies and he was sent to his uncle’s house in the village only because the family could not afford to send him to the school.

Mr. Pathak at a meeting

He returned to Varanasi only after a few months because his uncle also not nice to him. Finally Pathak joined municipality school (free schools but just waste of time) in Varanasi. During his schooling when he was only 14 years old, he went to a shop in his neighborhood asking for a job because he wanted to make some money to help his family. The shopkeeper laughed at him and said that he could employ a 14 year old student. Arun Pathak said that he wanted a part time job for evenings.

Mr. Pathak in 2002

After so much request by Pathak, the shopkeeper agreed to have him as a part time employee. Pathak worked at his shop for one month and when he got his first salary, which was only Rs. 30, he was so happy to share it with his family. But when he was going back to his home with his salary, a few bullies stopped him and took his money. They asked him to buy them alcohol using the same money. After drinking alcohol they all went together and beat his family. Mr. Pathak says that his family was beaten up only because they were not able to pay the rent of their apartment on time.

Arrest

Those days a political party called Shiv Sena was very popular in India for working with youth. Shiv Sena has always been known for being a radical Hindu party. There was a rumor those days that Shiv Sena was providing a pistol to all of their new members and after hearing this Mr. Pathak also thought to join the Shiv Sena so that he could get a pistol to kill the people who had beaten his family. Since it was only a rumor, Mr. Pathak was never provided any pistol by Shiv Sena but Mr. Pathak proudly says he found nuclear bombs instead of pistols in Shiv Sena.

Distributing books in Mumbai

When talking about nuclear bombs he talks about the radical people of Shiv Sena. He says he had always led the life of a leader even during his school times and after joining Shiv Sena he again became popular because of leadership quality and so many people in his party became his fans who were ready to die or kill anyone for himself. He did so many programs organized under the banner of Shiv Sena and became so popular very soon. After 11 years of hard work he became district chief of Shiv Sena in the year 2000.

Honored by Sankaracharya

His protests were always huge and always became matter of conversation in the society. His protests against the movie Water, Girlfriend and Chori-Chori Chupke-Chupke was talked about all over the world. Shiv Sena has always been protesting against the Valentines Day celebration in India and he also organized huge protests against the festival in Varanasi. His protest against the liquor stores, corruption and several other things also got huge popularity. Very soon Mr. Pathak had became a very big name all over India.

Hunger strike

Mr. Pathak has always been known for his extreme way of protesting. He has consumed poison five times in order to protest. Once he cut veins of his right hand when he stopped from entering in a temple. When I asked Mr. Pathak about why he did such things, he laughs and says that nobody listens to the poor people. If you are poor and powerless then this is what you do to make people listen to you. He proudly says that he is the inventor of staging suicide as a form of protest.

Attack

I had read so many articles about him and some of them said that the thing Mr. Pathak consumed was not basically poison and when I asked Mr. Pathak about it he showed me his palm which sweats all the time and he says that his body developed this problem ever since he consumed poison first time.  He showed me his medical prescription which says that he can not eat any heavy or spicy food, he has to drink filtered water and it all happened because of the affect of the poison he consumed several times.

offering food to poor

He says that it was not only himself who consumed poison but there were other people as well who consumed poison or tried to burn themselves only because he asked them to do so in order to protest. After saying this he called one of his workers named Bulli. Bulli is 29 years old and had consumed poison when he was only 14. He did it in order to protest against the movie Chor-Chori Chupke-Chupke. I asked Bulli several times when I met him alone about why did he consume poison and ever time his answer was same that he did not know.

offering food to blinds

He always says that Mr. Pathak had asked him to consume poison so he did it. I asked him if he ever regret about it and says- why would I regret? It was Bhaiya’s order. He knows what is best for me. I was shocked to hear it. How come someone can have this big control over someone else? The bigger shock is people’s belief in Mr. Pathak. Anyways, he worked with Shiv Sena till 2003 and then left because he was not happy with the way Shiv Sena was discriminating against certain communities.

at a school

Actually Shiv Sena was beating the North Indians living in Maharastra and was kicking them out and Mr. Pathak was seriously hurt with the situation that he decided to leave the party. He formed his own political party and run it for four years. Finally in the year 2007 he realized that he needed a bigger platform to raise his voice and fight against big evils. Finally he joined Bahujan Samaj Party which is known for working with lower caste community and fighting against Mafias.

offering food to lepers

Again because of leadership quality he was appointed as co-coordinator for two state assembly seats in Varanasi. During his work period he made Bahujan Samaj Party very popular in Varanasi where there was no existence of Bahujan Samaj Party before. He has been kind of away from politics for the past one year and has been devoting his complete time in social service and religion. He says that he has been doing a research on the outcome of religious practices. To do it he has hired 11 priests who perform vedic yagyas everyday.

Mr. Pathak's priests

These yagayas including other rituals have been going on continuously since October 2010.  He says that he wants bring the truth in the society. If there is no outcome of such practices then people should not waste their time and if performing rituals really work then they should do it in right way. He believes that rituals do not really seem helpful nowadays because they were made thousands of years ago and now when the time has changed they also need to changed. And he wants to know this change.

distributing books to poor students

I have been to Mr. Pathak’s place several times and every time I go there I see people coming to him asking for help. He makes some kind of donation almost everyday. I have seen him offering food to the lepers, blind or physically challenged people. I have seen him paying poor students fee or buying them books. I have seen him paying for poor people weddings. I think he does all kind of donation possible. He never any new cloth until he donates the same to a few poor people. I still remember that once he bought 12 tracksuits. 11 were donated to the beggars on the street first and only then he wore one.

performing aarti at Assi ghat

I have seen people running behind him, I am sure he thousands of fans only in Varanasi. He is like a star in Varanasi who is always surrounded by minimum of 6 security guards. He says that there is threat of life for him because there are so many people who do not like his popularity hence he needs security guards all the time with himself. After saying this he stops for a while and then said that can you imagine that I started working at the age of 14 because of my poor family background. He proudly says that his first salary was only Rs. 30 and now he has to spend good amount of money only on his security.

Mr. Pathak with his security guards

It is definitely a huge change for anyone and Mr. Pathak definitely deserves it. Now I have met Mr. Pathak several times and I like him a lot. I love his style of working, his devotion for his work, his understanding of the society and his super helpful nature. I am sure that I have also become his fan and would love to see him progressing in his life because I personally believe that he is a thousand time better leader and politician than anyone I have ever met. My society definitely needs people like him.

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

Disco in Varanasi

Usually I go out with my friends to celebrate new year but this year I couldn’t as my friends were not organized. I thought why explore something new in Varanasi and it reminded me of a disco which opened last year. I had only heard about this disco called Agni in Varanasi but did not know where exactly it was located. I asked my friends about it and they also did not know about it. Finally I took my bike and went out searching for this disco in the evening of 31st. I reached to a bar and asked the address of this disco and fortunately they knew about it.

I went to the disco in the evening and they told me that they open only during 12 to 4 in the day time and 8 to 11 in the evening. They asked me to come at 8 o’clock. I went back there with a friend around 9 o’clock and found that they were allowing couples only. I was really sad that I was not going to be allowed. I asked them if there was any hope for me later in the night and they asked me to come after an hour. I went to an alcohol shop nearby with my friend and had a beer and they came back again to the disco. I was allowed this time to go in.

There was an entry fee of Rs. 1000 for couples and Rs. 700 for people like me who did not have a girl with me. The interesting thing was that there was no entry fee for girls. They said that I would get two beers inside and won’t need to pay anything for it as it is already covered in the entry fee. But the condition was different inside. They offered two small glasses instead of a bottle or a cane. I had already been to several discos and night clubs in different big Indian cities but it was my first experience at a disco in Varanasi and it was a really interesting experience.

I noticed a lot of differences between this disco and the other ones I had been in other cities. Usually I see good quality alcohol at discos and night clubs in other big cities but here they had very limited stock and the alcohol they were serving was not available at other discos I had been to. This Varanasi disco had stock of cheapest alcohol, most popular and some lower middle quality alcohol only. Usually these kinds of alcohol is not available at discos in big cities. The other big difference I noticed was they played only Bollywood music, which I understand and enjoy more than Western music, but in big cities I dont know why they never play Bollywood or Indian pop music.

The other discos in big cities I have been to have usually more people, like at least 100 in usual days but here there were hardly 50 people on new year eve day. Most of them were young boys. There were a few girls also. Varanasi is a very male dominating city where girls are usually not seen wearing short skirts or sleeveless clothes but here it was first time in my life when I saw girls wearing short skirts. Of course not all of them but a few. These girls were drunk and smoking which is really rare to see in Varanasi. It was the first time in my life when I saw Varanasi young girls and boys dancing together away from their family.

Or maybe they were not locals. Varanasi attracts a lot of students from all over India and these students usually live in the student hostels so most probably they were such students who live away from their families because it is hard for me to believe that Varanasi parents would allow their daughters to go to a disco with their male friends. Anyways, I liked  seeing them together.  I was really curious about the safety of women at the disco and after spending almost three hours it seemed like the disco was safe for women as well.

I saw a few families also who had kids with them. The disco is usually open only until 11 in the night but because of new year eve they were open until 1 am. Over all it was a really nice and interesting experience for me and I enjoyed it a lot. I wish to go there again in usual days with my friends and family. Happy New Year 2011.

child sponsorship in varanasi

It has been more than 7 months since we started ChanceIndia education program and I am so happy that we have almost 40 supporters and we are sending 43 poor kids to the school. When Atilla and I planned to start the program we were hoping to find hardly ten-fifteen sponsors thus we had chosen only 20 kids but Attila got great response in Hungry. He gave his interviews to radio stations, TV channels and news paper in Hungry and did several presentations about the program and got almost 30 supporters. I was not hoping for that many sponsors because we did not have anything to show but fortunately we got great response.

Twenty three come from the village area where we are working with Lok Samiti and twenty kids are here in Varanasi city.  The program is 0% management cost program hence all the money is being spent on the children only. Attila needed an assistant so we hired one guy and Attila pays his salary from his own pocket and not from the Chance India’s account. Which shows Attila’s dedication for the program. Attila and Dora both work really hard for the program and they are always looking for any opportunity to help the kids who are part of the program.

Dora goes to Mehdiganj three times a week to teach English to the kids who come from the village area. She teaches to the kids here in Varanasi also. She has three classes every week. They have hired a computer teacher also who teaches to the kids in village area. Actually Attila wanted to do it but he noticed that the kids were having problem learning with Attila because of the language barrier. I really liked the idea of publishing all the financial transaction on Chance India’s website so that there is more transparency. There are always someone working as a volunteer which gives more opportunity to the kids practicing their English and I am sure it would help them a lot. I really hope that this program would be a successful program and would help the community a lot.

Josh Massad’s World Through Music

Josh with village kids

Josh with village kids

I am working with a musician named Josh Massad on a project called world through music which is about teaching music and other subjects through music. Josh travels all over the world and teach music to kids. When he works in the US, he teaches African and Indian music to American kids, when he is in Africa, he teaches Indian and American music to African kids and at present when he is in India, he is teaching African, American and Asian music to kids in Varanasi. He had contacted me about a month ago asking if I would like to work with him.

Josh teaching Kanjira

Josh teaching Kanjira

The project seemed interesting to me and I agreed to work with him. He wanted me to organize his performances at schools in Varanasi. I thought it would be good for Josh and his project if he gets to work with different kinds of schools and kids therefore I organized his performances at city schools, village schools, private schools, government schools, play schools and schools run by NGOs so almost 50 performances in 25 days. There are 25 performances at village schools where kids come from really poor families, 10 performances at NGO run training centers for girls, 10 performances at city schools and about 5 at NGO run schools.

Dancing with a kid

Dancing with a kid

I have organized a performance at a school for children of sex workers in Varanasi. Actually children of sex workers can not get admission in any school because they do not have any residential proof and any document talking about their father’s name and there is an NGO in Varanasi which started a school specially for children of sex workers and we will be working there as well. I have organized one performance with kids of my education program. I have organized a performance with day time bondage child laborers. Actually there are a lot of bondage child laborers in Mehdiganj and Lok Samiti runs evening classes for them and we have a performance with those kids also.

Josh teaching map

Josh teaching map

Josh carries a map and a few instruments from different parts of the world. First of all he talks about geography, he teaches about seven continents and countries in it and then show these continents and countries on a map and then he introduces all of his instruments and shows on map where they come from. It was so interesting to see that village kids did not have any knowledge of geography at all. They did not even know in which continent India was there or they could name states of India. I was shocked to see this but I hope Josh’s lessons would help them.

showing an Indonesian instrument

showing an Indonesian instrument

After introducing his instruments, Josh plays these instruments to kids and teach them African songs. He teaches different songs but the one song that he teaches at every school is a welcome song from Africa called Fanga Alafia, Ashe Ashe. Kids love this song. They sing the song together with Josh and enjoy it a lot. Josh teaches them different styles of clapping and sometimes he teaches some basic yoga techniques as well. The project is going well, kids are happy, josh is happy so I am also happy. Few teachers at some schools asked me why Josh is teaching African songs, they don’t think it is going to help kids in any way.

Kids also love to play the instruments

Kids also love to play the instruments

I just don’t expect kids to learn all of those Josh’s instruments and geography in one day but I am sure that Josh’s performances will at least create interest about world geography and music in the kids and if they just look at the map only once at their home, I will feel like the project is accomplished. Josh is planning to make a documentary about his work next year and he wants me to organize things for him. He is planning to start a mobile school in India and again he wants me to organize it. He wants to bring musicians from different places and travel with them and teach music and geography. It sounds really exciting and I am looking forward to it.

Child sponsorship in Varanasi

I came in contact with a Hungarian guy, Attila, who is a computer engineer in Hungary and volunteers for a Hungarian NGO (www.afroaid.hu). This NGO runs a child sponsorship program in Africa. Attila wanted to volunteer in Varanasi. He wanted to come to India next year with his wife for a year and was interested in the NGOs working with children. He was mostly interested in education programs for children. I took him to different NGOs and he was interested in working with few of them. I was already interested in working on the same kind of program so I just asked Attila if we could start our own program in Varanasi.

Attila liked this idea a lot. He said that he had very good experience of working with kids in Africa and would love to use his experience to establish the same kind of program in Varanasi. We talked about how we can start this program in Varanasi and decided to do some research first. We went to a few schools nearby to get an idea of estimated cost of the education fee for one child. Attila was interested in providing one meal everyday to the children so that they don’t have to waste time preparing their meal at home. We decided to start the program with 30 kids, 10 from the city area and 20 from the village area.

We visited Mehndiganj once because Lok Samiti has an education program and Attila wanted to see it. We visited Lok Samiti’s school and training centers. We talked with the kids and a few of them had terrible stories. Lok Samiti has a evening time classes for the day time child workers. I love this program, it is my favorite amongst all of their programs. Mehndiganj has a lot of child laborers and most of them are bonded laborers. It was really interesting to see the kids work for 12 hours a day but they still come for evening classes. I think there were more than 30 kids at the evening center.

The kids at the evening center were so innocent. They just did not know anything except what they had. They asked Attila if he had any goat at his home in Hungary, what did he grow up at his farms, how did he come to India, how much money does he make. The kids make about Rs. 1000 per month so it was very hard for Attila to answer this question. We visited a few of the training centers of Lok Samiti which is for the girls above 14 years of age. They get sewing, embroidery, dance and basic education training like reading and writing. The idea behind running such program is to make the girls self dependent.

We asked Nandlal Master, the president of Lok Samiti, to choose 20 kids from his education program who are poor but interested in continuing their education and whose parents are also supportive. We did the same thing in the city also. I knew of a few families who are really poor and want to send their kids to the school but they cannot afford it. We met twelve families and chose 10 kids who seemed interested in learning. We met a 12 year old girl who used to go a English medium private school but had to stop because of the financial problems.

I think she is the most impressive girl in our program. Her name is Rashmi and she went to the school up to 6th standard. My niece who also goes to the same school where Rashmi was going, told me about her. My niece told me that her teachers still talk about how smart Rashmi was and how she had to stop her education. We met her and I found her to be a really smart girl. She was the only girl who really knew what she wanted to become and she answered all the questions Attila asked her. Other kids also knew what they wanted to become but this girl was something different. Her mother was also very concerned about Rashmi’s education.

Attila asked her what she wanted to become and she said “engineer”. Attila asked what kind of engineer and Rashmi said “computer engineer”. Attila asked why and Rashmi said she wanted to develop some computer program that could help poor people. Neither Attila nor I were expecting that kind of answer from a 12 year old girl. All the kids whom we met were super interested in going to the schools but they were having problems. A few of them had already stopped going to school only because their parents could not afford it or there were a few kids who were smart enough to go to a good school but they were going to a government school which is just like passing time.

Finally we have chosen a few schools and we will send our kids to the nearest good school to their residence starting from March 2010. A few of the kids need basic English language training so that they don’t have any problem at English medium schools. We are working on organizing two hours of evening classes for the kids whom we have chosen for the program. Now thirty families have a hope from me because I was the local guy and I am completely dependent on Attila. Attila is back to Hungary now. He has already found few supporters and hopes to find supporters for all the kids.

We have decided to not have any office expenses until we have 50 kids. Attila will be living in Varanasi with his wife for one year and he will be managing the office work for the program. We have decided to not have an office so that all the money goes for the program. I feel so happy to be involved in this program and I am looking forward to work with Attila.