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My Tryst With ‘The Last Hug’

Pardeep Singh

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It was last spring of the season and the Indian administered-Kashmir Valley was at the zenith of exhibiting its scenic beauty. The green trees, nascent flowers scattering fragrance, chirping of birds and crystal clear water of Dal Lake had added magnificence to the landscape of the place.

To discharge professional duties, I was travelling to Shopian district of South Kashmir to cover some encounter between dreaded terrorists and Indian forces. As they say, the beauty is never aloof and is always chaperoned by pain or danger.

Shopian, around some 64 kilometers distant from the summer capital of the state, is among the most bestowed and beautiful places of Kashmir with bounty of natural exquisiteness. On first look it seems, the place has been carved out of heaven itself with lush green fields, surrounded by meadows and fast running alongside rivulets.

Not aware about the period of encounter, I took cab from Lal Chowk—-a heart of the summer capital city, at around 9 am and reached Shopian by 11:30 am. It was April on end, but still the cold was lurking. Despite fully packed with warm woolens to endure the bone chilling morning cold, I had to request cab driver to switch on the heater. My team from New Delhi was very excited to visit encounter place, as they have not ever witnessed any such event.

Our cab was running like anything on the almost deserted roads with negligible human presence. On reaching city outskirts, our cab might have applied first brakes, probably near army camp of Badami Bagh, wherein a group of well-built army soldiers approached our driver, while many cordoned off the cab, as if it was boarded by militants, anyways these are regular features of Kashmir. After getting satiate, the Army commander allowed us to take further journey, during which we witnessed just a long cavalcade of Army convoy.

The driver was also hesitant to overtake them, as you cannot afford to offend them even by only overtaking them, even if you are hell of in hurry. We somehow took our rest of the journey being a privileged one, escorted with Army convoy.

We reached the place when things were wrapping up, encounter was done, five people including three militants and one soldier was dead, including a civilian who lost his life in the cross firing, when a bullet from security forces hit him on his chest and died on the spot. The forces claimed him to be accomplice of the militant, so was shot when he was trying to flee from the building (which was already blown down by using mortar).

Standing alongside vehicle, I was looking for some high official to get version of, who were busy identifying slain militants. After doing formalities, the bodies were handed over to the villagers for last rites.

The encounter site soon started changing moods, from bullets, it started raining stones, then aerial bullets, followed by protests. This drama continued for next one hour, then everything disappeared from the scene, and I was left with silence and a mist of dust.

When I was taking version of Army officer about this operation, I saw just another face of mourning, wherein people who were protesting a moment ago were all crying while carrying body of the deceased civilian. Seeing it, my instant question to army official was about his death, as usual they denied taking claims.

I was looking at the gloomy facet of Shopian village, dull and almost shivering eyes gazing at not so clear sky. Amid those mourners, I heard a lady wailing, she sometimes laugh and sometimes cry loud. Her body language showed that she had lost some one very dear to her.

She hugged the dead body in such a way that my conscious and sub conscious mind felt the pain of that lady. Tears rolled down my cheeks, she evoked me to be a part of mourning, she moved me to touch the innocent body and adieu it upto local grave yard.

My eyes were stuck on the lady, who was continuously crying and yelling for her brother, she was pounding body’s chest, asking him to get up. She was telling him to get up to have food, at least water. She was scolding him for going out without asking. I saw a teen touching feet of the dead again and again, I saw mothers wailing around. The atmosphere was more than a gloom.

People around were like mute spectator with tears flushing out from every eye. I had no courage to approach the lady to tell her (that I exactly don’t know what am I supposed to tell her). She was looking at me when I tried to shoulder the corpse. Her inquisitive eyes were asking me about her brother, which I hardly knew before this. Amid tears I left the place, but till date the unsaid questions raised by that sister is haunting me, my mind was not at peace, it was sulking throughout the journey of more than two hours. The hug of that lady to the dead body was still lingering on my mind, which compelled me to rethink, are we living in free society or are we ruled by brutes, having no mercy chapter in their books.

That experience shook me from inside and the driver, who was noticing my restlessness catalyzed my pain by saying, ‘sir ji this is regular feature here, some died untold and many disappeared unasked’ this is Kashmir and welcome to the valley of dead.

This fiction hit my mind while listening to the song of movie Hyder-So Jaao na sung by Bashir. The song beautifully depicts the actual truth of the life, especially in Kashmir, where one finds solace under graves only. Government might be working to usher materialistic peace around, but true peace is unattained and seems difficult to attain, if innocent deaths continued.

Research Scholar Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Punjabi University Patiala, Punjab, India. Author has done Masters of Philosophy on ‘Media Coverage of Kashmir Conflict’ and has worked as a sub-editor with JK NewsPoint newspaper of J&K state.

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Humanity Endures During Coronavirus Pandemic

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testing_machine_at_NCDC,_Delhi_May_14,_2020

Photo by Press Information Bureau, Government of India

The world changed exponentially since the pandemic broke out. We changed too. Emotions are running high. We have learnt to take one day at a time and have stopped expecting changes to happen overnight.

“COVID19 is menacing the whole of humanity – and so the whole of humanity must fight back”
A clarion call from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is a call to unity and solidarity. Already plagued by natural/manmade disasters and wars, many countries seem to bite the dust for want of resources in the fight against the virus. Warning each other against complacency is appreciable but never a blame game to cover up a dysfunctional response. Not all update themselves on the governments, new economic policies and R&D on Covid vaccine. Many we come across seem to be making wise individual choices. No matter how badly the tiers of government fail us, there will always be thousands of people working to make things better. Besides, finding reasons and faults on policies for the spread doesn’t help. A virulent strain of flu had managed to spread within a few months to the remotest corners of the world infecting half a billion people – more than a quarter of the human species in 1918 long before the current age of globalization.

Separating, alienating and forswearing the endless moments of contact that knit society together thrust us into frightening new realities. The good is still there. Social distancing is nothing but taking a step back to literally give breathing space to others. Going by news & views, we understand that amid concerns of rising numbers of positive cases in frustrating circumstances, acts of kindness and solidarity are burgeoning. Yes, it’s been extremely sad and sobering to watch this all unfold, but watching people share resources and supporting one another in every conceivable way has made us feel more connected to our local communities. Whether singing a song together out on balconies, getting groceries for the elderly or calling a friend to alleviate anxiety and fear, each one I know play a part and take comfort in a sense of togetherness. We are steadily aware of our limitations yet don’t hesitate to free our wells of compassion. Do we think twice and thrice to make an online contribution to save the lives of people we don’t know and will never know!

Sadly, it has taken an invisible virus to help us belive once again that we are strongest only when we have the welfare of others in our mind. Halfway through quarantine and self-isolation a phone call, a kind word, an opportunity to reach out, a breeze, bird calls, one good news and loss of a loved one, we are hit with the necessary humility and awe we ought to feel and appreciate just how beautiful our world is and precious life is.

Post pandemic recovery will be better and bigger if life goes on with this beautiful idea, of humility, inwardness – as an ethical relationship, for the sake of others. For better or for worse, we have learnt that one can’t be an island unto himself. Lives are intertwined and are bound together. We, humans produce more rubbish than any other species. The growth in the human population is part of the explanation, but cannot account for all of the extra rubbish, a result of haste and greed both which almost skinned humans of humanity.

Unity among countries must ensure that all countries are equipped to trace, isolate and treat people infected by COVID-19. Only a global effort can avoid the collapse of any country’s medical system. Sanctions that affect health care should never be imposed. Development in one part of the world should not rob another country of it’s resources. Humanity gains the upper hand over invisible predators through the sharing of reliable scientific information, global solidarity, vaccinations, antibiotics, improved hygiene and a much better medical infrastructure. Today,it doesn’t take too much to figure out that global sharing and caring is the best defense. The Jing Si aphorism, “Good actions require everyone’s cooperation. So let’s not cling to personal biases” holds good for all times.

Stories of good samaritans are aplenty. To know humanity is still alive and kicking and is at it’s best when united assures us that we’ll come out of this “abnormal” time with a new normal. In their own unique ways, humans respond to protect life and health and ensure respect for fellow beings. ‘single-nucleotide polymorphisms’ are no joke. From handing over meals, survial kits, medicines, home made masks to calling on an old couple across the street, everything is humanity in action and it is the power of this humanity – humane behaviour towards other humans – that we seek to celebrate, improve and increase, especially during crucial times. Remember “A person with a generous heart and compassion for all beings leads the most blessed life”.

With thousands of migrant workers taking it on their chin, vehicles filled with food and ration along highways reach the needy and stranded and canteens serve free food. Rays of sunshine! We see through hypocrisy and deceptions, hear excuses for inefficiency, inadequacy and inflexibility and within the tumult and uncertainty we are doing much, much better in life than we thought we can. Quietly. Kindly. Gently. Being able to spare a part of us to help someone live is worth being thankful for. ” Giving with an expectation for return brings misery”. May we give generously, but don’t guilt ourselves if we can’t. If we have nothing left to spare, let’s go slow and kind.

The world is being taught a lesson, the harder way. This lesson is not about rich and powerful versus poor and powerless but about leadership that treasure the common wealth and common good, above private greed and profit and above protecting the privileges of a handful elites.

None of us are actually going anywhere. Might as well stay. The conclusion we draw from this crisis is that all humans matter equally, that we need to give a hand, raise one another, flourish or perish together- no matter what our limitations are, we’re capable of a great deal. This virus backlash is nothing short of a fleeting lesson to all leaders about how sane, humane societies should function all the time. Those who regard themselves as wonderfully favored of leadership, power and pelf are called to do great things. Anything that constantly arise to cause conflicts or disunion must be questioned, criticized, denounced and judged.

Be it a forced contemplation of our mortality or a sudden urge of self denial or an awareness of the passage of time and life, this screeching halt is proof that humans are designed to be more productive when connected, even in isolation. So, not all hope is lost. The time has come when we must know for ourselves why we believe in humanity as we do.

“Do something good for somebody today; the people who are trying to make the world worst aren’t taking days off.”

Gestures to honor humanity are varied, aplenty. A flypast in India is a cruel joke on the already tumbling down economy and on the selfless humanitarians who spare nothing to reach out. We can only wish the trail of showered petals, if showered will guide the departing victims of COVID19. Flying past/over ground realities is a highly irresponsible act of governments. Also, a misuse and mismanagement of meagre resources.

Was it a premonition that urged saint Thiruvalluvar, celebrated Tamil poet and philosopher to get on with kural 578 which when translated into English goes as

” The world is theirs (Kings) who are able to show kindness, without injury to their affairs, (administration of Justice).

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Congress’s Electoral Enervation

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BlakeShramster / CC BY-SA

Lately, the Grand Old Party of India has been suffering from severe political lacerations. It is bleeding profusely but it still refuses to recognize and feel the pain of its grisly wounds. The Congress party is obstinately practicing political podsnappery and this is further eviscerating its relevance. Slowly and steadily, its ideological roots are being chipped away. We are witnessing a kind of dilemmatic democratic party, which is strangulating in the ever-shifting tectonic plates of Indian politics. The fresh act of defection by Jyotiraditya Scindia foregrounds the ideologically weak aura which now surrounds the Congress.

In every period of its history, a particular type of ideological encrustation surrounded the Congress and illuminated its charm among the Indian voters. This ideology rooted it firmly in a vast network of ideologies. This ideology, for the most part, has been secular and liberal and acted as a strong bulwark against a xenophobically framed anti-secular strategy. But now, this prodigious party has shrunk to a miniscule group. This cataclysmic contraction has happened primarily due to the elitist imagery to which it was tethered. Congress’s political rivals portrayed it as an inherently elitist group by harping on its corruption scandals like the Satyam Scam, Coal Scam, Chopper Scam, Adarsh Scam and Tatra Truck Scam. All this overemphasis on the financial impurity of the Congress led to the citizens believing that the Congress party is an aristocratic admixture of kleptocracy and bogus secularism.

The political dynasticism of the Congress further solidified this elitist imagery and soon, Congress became the ‘suit, boot ki Sarkar’. The usage of the aforementioned epithet successfully established the presence of the Congress party as a technocratic liberal party, accustomed to high-handed bureaucratic methods of administration. The attribute of a ‘pro-people party’ was snatched away from the Congress and it was represented as a technocratic group, largely unconnected from the material conditions of the citizens.

Apart from the political and financial palm-greasing, the Congress has also been disemboweled due to its confounding ideological quagmire. The Grand Old Party is stuck in a regal fort, where it is continuously wavering between a secular strategy and a thinly-veiled contrivance of religious pandering. It has already flip-flopped on its ideological plank by pitching Rahul Gandhi as a religious leader which actually backfired because people at once understood that he had suddenly become a synthetically Hinduized leader.

And now, it is lending its support to the Anti-CAA protests and has all of a sudden, arrived like a knight in shining armor, chaotically shouting secular slogans. Opportunistic acts like these cause severe trust deficit and the party incurs widespread odium for its electoral opportunism. So, due to the Congress’s ideological shilly-shally, its attempt to provide guidance to the Anti-CAA protests is seen as a crude act of politically hijacking the protests. To say succinctly, the Congress has been utterly passive in reacting to some major political events and has not even tried to extend its sinews to drag itself out from the quicksand of financial dissoluteness and ideological vacillation.

Due to all the above mentioned iniquitous inadequacies, Congress is withering and losing its elephantine presence on the electoral platform. This is the most appropriate time for the Congress to recognize its Achilles heel and try to overcome this deficiency. The defection of Jyotiraditya Scindia highlights the fact that now, an ideological string no longer ties any Congress member and the party needs to alter its highly feudal organizational structure which is identical to a form of royal structure, based on monarchical munificence. The Congress party can utilize the following remedial measures to perform the medical operation which is indispensable for it to regain its health.

Constitutional Struggles

It should try assiduously to interconnect itself with the common masses and change its political behavioral pattern by staging what can be called ‘constitutional struggles’. These constitutional struggles will essentially be democratic demonstrations, aiming to recover the lost sheen of the constitution. These protests should be able to blend constitutional patriotism with a Gandhian non-violent idea of struggle. In this way, the Congress party would be successful in politically fructifying its vast receptacles of historical significance and will harmonize its history as a torchbearer of freedom with the present calamitous conditions. One important reason behind the need to make Mahatma Gandhi the vanguard of Congress’s recuperation struggle is the vast space which he occupies in the collective imagination of the Indian citizens. By spotlighting Gandhi, the Congress party can easily initiate a resistance movement whose objective will be to find the Gandhian truths in this age of political prevarications and fabrications.

Change Organizational Configurations

The Congress party needs to change its organizational configurations. The sybaritic structure of dynasticism should be superseded by a bottom-up approach which is decentralized. The present organizational architecture is extremely centralistic and all the members of the Congress party are seen as the supine members of a sycophantic entourage, revolving around the singular nucleus of nobility, which has invariably been the Gandhi family. The senior members of the Congress party such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel and Manmohan Singh are depicted as the servile stooges of the Gandhi family who possess an unbreakable fidelity to the dynastic autocracy of the Congress party. The congress leadership is also currently rudderless. During the elections, it played the role of a dabbler. After Indira Gandhi, all the Gandhis (Except Sanjay Gandhi) were reluctant politicians. They were compelled because the Nehru – Gandhi name was associated with the party. All these aspects of party functioning need to be radically changed so that non-Gandhi members are not seen as mere appendages of the supposed undisputed overlord which is the Gandhi family. (3) A coherently unified ideological political programme needs to be built. The lumbering party is in a state of delirium and is unable to properly specify its political stance. It should solidly settle this predicament by choosing to continue with its former political posture as a truly secular and democratic party, committed to constitutional values. If this operation is not undertaken, the Congress will be finally consigned to the political graveyard, where it will die with its shambolic ideological structure.

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5 Ways to Strengthen Sibling Bond

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siblings relations

Blood is always thicker than water. This is one of the most appropriate proverbs one can find.

Blood relations always prove to be the most important and everything fades away when it comes to your own blood. Sibling bond is one of the closest bonds one can have.

During childhood any child with a sibling can understand that bond and feel the closeness on that bond. In Spite of endless fights, disagreements, siblings love each other the most and are very protective of each other.

It is very easy to maintain this bond while you are younger and living together, the challenge comes to maintain that bond while you grow up and start moving towards your own social and domestic life. Here are some tips how you can strengthen your sibling bond while still handling your work, social and domestic life:

1. Plan Holidays Together:

Make a pact that every year you all will get together and plan a holiday either with family(if married) or just all the siblings together. it will make sure that you are taking time out for yourselves and not getting faded in everyday life.

2. Have a Private Group Chat:

Siblings can make sure that you all initiate private group chats and make sure you share your everyday routine, happiness, problems etc in order to keep everyone in the loop of your life.

Group chat makes sure that you are catching up on each other on an everyday basis and is a constant part of each other’s lives.

3. Send Gifts to Each Other:

Siblings can plan to send each other gifts on different occasions that will help in building a close relationship with each other. Sometimes, it is possible your sibling might be based far away or in a foreign country. There are so many online platforms available where you can send a gift to your siblings whether its online birthday cake delivery or online rakhi delivery etc. everything is available on online portals.

4. Help each other in Reaching Goals:

Siblings are the most important people who can push you towards your goal. Siblings can encourage each other towards what is the best course to take for a bright future. Sometimes a sibling can recognise your potential much faster than you yourself can. Thus it is important that you share your goals and aspirations and listen to each other in order to go forward in your life.

5. Cultivate Friendship:

It is very important that siblings should cultivate not only sibling bonds but become best friends and should be able to confide in each other. This is only possible if they work on developing only  siblings but a friendship bond. A good friendship will ensure that it becomes very easy for siblings to communicate with each other and discuss any issues they might face. It is important that the friendship is of a level that when one sibling needs help they should reach their sibling in the very first course.

So, these were some tips that can strengthen your singing bond. If you follow these tips, you can make sure that you will become best friends with your siblings and will have a great relationship despite a life of your own.

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