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A Facebook page named ‘Indian Atheists’, which has close to ‘28,000 likes’, has been marked as ‘unsafe’ by Facebook and its operations restricted.

While the page hasn’t been blocked, users allege they are unable to share images or videos or tag the page on their walls since Thursday. “We have organically built our audience over the years using content directly shared by us. These restrictions affect us,” says Soorya Sriram, one of the administrators of the page.

Whenever one tries to share images or content from the page, Facebook users get a notification saying: ‘The content you’re trying to share includes a link that our security systems detected to be unsafe.’

“Usually, Facebook intimates the administrators of the page when restrictions are placed. What has happened now is unusual,” says Soorya.

 The page, set up four years ago, has been managed by members belonging to Nirmukta, an online advocacy group which claims to promote science, free thought, secular humanism in India.

 The administrators say restrictions have been placed at a time when they have been critical of the de-recognition of Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle at IIT Madras and the manner in which the institution has invited religious leaders to peddle pseudo-science inside the IIT campus.

 While Facebook prohibits ‘hate speech’ as per its ‘community standard’, the administrators of the page reject the notion that it had indulged in any sort of hate propaganda.

“We have been vocal about de-recognition of the APSC in IIT Madras and invitation given by IIT Madras to various pontiffs. We have also focussed mainly on current issues, including the Maggi controversy, India’s energy problems and how Bengali writer Taslima Nasreen had left the country for U.S. after being threatened by Islamic extremists. We have desisted from speaking about religion,” an administrator said.

The online group Nirmukta has several active freethinkers groups in major metropolitan and other cities where its members meet regularly to discuss social issues.

Page is managed by a group claiming to promote science, free thought, secular humanism


The Robin Hood Army: fighting food waste in India and Pakistan

The Robin Hood Army are taking on food waste in India and Pakistan by redistributing food waste from restaurants and weddings and giving it the hungry

Robin Hood
 The Robin Hood Army started with six and is now an international movement. Photograph: Robin Hood Army/Robin Hood Army

Last August, a group of six young Indians took to the streets of Delhi with one simple aim: to feed the homeless. Overnight, they drove to restaurants, collected unsold food, re-packaged it and gave it to around 100 people sleeping rough in the capital.

For 27-year-old Neel Ghose, it was a wake-up call. Friends, colleagues and strangers soon joined them on drives and their numbers began to swell. In less than a few months, a nationwide volunteer movement known as the Robin Hood Army (RHA) had emerged, on a mission to curb food waste and stamp out hunger.

Founders Ghose and Anand Sinha, also 27, were inspired by Refood International, an organisation based in Portugal. “Using a hyperlocal model, they collect excess food and give it to those who need it. But every community has their own Refood chapter,” explains Ghose. “I realised it was something that can be very easily done in India, where the need would be much more.”

The movement gained huge momentum after the launch of its social media campaign, and now boasts a 500-strong volunteer base spread out across 13 cities, including Hyderabad, Mumbai and Kolkata. In April, the group also began operations in neighbouring Pakistan, where volunteer groups sprang up in Karachi and Lahore.

Food in car

 Volunteers get ready to distribute food packages throughout the city. Photograph: Robin Hood Army

“Our Facebook page has helped us get in touch with restaurants and our posts became a form of accountability,” says Sarah Afridi, a volunteer who helped set up the group in Pakistan. Ghose agrees: “We realised that we would be much more legitimate if we showed restaurants pictures of what we were doing. That’s when things took a huge leap forward.”

The Robin Hood Army’s ideology revolves around decentralisation. Small teams, mostly young professionals, become responsible for specific areas; they scout for local restaurants, convince them to donate surplus food, identify clusters of people in need – such as the homeless and orphanages – and carry out weekly distributions.

“Anand and I don’t have to be in cities physically to set up our presence,” says Ghose. “We simply guide people on how to form communities for the RHA.” Sinha adds: “What’s happening at a grassroots level is completely driven by the locals.”

In Delhi and the National Capital Region alone, some 30 restaurants have been involved with the project, sometimes not only offering leftover food but cooking fresh meals for distribution.

Lawyer Suvarna Mandal, 26, and head of RHA’s social media Aarushi Batra, 24, both volunteer in the city and have distributed everything from biryani and dhal to sweet treats like cakes, brownies and biscuits. While they may not always have the healthiest foods to hand out, Mandal says: “We don’t look into the nutritional aspects per se, we just try to fill their stomachs.”

“Some restaurant owners even join them on drives,” Ghose explains later. “In a way, they’re not just helping the Robin Hood Army, they are the Robin Hood Army.”

During the Indian wedding season, which takes place between November and January, RHA groups also worked with caterers to make sure large amounts of uneaten food would be picked up, no matter how late at night. “It’s no secret that weddings in India are huge,” Batra tells me. “In Hyderabad, four of our volunteers fed around 970 people just with excess food from one wedding.”

According to the Centre for Development Communication (CDC), an NGO in Jaipur, there are an estimated 7m weddings in India during the season. Yet nearly one-fifth of all prepared food is thrown away – a staggering £1.6bn in wastage.

Like the RHA, the CDC developed the Annakshetra initiative, which redistributes food leftover solely from weddings, festivals and other lavish social gatherings. It was set up in 2010 after founder Dr Vivek Agrawal saw children salvaging food from piles of discarded food dumped outside a town marriage hall: “The way food is eaten and wasted in weddings is an eye-opener for everybody,” he says.

Robin Hood
 An advert on Robin Hood Army’s Facebook page encourages more volunteers to join the movement. Photograph: Robin Hood Army

Ravi Dhingra, who helps run the foundation, says networks of volunteers collect excess food directly from events, store it in fridges overnight and check it is fit for consumption before organising handouts in the morning. In 2012, up to 10,000 were fed solely on leftovers from 16 weddings held on Akshaya Tritiya, a day considered auspicious for Hindus to tie the knot.

When asked about the RHA’s work, Dhingra tells me: “Pioneering efforts like [theirs] demonstrate enormous opportunities to reduce food waste — and enhance food security worldwide.”

Yet Dhingra and Ghose also believe that while their initiatives are making a difference, there has to be more sustainable ways to tackle widespread food poverty in south Asia. “Food donations are not the solution to food wastage or poverty, [but] food redistribution can help alleviate [its] impacts,” Dhingra says.

According to the most recent Global Hunger Index, while India no longer ranks second-to-last for having the world’s most underweight children, its overall hunger status is still classified as “serious”. Meanwhile, it remains home to a quarter of the world’s undernourished people yet it wastes more than £4bn worth of fruit and vegetables a year. Ghose is well aware of the scale of the problem: “Right now, we feed around 5,000 people a week … In the bigger scheme of things, that’s still nothing.”

But with plans to expand into more areas and partnerships with university students in the pipeline, the RHA’s influence is poised to grow across the continent.

“We’re in an exciting time where more people want to bridge gaps in society,” Sinha says. “Through social media and through our volunteers, we can channel this energy and create something stronger out of this. The Robin Hood Army is just the beginning.”


Resident of water contaminated areas ask the Govt of India when will the Union Carbide’s toxic waste be cleaned up?

Press Statement

On the occasion of World Environment Day residents from the neighbourhood of Union Carbide’s abandoned factory in Bhopal demonstrated against the Indian government’s failure in removing thousands of tons of poisonous waste for the last 19 years. Hundreds of residents stood in the form of a question mark and held a banner atop the mound below which the hazardous waste lies buried. The demonstrators said that the question mark was meant to signify the many unanswered questions about the ongoing contamination in an area greater than 20 square kilometres.



According to five organizations who jointly organized today’s demonstration, several thousand tons of hazardous waste from the Union Carbide pesticide factory was buried under the mound in 1996 by the factory management. The waste is known to contain chemicals that cause cancers and birth defects and damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and the brain.

The organizations said that in October 2012 the Lucknow based Indian Institute of Toxicology Research had reported that the groundwater in 22 communities with 10, 000 resident families is contaminated. According to them further tests have shown that the contamination has spread beyond 22 communities and it will continue unless the buried waste is removed from the site.

“It is Union Carbide that buried the waste next to our homes. Why is the Indian government not able to make Union Carbide’s current owner Dow Chemical accept legal liability and clean up the toxic waste?” said Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh.

Balkrishna Namdeo of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogee Sangharsh Morcha condemned the Environment Minister’s recent refusal to seek help from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for a comprehensive scientific assessment of the depth, spread and nature of contamination. He said that without such assessment no clean up could even begin.

“Hundreds of children are being born with horrific birth defects because their parents drank contaminated ground water for upwards of 20 years. Unless the hazardous waste is excavated and disposed off safely, the toxic contamination will continue to maim generations to come.” said Nawab Khan, President of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha.

Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action said that a legal petition for removal of the hazardous waste and clean up by Dow Chemical was pending before the Madhya Pradesh High Court for last 11 years. “It is shocking that the judges continue to drag their feet on an issue that concerns the destruction of lives and future of hundreds of unborn children.” he said.

“The saddest part of this second disaster in Bhopal is that it is finding new victims every day while government agencies that are supposed to protect our health and lives stand by doing nothing.” said Safreen Khan of Children Against Dow Carbide.


This Muslim Man Dances And Sings Meera Bhajans While Balancing A Pot On His Head!

In life and in football, balance is everything. Shaikh Riyazoddin Abdul Gani would add a Maharashtrian folk art to this list. For years he has balanced a water-filled kalash on his head on stage. Gani would then sing soulful Meera bhajans and abhangs, while plucking a veena and joyfully twirling as if light as a feather. In this avatar, he is the famous ‘Rajubaba Kirtankar’, who won awards and has regaled the faithful at temples and prayer meets. He has also managed to rekindle faith and transform drunkards.

No, it is not the just the power of music that brings about transformations. “It is the bhagwan in us,” says the artiste in true Warkari tradition, all set for his Spic Macay performance at IIT-Bombay on Thursday.

Nothing about the soft spoken 73-year-old from Beed prepares for the emotive rendering of Wari kirtans, the ecstatic dancing or the fascination he holds for Hinduism. “The beard is a recent one as my boy isn’t getting a wife from the community,” says Rajubaba. Now, Rajubaba does namaaz five times a day. “I go to five different masjids so that everyone sees me like this,” he laughs. His childhood wasn’t easy. Young Gani used to sit outside temples to learn kirtans that attracted him so much. Eventually Hindus accepted Riyazoddin, by then shortened to an acceptable Raju. When he realized that people were falling asleep, he adopted the dancing-singing tradition, which was started by Namdev. Raju gave it a twist.



“While bringing water from the river, he used to sing. That gave him the idea of dancing with a pot on the head,” says Dr Prakash Khandge, head of Lok Kala Academy, Mumbai University. His family was far from pleased.

When they threatened to leave the village, he moved out. “I returned and got married only because of my amma’s mohabbat,” says Rajubaba. He says he could run his family and marry off four daughters as a kirtankar. People started giving tips, especially after his name became popular. Khandge says there is nobody in Maharashtra like Rajubaba now. There would be no one like him in the future as his children and kirtankar apprentices shy away from his act. “It is tough to get that balance,” says Omkar Jaunjal, who accompanies him. Rajubaba is resigned but the spark to reinvent seems alive. “I am stuck in this world of maya and family responsibilities. Maybe, I will check with the Guinness Book people as I have done something different,” he says. Six hundred years ago, an illiterate poet by the name of Kabir Das spoke his mind needling both Hindus and Muslims about their shortcomings. Today, Kabir is considered a saint and his pithy couplets are memorized by schoolchildren across India.

On the fourth day of the Spic Macay festival at IIT-Bombay, theatre actor and Padma Shri awardee, Shekhar Sen, enacted incidents from Kabir’s life stitched together from his painstaking research. This was Sen’s 368th performance of “Kabir”, a two-hour-long monologue punctuated by songs drawn from his poetry.

“The performance was simple yet profound,” said Prabodh Katti, an engineering graduate from Pune. He was particularly struck by an anecdote about Kabir’s young wife pining for her lover. “He was gracious enough to carry her to her lover’s home, which made her realize that he was the right person for her,” added Katti describing a scene from the play. Aaheli Bose, a Std XII student from Mumbai, said she was surprised to learn that Kabir was illiterate. “I was always told these dohas are written by Kabir,” said Bose. “But others, who heard the couplets wrote them down.”

The movement called Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth, better known as Spic Macay kicked off its 3rd International Convention at IIT-Bombay on Sunday, and will continue until Friday. On Wednesday, besides the Kabir performance, there was also a session with artist Akbar Padamsee. Considered one of the pioneers of modern Indian art, Padamsee’s work was introduced to the audience through a film tracing his life story and early influences. When a young girl asked him, who he learned art from, the octogenarian replied, “Nobody . I’ve been painting since I was four years old.”

Hira Tahir Mirza, a fine arts student from Lahore, was one of 50 participants from Pakistan to attend the convention. She found the Padamsee lecture particularly enlightening. “I’m a fan of his work,” said Mirza, who was struck by the artist’s humility and honest replies. Waheed Ali, a theatre artist from Karachi, was impressed with Sen’s depiction of Kabir describing it as “mind blowing”. All the participants from Pakistan had spent the week interacting with Indian students and debunking stereotypes

Balancing a pot, a Muslim sings bhajans – The Times of India

    Scripting success: Four Hindu girls ace Urdu in ICSE exams

    Scripting success: Four Hindu girls ace Urdu in ICSE exams
    One of the benefits of learning Urdu, say the non-Muslim students, is better understanding of its writers and their works.
    Samruddhi Shyam Waghmare was confident that she would get good marks in Urdu in 10th standard (ICSE Board) exams this year. But she didn’t expect to top the class with 90% in Urdu at Dr A R Undre English High School (ICSE) and Junior College (ISC) at Borli Panchatan village in Raigad district. In the class of 64, she stood second but bettered the topper Madiha Muazzam Undre in the Urdu paper by two marks.

    Samruddhi is one the four Maharashtrian Hindu students out of the seven who got distinction at the board exams and also excelled in Urdu. The marks in Urdu she and her other Hindu batch mates scored—Harshada Dilip Cherphale (86%), Simran Deepak Karambe (88%) and Kshitij Pradeep Khopkar (60%)—have excited her Muslim classmates. “I am not envious of Samruddhi, but feel proud that she outshone me in Urdu which I have learnt from childhood,” says Madiha.

    But the proudest is the school’s founder, Mumbai-based noted surgeon Dr A R Undre. “One of the reasons I moved my school from SSC to ICSE Board was the compulsory Indian language of 100 marks students are required to keep. I wanted my students to not just get familiarized with Urdu but also hone the skill in it to the extent that they start appreciating its literary beauty,” says Dr Undre who established the school in 1980 as a way to “payback to my ancestral village.”

    One of the benefits of learning Urdu, say the non-Muslim students, is better understanding of its writers and their works. So most 10th graders in India, including Muslims who have not studied Urdu, know Maulana Azad as a freedom fighter and India’s first education minister. But ask Samruddhi about Azad’s literary contributions and she immediately mentions “Ghubar-e-Khatir”, a collection of the great scholar-nationalist’s letters he penned in prison to his friends.

    The non-Muslim students turned to their teachers and Muslim classmates for help in Urdu. “We mostly speak Marathi at home but when I put her in the English medium school where Urdu is compulsory, I knew she would clear it as her teachers are very cooperative,” says Samrudhi’s father Shyam Waghmare who teaches Marathi at a different school.

    Simran comes from Danguri village where no one knows Urdu. “After my results came many relatives congratulated me especially for excelling in Urdu paper,” says Simran. “My relatives admire and are amazed when I speak or read Urdu texts before them,” says Harshada. TOI asked these students to read the headlines of daily Urdu Times and each read them fluently. “We ensure that our non-Muslim students don’t falter in Urdu and we encourage them to put in extra efforts,” says vice-principal, Arif M Ansari.

    Urdu is often associated with Muslims, something many lovers of the language call a grave injustice to the language which symbolizes India’s Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (composite culture). But the achievements of these students debunks the fallacy that Urdu belongs to Muslims alone. “These students have proved once again that Urdu is a secular language and politicians should stop dividing languages on religious grounds. Urdu is Hindi’s sister and must be treated equally. It should get all the facilities to prosper in whichever state it is the second largest language,” says Prof Gopichand Narang, noted Urdu scholar and former president, Sahitya Akademi.


    Ramachandra Guha – What does it mean to Indianise Education ?


    • Ramachandra Guha
    • |

    A writer is known by the enemies he makes. I was therefore interested to hear from a friend in Delhi that I had been attacked in an editorial in Organiser, the English mouthpiece of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh.

    I went online and found the editorial. This argued that ‘the likes of Ramachandra Guhas and Romila Thapars who talked about “change” but benefited from the status quo are the people who coined and abused the term “saffronisation”. Without getting into their malicious intentions, one needs to take an objective stand on connecting education to Indian realities’.

    I was mystified to read this. For, I played no part in coining the term ‘saffronisation’. In fact, I have been careful not to describe the ideology of the Sangh Parivar as ‘saffron’. Here I follow the late UR Anantha Murthy, who pointed out that saffron was a beautiful colour, associated with purity and renunciation throughout Indian history. Like Anantha Murthy, I am loath to cede the colour and all that it signifies to the RSS.

    After charging Professor Thapar and myself with ‘malicious intentions’, the editorial in The Organiser argued that ‘Indianising education based on our socio-cultural roots is the only way to transform India’s population into a human development hub’.

    What does it mean to ‘Indianise’ education? As Shivarama Karanth once pointed out, it is impossible to talk of ‘Indian culture as if it is a monolithic object’. ‘Indian culture today,’ he continued, ‘is so varied as to be called “cultures”. The roots of this culture go back to ancient times: and it has developed through contact with many races and peoples. Hence, among its many ingredients, it is impossible to say surely what is native and what is alien, what is borrowed out of love and what has been imposed by force. If we view Indian culture thus, we realise that there is no place for chauvinism.’

    In the RSS view of the world, all that is Western is to be suspected. The Organiser editorial characteristically attacks ‘Anglo-Saxon’ values and education methods as ‘not in tune with our culture’. Let me posit, to this xenophobia, the warnings of an Indian writer even greater than Karanth. In an essay published in 1908, Rabindranath Tagore observed: ‘If India had been deprived of touch with the West, she would have lacked an element essential for her attainment of perfection. Europe now has her lamp ablaze. We must light our torches at its wick and make a fresh start on the highway of time. That our forefathers, three thousand years ago, had finished extracting all that was of value from the universe, is not a worthy thought. We are not so unfortunate, nor the universe, so poor.”

    A hundred years on, the world is even more inter-connected than in Tagore’s day. India still needs a robust interaction with the West, but also with China and Japan, Africa and Latin America. In these mutual exchanges we may get something of value from them, and they something from us. We must keep our windows open, letting in winds from across the world, without, as Gandhi once said (provoked in part by Tagore) being blown away by any.

    While school and college students in India must be encouraged to look outwards, they must also be instructed to look within. Here, in fact, I am on the same page as The Organiser, except that I have a more disaggregated understanding of our ‘socio-cultural roots’. In my view, a constructive way to ‘Indianise education’ is to more strongly place the school curriculum in its local or regional context. Students must go outside the classroom into the field to study the flora and fauna of their district (or state), its forests and water bodies, its agricultural and craft practices. They must also document the district’s built heritage, listing old temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras, forts and homes.

    A major consequence of unregulated economic development has been the destruction of the natural environment and of historic buildings. Making environmental knowledge central to school education shall make young Indians more aware of what needs to be done in this regard.

    If school students need to understand the extraordinary cultural and natural diversity of India, college students must be exposed to the diverse strands of political argument that have gone into the making of the Republic. The RSS is right in suggesting that for too long has modern Indian history been presented through the lens of the Congress, the hegemonic party in the freedom struggle. But where it treads dangerous territory is in seeking to replace the Congress idea of India with one based on the ideas of its own icons, VD Savarkar and MS Golwalkar. For, those thinkers mistakenly (some would say maliciously) saw Indian culture as monolithic, as containing a so-called ‘Hindu essence’, which it became their privilege to define, and for their followers to enforce.

    Fortunately, the spectrum of political opinion in India is far wider than that constituted by the BJP or the Congress. Consider the recent controversy over the ban on a student group in IIT Madras that went by the name of the ‘Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle’. The ban has only led to the proliferation of study groups named after Ambedkar and Periyar, two thinkers remarkably open to ideas from the West, as well as opposed to the reduction of India’s diverse cultural heritage to a single or singular ‘Hindu’ essence.

    With the great sociologist Max Weber, I believe that ‘universities must not be allowed to become vehicles of indoctrination, promoting a particular political or religious point of view’. This pluralism is, alas, antithetical to cultural commissars, whether the Lefists, who once dominated university education, or the Rightists, who now strive to supplant them.



    A murder by other means – Death of a Dalit Journalist

    Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi organised a meeting to demand justice for Dalit journalist Nagaraju.

    On April 12th, Nagaraju Koppula lost his battle with cancer, and casteism. A Dalit journalist working in India, Nagaraju faced caste discrimination his entire life—a discrimination that ultimately worked to hinder his treatment and recovery.

    A Murder by other means

    “He died of cancer, murdered by Manu*”, wrote, with seething anger,clouded by grief, Chittibabu Padavala, a close friend of Nagaraju Koppula,probably the only English journalist from the Madiga community, a Dalit sub-caste,who caved in after a protracted,courageous and consuming struggle with lung cancer on April 12.

    4 days prior to that, “I wish he could live”, read an article by Allam Narayana, the chief editor of a well-known Telugu newspaper “Namaste Telangana”, on the life and condition of Nagaraju.
    Wishes, sometimes, remain just that: wishes. Wistful whispers of weary voices.

    Nagaraju was born in Sarapaka Village from Bhadrachalam mandal of Krishna District to a family struggling to survive in the margins of a casteist society, wading through the straits of severe socio-economic subjugation. A father, who went missing when he was 4 years old, and a mother striving as a daily wage labourer, along with his five siblings, to keep this wrecking boat afloat. He too had to walk on this beaten track of child labour, as many in this country do every second, each a silent storm in this broken, and ever breaking, cup, at a very young age for the sake of sustenance. A construction labourer, then an ice candy-seller, and eventually a respected artist, who painted sign boards etc.,in his village.

    With the sheer strength of his relentless hard work and will power in an environment socially, financially and structurally hostile, he managed to complete his M.A in the School of Journalism from the University of Hyderabad, followed by a Diploma in the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media in Bangalore, supported by scholarships, and trained in investigative journalism and creative writing at the Tehelka School of Journalism in Delhi.

    Venturing into a field with an abysmal representation of Dalits, discriminated in myriad subtle and not-so-subtle manners, he began his attempts to eke out a living from the profession of journalism. After interning at and freelancing for publications like The Hindu that deemed beneath their ‘merit’ to hire him, he landed a much-needed job at The New Indian Express which for hardly unknown reasons paid him lesser than what they did his fellow reporters. A job,no, something more than it, a dream much dearer, to which he dedicated his heart and soul, latched onto it with a zeal that left one inspired and,even,a bit concerned, expending unmatched energies in pursuit of stories.Nagaraju swept with a stunning stroke of his sincere pen a broad range of reports from the dismal state of health care for mentally ill prisoners swallowing many lives through its numbing apathy to the wildlife species hanging from the edge of extinction in the then Andhra Pradesh. From Nehru Zoological Park hosting four cheetahs from Czech Republic to a mother waiting for three years to meet her children, Nagaraju churned scores of moving and amusing stories, serving ample proof of his journalistic mettle.Consequently, it didn’t take him long to make a mark of his own in the organization inviting well-deserved acclaim.

    But as it happens, time has an unmistakable penchant for tragedies.His health declined. Weight loss and repeated bouts of coughing pulled him to consult doctors in GovtTB&Chest Hospital where he was faultily diagnosed for TB based on the meagre and clearly insufficient evidence of an X-Ray. As one of his friends notes, “They did not suspect Lung Cancer because Nagaraju was a non-smoker, largely ignoring the fact that about a third of lung cancer cases occur in non-smokers.” However, the treatment, which offered no solace whatsoever, continued for 5 months. When doctors kept ignoring the repeated protestations of Nagaraju that his medical condition is worsening, he visited a private clinic where he was diagnosed with lung cancer based through a lymph node biopsy.During this period of five months, the ruthless apathy and hideous discriminatory attitudes of The New Indian Express administration were starkly palpable, to Nagaraju and his friends. According to them, refusing to provide any sort of financial assistance/health cards, as was the case with his peers, to their employee, forcing him to go on a loss of pay leave for the five months by granting a casual leave only for 12 days, reinforced their belief in the casteist and debilitating labor-hostile environment of the publication, He was able to undergo treatment with the assistance of funds from his friends and colleagues, with a discernible absence of help from media houses or journalist unions, while Nagaraju’s name had been removed from the rolls of the newspaper without any intimation.Ill fate never stopped haunting him. More often than not, kind hearts bear the most bitter wounds.He was at the receiving end of an online fraud, a case of grave cyber robbery, which siphoned off approximately 1.23 lakh rupees from his SBI account, the amount collected for his treatment. A money that would now be smelling of blood and tears in the pockets of the robbers.

    Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi organised a meeting to demand justice for Dalit journalist Nagaraju.

    A very heart-warming campaign, initiated by his friends and well-wishers, “Justice For Nagaraju” had been afoot to bring to light the grievances of the then bedridden, with unstable consciousness, Nagaraju, to fight for the rightful justice he deserves, to indict The New Indian Express authorities for its casteist crimes, right from the unequal pay to the egregious negligence of his decaying health, demand for radical reforms in the functioning of the Media houses and Journalist Unions and, of course, to raise assistance, financial and moral, to improve the rapidly sinking condition of Nagaraju, a journalist this cursed land didn’t deserve.

    The campaign had gained traction in social media circles’ and been successful in grabbing the attention of the government, which promised some financial aid, Civil rights activists’ such as famous balladeer Gaddar, intellectuals, artists, journalists, politicians etc. from the state, some of whom visited him personally, lend him their much-needed-support. Protests against the casteist administration of the Indian express were under way in places such as the University Of Hyderabad with encouraging involvement of the students, activists etc.

    Before death decided to pull down the curtains on this disheartening tragedy, to force a full-stop into this sentence of maladies…before Manu snatched the final breath from the battered lungs of Nagaraju….a slow and deliberate murder…a murder by other means…a murder, scripted,in treacherous detail, in the holy books of hideous history…

    A delegation comprising of The University of Hyderabad Contract Employees’ Union, the Democratic Teachers’ Network and the Telangana Students Association met the editor of The New Indian Express, G Vasu. The latter denied rejecting Nagaraju’s leave applications after Nagaraju fell sick and said he had granted him leave twice in 2013. He denied any unwillingness to provide him with medical assistance and reimbursement and said the administration was willing to provide medical help, but Nagaraju never applied for help or used his health card.Their statement also highlights, and reinforces, what many of those close to Nagaraju already knew,

    “As a team we found that there were several violations of ethical conduct in how Nagaraju has been treated. Striking is the absence of a forum where he could take up the issues of caste discrimination which he said he had faced in the organization. Another key structural issue is that of contractualization of workforce, which was used by the New Indian Express administration to legitimize the taking off of Nagaraju from the pay rolls and the lack of proper medical benefits. Excuses such as Nagaraju not asking for or accepting medical help, can not be validated in today’s context, and also can not be used to justify the administration’s illegal act of not providing for medical benefits to their employee. “


    In a press release, the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) paid tribute to him and demanded that Dalit journalists, who are anyway so few in number, be protected against casteist behaviour of superiors in media organisations. “In the rare scenario that a Dalit journalist is able to enter the upper caste stranglehold of news organisations, let the managements be careful to not exploit or subject these journalists to any sort of discrimination at the work place”, the DUJ release said.

    Delhi Union of Journalists organised a memorial meeting for Nagaraju.

    Some deaths, come flying from above, pushed by the storm of misfortunes, to pierce us below the eyes, where sighs and tears rest. While others nest, all our lives, in a muted corner of our hearts,waiting for the saddest moment to strike from within us. We weep. We write. Some to remember. Some to forget. We huddle in silent spaces, alone, together, with our memories: Of us before, with, and,now, after him.

    Nagaraju, a rural poor dalit, a Madiga, who broke all the boundaries that didn’t want to be touched sullying the purity of many-a-agrahara, who strenuously climbed the ladders, laden with pieces of broken glass, of the system, held onto it with his remaining breath, while the long arms of an unjust milieu kept tugging, from below, at his legs, weary from fighting all through his life. Nagaraju, a heart wrenching reminder of the efficiency of walls, cemented with bricks of inherited wealth and status, to exclude, and to kill slowly those they couldn’t.

    Nagaraju, a flowering smile on a wilting face.
    Nagaraju, a bed ridden hope of faintly filled stomachs.
    Nagaraju, a moon passing beneath the clouds as the night slowly closes its moist eyes…
    Nagaraju, the immortal flame of unlit candles…
    Farewell, Nagaraju.
    To gentler lands with kinder beings.


    This obituary was written by Abul Kalam Azad, he is a student at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, Chennai. (With inputs from Chittibabu Padavala,Swathi and Friends of Justice for Dalit Journalist Nagaraju Koppala Campaign)


    *Manu is a Hindu Mythological figure who had scripted an extremely prominent text Manusmriti, which codifies the heinous and hideous rules, the Dharma, that should govern the workings of the caste system. Manu, hence, is a widely referenced casteist symbol/icon.


    Dalit bridegroom rides horse to his wedding, first in village

    Dalit bridegroom rides horse to his wedding, first in village
    No bridegroom in the village has ever ridden a horse on his wedding in Pathredi village. People from upper caste don’t like it, so there was no point in creating unnecessary tension. But Anil expressed his desire to ride a horse following which it was planned for the first time,” said Dayaram Raiger, a local resident.
    JAIPUR: Twenty-two-year-old Anil Raigner scripted history in Jaipur rural’s non-descript Pathredi village on Thursday. He became the first Dalit bridegroom in his village to ride a horse during his wedding procession. Even as 125 policemen and senior police and district administration officers stood guard, his procession passed through colonies of people from the upper castes with all elements of a pompous wedding – band, baja and barat.

    The village, nearly 110 km from Jaipur, is home to about 50 Dalit households, and no one has ever ridden a horse on their wedding.

    Given some recent incidents in the state in which tension was trigged after Dalit grooms were prevented from riding horses, the district administration and the local police had made elaborate security arrangements for Anil’s wedding.

    “We deputed nearly 20 policemen at the bridegroom’s house prior to the wedding. When his nikasi (a ritual before the wedding) procession was taken out in the village on Thursday , there were nearly 125 policemen for security,” said a senior police officer.

    Anil rode the horse from his house to the village temple where prayers were offered. The bridegroom then left for nearby Jahidpura village where he tied the knot with a girl named Manisha.

    “No bridegroom in the village has ever ridden a horse on his wedding in Pathredi village. People from upper caste don’t like it, so there was no point in creating unnecessary tension. But Anil expressed his desire to ride a horse following which it was planned for the first time,” said Dayaram Raiger, a local resident.

    An NGO, Dr Ambedkar Vichar Manch Samiti, came forward to help Anil fulfill his wish. An application demanding security was given to the local sub-divisional magistrate (SDM). The district administration then discussed the issue with people from all communities in the village. The villagers told them that they don’t have any problem with Anil riding a horse.In fact, some villagers from upper castes offered to be present in the wedding procession to ensure that nothing went wrong. However, the administration didn’t want to take any chances, hence made security arrangements.

    Dalits being prevented from riding a horse, entering temples and cremating bodies in common funeral centers is quite common in the state’s rural areas. A petition was filed in Rajasthan High Court on May 29 highlighting several such cases.

    The petitioner compiled a list of 20 cases in which bridegrooms were refused to take out wedding processions through colonies of upper caste people were reported in 2014 alone. There were two cases of similar nature in 2012, four in 2013 and four in 2015.


    ‘Naveen govt. recommends mining lease for L&T to bail out Vedanta’ #WTFnews


    Auction route of granting mining lease ignored: Congress

    : The Odisha Congress on Wednesday alleged that the Naveen Patnaik government had recommended allotment of two bauxite deposits in favour of engineering and construction major, Larsen and Toubro (L&T), in violation of the existing law and by ignoring the auction route of granting mining lease (ML).

    The two bauxite deposits — Sijimali and Kutrumali in Rayagada and Kalahandi district — could finally bail out the raw material-starved Vedanta Group, which was stripped of the Niyamgiri Bauxite deposit following tribal resistance, said Narasingh Mishra, Leader of Opposition, addressing a press conference here.

    Condition of value addition

    Mr. Mishra said L&T was awarded Prospecting Licence (PL) way back in 1992 on the condition that it would take steps for value addition of bauxite ore by setting up an industry within two years. Two years later the L&T had applied for a (ML) of Sijimali and Kutrumali in 1994.

    “The Odisha government, however, rejected the mining lease application of L&T in 2001 stating that the company had not fulfilled the condition of value addition. An opportunity of hearing was also given to the company. Upon rejection of ML, the PL automatically stood cancelled. The company had also never challenged the rejection of ML in any forum,” said the Leader of Opposition.

    MMDR Act amended

    “After the NDA came to power, it amended the MMDR Act and made it mandatory for all mining leases to be granted through the auction route. However, there was a clause if the PL had been previously awarded, the State government could recommend granting of the ML to the Centre. Violating provisions of the amended MMDR Act, the Naveen Patnaik government suddenly decided to recommend ML for L&T,” he pointed out.

    PL expiry factor

    The Odisha government, ironically, recommended the mining lease in favour of L&T, although its PL automatically expired following the rejection of ML in 2001, Mr. Mishra charged.

    “We apprehend without tactic understanding with the NDA at the Centre, the State government would not have recommended the mining lease. It is a clear violation of law that the recommendation of the mining lease was sent to the Centre without a valid PL,” said senior Congress leader.

    Stating that Vedanta had entered into an understanding with L&T for bauxite mining, Mr. Mishra said the State government, with the ulterior motive, was giving Vedanta access to mining through an illegal route.

    The Leader of Opposition alleged the State government was trying to manufacture the old files in order to make the case stronger in favour of the ML recommendation, but ‘fortunately’ he was in possession of the old file.

    Vedanta is struggling to run its Lanjigarh alumina refinery by importing bauxite from other States.

    Odisha government, recommended the mining lease in favour

    of L&T, although its PL automatically expired following the rejection of ML in 2001

    Narasingh Mishra

    Leader of Opposition

    The Odisha government, however, rejected the mining lease application of L&T in 2001 stating that the company had not fulfilled the condition of value addition


    Emotional atyachar of private schools: Chennai’s Bala Vidya Mandir is just playing on parents’ insecurities

    How about a no-frills school? An enterprise where basic education comes at a base fare and for everything else — including a hot meal or on-board entertainment and games — you pay extra? If you are lucky enough, the owners might also hire some sassy school hostesses to tempt you to buy their paid products.

    A Chennai school is currently facing flak for flirting with the fundamental that created a new category of flier: the low-cost guest. Its plan to carve out separate categories for low-cost students and those paying extra for premium seats has run into rough weather, prompting a war that has pitted students, parents, teachers and school staff on one side and the trustees on the other.

    Representational image. AFP

    According to newspaper reports, Chennai’s Bala Vidya Mandir (temple of education, ironically) has come up with an idea that could be best termed apartheid in education. It has issued a circular that asks parents to choose between two categories of schooling: one where children will study and go home and the other where apart from studying they would get access to many other facilities, including canteen, playground, a course on dealing with sexual harassment and abuse, the privilege of participating in extra co-curricular activities and annual function, for an additional fee, of course. (Read more here)

    In essence: pay as you use, just like those Sulabh Complexes where you are charged on the basis of how you want to use the facility and for how long. (Incidentally, it is not clear if the school will charge students extra for using toilets).

    The Chennai school is a classic example of the commercialisation of school education in India, the loot at pen-point of parents who have no other option but to get humiliated and cheated by institutes just because the state has abdicated its responsibility of running affordable centres of quality education.

    Such is the mess in school education today that owners of private schools in India and parents of students have turned into ideological adversaries. They exist on the opposite ends of the ideological and commercial spectrums.

    Parents feel school owners are philanthropic do-gooders devoted to the noble task of educating their children. They are stuck in a time warp, caught in the romantic notion that schools are like those ancient gurukuls where teachers have just one motive: of using every bit of their experience, knowledge, time and skill for producing a top-grade shishya.

    But, schools are no longer ashrams where the guru wants just his dakshina or whatever little you can afford in return for his time and training. They are no longer reminders of the Indian ideal of a paathshala where everybody — from the proverbial Krishna to Sudama — is treated as an equal and taught as an equal.

    Unfortunately, the mendicant guru has morphed into a mendacious trader. Most of the private schools today are commercial enterprises — just like shopping malls, multiplexes, private hospitals and airlines — where the owner looks at a student as a customer, somebody who can be sold his best, expensive services and charged the best possible rate for it. Seek ye wisdom, parents tell their children when they drop them at a school. Seek ye profit, the owners think every time they spot a student.

    Naturally, fight between schools and parents — like the one going on at the Chennai school — have become routine. Every year, parents complain of exorbitant hikes in fees, hidden charges, overcharging for books, uniforms and other activities. In almost every state, there are cases in courts against schools raising fees exorbitantly every year. In several states, school owners get into confrontation with regulatory bodies that try to stop them from finding novel methods of fleecing parents.

    In the case of Bala Vidya Mandir, the alleged categorisation of students is also a stratagem to find a way out of the government’s efforts to fix the fees. Its owners have found a way out by saying they are giving parents the choice of paying the fees fixed by the government. For extra services, they seem to argue, parents need to pay more.

    This is standard emotional atyachar. School owners, like people who run hospitals, know that Indians overreach themselves when the education and life of their children are at stake. They know parents don’t want their children to feel they are deprived of facilities some of their friends are entitled to just because they cost more. Given a choice, parents would try to pay extra to ensure children do not feel discriminated against or do not feel inferior to their privileged friends.

    An example would suffice: The management of a school I know sends costly tickets to an annual fair with students accompanied by a note that “parents who can’t afford them may return them with an application explaining their financial compulsion.” Till date, I haven’t heard of a single parent returning the fair tickets.

    Our existing system is absurd. We send our children to private schools when they are young, but chase government-run institutions like IITs, IIMs, medical colleges and law universities for higher education. If only the state was competent enough to run institutions of better pedigree at the school level, parents would have perhaps preferred government over the private sector in school education. But the choice doesn’t exist.

    As a result, education has become a business. And owners are taking off from where the likes of Vijay Mallya left.


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