BJP’s Grand Show
It was perhaps for the first time in a decade that the BJP unit in Odisha organised a successful rally in the heart of the city of Bhubaneswar. After 20 months of slumber the state BJP unit did put up a brave face on January 17 in a much-anticipated anti-corruption rally named as “Bhrashtachar Hatao Samavesh”. It was massive in comparison to the Congress rally on December 14 and Left rally on August 03. People participating in the rally started from eight different locations—Rupali Square, Unit III Park, Indira Maidan, Railway Station, MLA Colony, Red Cross Bhavan, Lingaraj temple and Exhibition Ground. Over 15,000 BJP workers from all 21 constituencies and almost 1,00,000 supporters, gathered to welcome BJP national president Nitin Gadkari at the PMG square. This was a show of strength from BJP in recent times. This was in sequel to the massive rally in New Delhi on December 22 against corruption and price rise and it is one of eight such rallies the BJP has planned to hold across the country. The list of venues for NDA’s Bhrashtachar Virodhi Mahasangram has been planned for 12 cities including Mumbai, Ludhiana, Lucknow, Rohtak, Jaipur, Patna, Bhubaneswar, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Chennai.
The BJP president Nitin Gadkari in his maiden Odisha visit got a huge reception and he did not leave any stone unturned in lashing out at both the Congress and the BJD. Highlighting the scams and the bad governance he asserted: “It’s time for change. India is looking for an alternative so the people of Odisha.” Drawing a curious connection he said that there is a secret pact between the Congress and the BJD, and according to that pact Congress is looting New Delhi and BJD is looting Bhubaneswar. Commenting on the magnitude of corruption in Odisha he said that the Congress leaders should go for tuition to Naveen Patnaik, because he has mastered that art. He cited different scams both the UPA and the BJD like CWG, 2G, Posco, Vedanta, MGNREGA, mining scam, coal scam, etc, and urged the party workers to reach out to the people and to communicate the same to the people of the state. He dismissed the charge that the BJP is a communal party outrightly and insisted that only BJP is a viable alternative both at the centre and in the state.
MAJLIS ON YOUR MOBILE, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME
Few years back this would have sounded like a fantasy. But 2011 saw a technology revolution that has made it possible for the devotees to listen to Muharram majlises on your cell phone not just pan India, but also globally. While in India you have to buy an activation card for overseas listeners a simple subscription on net (www.muharram.in) will bring these religious disourses direct to them via their cell phones.
The citing of Muharram moon, which marks the beginning of Islamic new calendar, heralds a period of mourning. The martyrdom of Imam Husain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammed, on the 10th of Muharram, at Karbala, Iraq, in 61 hijri (Islamic year cycle). This mourning associated mainly with Shiite faith, a sub-sect of Islam has continued across the whole world, for the last 14 centuries.
During this time, the Shiites who have their largest presence in any city in India, almost unanimously and voluntarily, do not engage into anything which are considered unislamic like cinema and music. No new clothes, no marriages, no pompous food, women do not put on any jewellery, no buying of a new house or a car etc. There are only congregations of majlis (mournful gathering), and matam (dirges or a funeral hymn), separately organised by both men and women, and the whole mood throughout this two and a quarter month, is to donate, distribute and disburse—the food, clothes, money, blood etc and thus, the environment becomes pretty symptomatic of an welfare dominion.
“We can upload practically any majlis, within a span of 15 minutes. Anyone sitting anywhere in India can listen to it by virtue of a scratch card,” informs Sandeep Singh, the CEO of Anagha Communication Private Limited, based in Gurgaon, Delhi which has introduced this technology in the market.
The validity of the card, costing Rs 200, would continue until the entire Muharram—two and quarter months— beginning December 7, 2011.
The company has plans to also upload the prime matams, marsiyas (elegies) and soz (lamentation recitals). Soon they will also upload the weekly Friday sermons of Kalbe Jawad, from the historic Asifi Masjid, Lucknow.
The Shaheed-e-Salis majlises from Agra, the three days majlis from Jogi Pura in Najibabad and Baghre in Muzaffarnagar, along with regional and distinctive Muharram programmes from the whole of India will also be uploaded,” Mr Singh told Uday India.
According to informed sources in week preceding the sighting of Muharram moon over 6000 cards had been sold in Lucknow alone. There was great demand from non-Hindi states like Gujarat, Maharashtra.
The idea that made this possible was Lucknow expatriates sitting in Tokyo, huddled in a room and listening to a majlis on a long distance call. I thought why not now start this service and got the act together to make it now available to everyone.
The popularity of this card is especially for those who are old or ailing or simply cannot attend the majlis, due to the distance or because they are engaged in work at the time of the majlis. They can hear the majlis at their own leisure and wherever they so desire.
“My mother is bed ridden. I have brought her the card to make her listen to majlis while at home,” said Saira Rizvi. Another one would chip in, saying that now distances have increased as one has to drive for 25 kms to listen to a majlis, this would help radically all the matamdars (mournfuls).
By Kulsum Mustafa from Lucknow
In an attempt to strike a chord with the common man, Nitin Gadkari missed no words against the centre and the state government. Neither farmers’ suicide nor the inflation, nothing missed the radar. On the issue of price rise, Gadkari slammed the central government’s as well as the state government’s inability to intervene. He did not choose to spare Dr Manmohan Singh as well. In his opinion, “Good economics is not necessarily always good politics but in the case of Dr Manmohan Singh his economics is never good for India.”
Gadkari said that the BJP did not believe in politics based on religion, caste and creed but was pursuing politics of development. “We want to make India a prosperous nation. We also believe that politics is a means for socio-economic reforms,” he said.
The BJP president blasted UPA government at the centre accusing it of having a “direct link” in the 2G spectrum scam and the Commonwealth Games scandal. “2010 is the year of scandals,” he said adding Bofors issue had exposed the “real character” of Congress leaders. “What is the Gandhi family’s relationship with Quattrocchi and his wife Maria?” Gadkari asked, claiming that the couple had direct access to the Gandhi family. He asked the people to give BJP another chance and promised to put irrigation in the Concurrent List instead of the State List.
The state leaders of the BJP did not miss the opportunity to question the secular tag of CM Naveen Patnaik raging the issue of Swami Lakshmanananda whose murderers are not yet caught. The rally sharpened the attack of the BJP against the state government on Vedanta and POSCO, failure of the state government, Maoist control, farmer suicides and the government’s indifference to the problems of the tribal population in the state. State president Jual Oram, national general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan, former central minister and central observer for Odisha BJP, Santosh Gangwar, national executive member BB Harichandan, Bijoy Mahapatra, Suresh Pujari, Rudra Narayan Pani, MP, KV Singhdeo, state general secrataries MM Sharma, Nayan Mohanty, Basant Panda, P Harichandan and other top leaders also addressed the rally and echoed the same.
Reacting to the rally the BJD supporters claimed that the rally is not going to affect much, because that was not a show of strength but a show of loyalty from the party workers. And if the BJP is so concerned about corruption then why they are not acting against Karnataka Chief Minister. In reaction to the rally BJD MP Shashi Bhusan Behera said: “It is only a consolation after frustration. BJP is bracketing itself with the Congress.”
While the BJP’s anti-corruption rally just got over the other two players are very busy with their work as well. Ruling BJD launched its Parivar Sampark Abhiyan.
SHAAM-E-GHARIBA MAJLIS ON WEB LIVE 74 YEARS AFTER IT WAS INITIATED
Another technological feat, night vision cameras made it possible to put Lucknow’s Shaam-e-gariba majlis on the web this Muharram on December 17. It was 74 years after its inception that the world witnessed live, the annual majlis which is held in the dark on the tenth day of Muharram at the historic Ghufraan ma’ab imambara, situated in the minority-dominated Chowk area of Lucknow.
Initiated in 1936, by the founder of the imambara, Syed Dildar Husain ‘Ghufraan Ma’ab’, Shaam-e-Ghariba has over the years attracted a lot of Shia mourners because of its great symbolism. It is a gathering where mourners pay tributes to the martyrs of Karbala and offer their condolences to the women and children left behind by Hazrat Imam Husain(a.s), the grandson of Prophet Mohhamed Mustafa(saww), and 72 valiant supporters who died fighting for righteousness.
While during all these years the majlis has been broadcast by All India Radio, but permission to telecast it was never given by the imambara authorities as lights are not allowed during the majlis. This year the special night vision cameras made it possible to record the majlis without deploying any lights.
The majlis attempts to re-create the atmosphere when the hungry, cold and heavily emotional weighed down female members of Hazrat imam Husain, lead by Hazrat Husain’s brave sister Hazrat Zainab. The atmosphere was dark and dreary.
Every year Ghufraan ma’ab imambara turns into a hub for Shia mourners who flock here from far flung areas just to commemorate Muharram. While all during the nine days the majlises, addressed by descendants of Dildar Husain—the Kalbe dynasty, at this imambara are a day long affair, mourners going to other imambaras in the evening, shaam-e gariba is the only majlis held here in the evening. While during the whole period of mourning extending to two and a quarter months special flooring and coverings arrangements are made in the imambara, exception is made for shaam-e-ghariba. Mourners, numbering thousands, enter bare feet, rich poor, young old, women and children all sit without any qualms on the floor, under the open sky. There is neither any arrangements made for their seating nor any shamiyanas over their heads. This tradition has continued through these years, under all weather conditions—hot, cold or rains.
Shias strongly believe that Hazrat bibi Fatima Zehra, wife of Hazrat Ali and mother of Imam Husain is the first to come and sit among the mourners. She cannot stay away from the place where people are lamenting the sufferings of her beloved son Husain and his family. It is said that Hazrat Fatima, will on the day of judgment stand at the gate of heaven and ensure that all those who have shed true tears at the plight of her son and family are granted entry through the gates of heaven.
“Though the concept of Shaam -e-Gariba majlis was devised by my forefathers and initiated from the historic Ghufraan ma’ab imambara nearly 75 years ago, the world never got to see his majlis outside the imambara, as it is held in total darkness. But thanks to the dedicated enthusiasm of some technocratic youngsters from this year starting Lucknow’s Shaam-e- gariba will both be seen and heard globally,” said Syed Kalbe Jawwed, who has been addressing this majlis after the death of his father Syed Kalbe Abid in 1986.
BJD party members would be provided with a questionnaire to collect information on the status of each family and the facilities they are getting for the perusal of party president Naveen Patnaik in an effort to take the party closer to the people.
Concentrated efforts would also be made to counter the opposition attack on issues like Vedanta and the multi-crore mining scam during the campaign. As the BJD is calling this the save Odisha rally, the opposition dubs it vote-bank politics and an exercise of image makeover.
Following in the footsteps of the BJP and the BJD, the state Congress unit is also organising a massive farmers rally from January 23 in protest of the farmer suicides in the state.
The Pongal Festival
CELEBRATING UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD
The honourable Governor of West Bengal, MK Narayanan was in a different mode while attending the auspicious ‘Grand Pongal Festival’ at Swabhumi, the Heritage Plaza in Kolkata. The festival was organised by the Bharathi Tamil Sangam. “The Pongal preaches the message of universal brotherhood. Our faith is rejuvenated into believes,” said the Governor, who belongs to Tamil community by birth. The Pongal is important to the Indians as it is related with the agricultural sector that major employment generating sector of the country. According to him, the festival is also important for the children who participated in the festival to identify their cultural root and rich tradition.
Pongal signals the end of traditional farming season. The festival is celebrated for four days in Tamil Nadu. This year, ‘Bogi’ was celebrated on January 15, ‘Pongal’ on January 16, ‘Maattuppongal’ on January 17 and ‘Thiruvalluvar Day’ was on January 18. To symbolise a bountiful harvest, rice is cooked in new pots until they boil over a tradition that is the literal translation for Pongal. Along with the preparation of rice, chanting of prayers and offering of vegetables, sugarcane and spices to the Gods are performed. On Bhogi, the old clothes and materials are thrown away and fired—marking the beginning of a new life. Pongal day is celebrated by boiling fresh milk early in the morning and allowing it to boil over the vessel. Maattuppongal is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands. On Kanum Pongal, people gather at a place to exchange greetings. “The festival is basically to show respect to the Sun, farmers, cattle and other things associated with the agriculture,” said M Ramayaa, the former Vice President of the Bharathi Tamil Sangam.
In 1941, on the day of Vasanta Panchami, a small group of Tamil lovers led by Dr SK Krishnan, the famous scientist founded the Bharathi Tamil Sangam. Sangam with the other organisers like Calcutta South Indian Club, Chinmaya Mission, NR Iyer Memorial Education Society, Rasika Priya, Tamil Mundram, South Indian Association, Howrah and many others started celebrating the Pongal festival in Kolkata in 2006. “The Sangam took the initiative to bring happiness by gathering people to celebrate the festival to create opportunity to see the culture and heritage of Tamils and to educate the younger generation of Tamils who have not spent much of time in Tamil Nadu to know their own heritage and tradition,” informed Dr R Nakkeerar, the Secretary of the Sangam.
While Dr Nakkeerar with TCA Srinivasa Prasad was enthusiastic with the Governor’s presence, more than 1500 people were enjoying the Tamil folk songs and dance programmes. Dr Nakkeerar’s book titled Know Your Hindi and S Krishnamoorthy’s Anandibaayi Matrum Pira Kadaikal was released by the Governor. TVN Rao, MD, West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation, Ganesan Natarajan, President and CEO, Ennore Coke Ltd, NR Badrinarayanan, Executive Director, UCO bank and R Mahadevan, GM, Indian Bank were the special guests of the occasion. Not only Tamils, but people across India gathered at the open floor of Swabhumi. Anjana Choudhury, a Patna-based Bengali came with her family. “The atmosphere here is very calm and the programme is organised in a very well manner. Mix and matching with other culture is always healthy,” she stated. Same tune was reflected in the voice of SH Lee, who belongs to the North-Indian community. “This is for the first time, we are taking part in Pongal and it will always remain in our memory,” said Binni Lee, the son of SH Lee. “We will continue it in the next year,” confirmed Dr Nakkeerar.
By Samarpita Roy from Kolkata
After the election debacle, the existence of BJP in the political map of Odisha is negligible. The rally was a reality check exercise and the party came out with flying colours. The state BJP leaders drew some solace from the visit of the national president of the party. Many of them now feel if BJP can bring the BJD to power then it can also oust it from power. BJP is not dead in Odisha. The mood is quite upbeat. The spirited participation of the party workers made them look refreshingly different.
By Shashi Bhushan Nayak from Bhubaneswar