Tuesday, December 23, 2014

#PKofPolitics - Arvind!

          Yesterday I along with more than twenty others went to watch Aamir Khans latest movie PK! These twenty included some of the people in the center-stage of upcoming Delhi assembly elections like Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia. Arvind watches movies once in a while and at times, if the movie is about Social or political issues, many of us accompany him. The previous two movies we watched together were Satyagrah and Chakravyuh.

          During the interval in PK all of ate popcorns and burgers as some of us had missed the breakfast due to back to back meetings. While gobbling the popcorn Rajen, a fellow volunteer who had come all way from Singapore to contribute to AAP said, "You know, all of Rajkumar Hirani's pictures are about an outside perspective to something established. Like a Gangster talking about the medical system, a gardener's son talking about the education system and now, an alien looking at the religious institutions." 

               "Like questioning the status quo," I added.

               "Yes, and in that manner I see Arvind as the PK of politics," he replied.

               A smile danced across my face and I could immediately relate to what he was saying.        

          Having known Arvind for almost four years and working full time with him for close to three, I have seen different shades of him. I have seen him in deep thought, in turmoil, torn apart by actions of others, smiling like a child, commanding all he sees like the captain of a ship and sometimes in complete disarray. However, while watching PK and after listening to what Rajen had to say, something new stuck me, Arvind is nothing else but an outsider into the world of politics.

          Arvind is not someone who will sit down and wait for things to get solved. Instead, he's someone who will look for solutions. The tougher the problem, the more out-of-the-box solution he would come up with. I have seen him doing that again and again for last four years and from the ones who know him from earlier than that, I have heard innumerable stories about the same.

         I have heard from Rishi how he went around with the idea of an anti-corruption ombudsman, asking for support, after returning from Amit Jethwa's funeral. I have heard from Yogendra Yadav how he was christened the 'Gram Swaraj wala Arvind' in late 2000's by fellow activists and have listened Manish recall how when they started Parivartan, Arvind used to hold the ladder so that he could climb up to paste posters, which was the cheapest way to propagate the word that they were there to help those who felt cheated by high electricity bills or PDS shops not giving them their allocated ration.

          Like PK, Arvind or AK, as many fondly call him, won't stop if the political establishment would reject the idea of a strong and independent ombudsman against corruption. He would go ahead and challenge the whole political establishment. He would be bereaved by the death of his friend, Santosh in our case, but that would not stop him from going ahead and fighting the established political parties and their goons in elections.

          What makes my belief even stronger is that Arvind is still fighting for the same issues he started for. Be it Janlokpal or corruption in PDS or Gram and mohalla Swaraj, all of them are still very much on his agenda and to-do list.

           Many people give many reasons for Arvind's resignation. Say that he was mistaken in doing so. Even Arvind accepted that it was a mistake. I on the other hand, still believe otherwise. I believe that it was necessary for him to resign on the issue of Janlokpal. It was due to Janlokpal that a Vandana Singh, a Vikas Yogi, an Ankit Lal and innumerable others like us left their jobs and plunged into this fight. Had he not taken a stand on Janlokpal, it would have been a shocker for people like us.

           He kept the hope alive in us. Hope of a better Delhi, a better India and ultimately, a better world. Let's see what the future holds for us, but I will keep striving to bring about change with our own version of PK, who we know as AK!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What happened at Assi ghat?

As I lay in the hospital with my friend Nandan on the bed beside me, the incidents in the past 24 hours criss-cross my mind. A cleanliness drive, an evening full of patriotic songs and then the visit to a shop to buy water is what has landed us in the hospital.

Nandan and Kavish had planned a Play4Change(street music walk) from Durga Kund to Assi Ghat so I decided to join them and we added an extra cleanliness drive prior to that. We went to Durga Kund with brooms and other campaign material, swept the place for about half an hour alongwith distributing pamphlets. After that we left for Assi Ghat in a group of about 15, singing kranti songs.

The walk ended at Assi ghat at about 8pm with Raghupati Raghaav Raja Ram. The atmosphere was so electric that even the crowd was singing with us. It was an excellent but physically draining campaign so after finishing we went towards a nearby tea shop to get some water. Others left while four of us, Nandan and Kavish, the two guitarists, Prabhat, a BHU student and I remained.

We bought water from a shop on the way out from Assi along with some biscuits. A few people came up to Nandan and me and started to talk about Arvind , the elections and started asking us some questions as both of us were wearing AAP caps. The same old usual questions! Why AAP resigned from power in Delhi. Why is Arvind fighting from Banaras. Etc.

3-4 people approached us and asked us to stop talking, remove AAP caps and move away from there. We refused to comply. Those people had #BJP badges so we asked them to sit down and talk to us, debate with us. Either prove their points or try to understand ours.

‘Banaras has been a land of debates and discussions, let’s sit down and debate. Let’s see who can convince the other.’ Nandan said to one of those guys. They didn’t sit.

‘It’s our own country man, are we not even allowed to stand and talk?’ I asked.

None of them replied but they went some distance and stood with their group which had about 15-20 people while we continued chatting with the people at the tea shop.

After few minutes a bigger group, maybe 7-8 of them came back again and threatened. They said, ‘It’ll be better for you people to leave otherwise things can turn bad.’

We said, 'What will you do? Beat us? If beating us solves the problem then beat us.'

One of them first hit Nandan straight on the nose and they went back to his group. Blood spewed from Nandan’s nose but he stood there only and said, ‘What kind of country is this becoming? People are not even prepared to listen to what others have to say? Is this the democracy we are so proud of?’

 'You hit us and run away and then call us Bhagoda,'I shouted. Then few of them came back and hit Nandan on the nose and me on the ear. Both of us were hit multiple times and Prabhat also got hit trying to save us. I lost my specs in the process.

Then those guys sat on their bikes and rode away while we stood there with folded hands asking if they wanted to hit us more. They ran away, we didn't. We took water from the tea shop and washed Nandan's nose which was bleeding profusely. Around 30 locals watched.

Later friends suggested that we get an FIR registered and medical examination (MLC) done which we did. The report shows that tendons in Nandan's nose have been damaged and my left ear drum has an internal blood clot. Doctors say my hearing won't be affected but there is serve pain and it will take almost a week for the ear drum to heal. Nandan's injury might take a bit longer. According to Doctor he was hit on nose with some metallic object.

The interesting part is that both the FIR and the MLC state that there we were not under the influence of alcohol. Still people like Mr Sambit Parta, who is a BJP spokesperson and several news channels have stated that we were drunk and then pissed in the Ganges due to which we were beaten up.

Well, one would have to salute the imagination of the person who came up with this argument. But at the same time I think this country has suffered enough due to such baseless rumor mongering . It’s an argument that can very easily polarize people in election season apart from harming  Nandan’s any my  personal and family reputation. What damage it will cause to the party is unfathomable.

I write this blog because I want to tell my side of the story, because I want the truth to come out. However, I don’t ask you to believe me blindly. Please verify with the FIR and MLC record. Please, please at least check if both of us consume alcohol or not. Please try and see through this fa├žade of fake and polarizing propaganda being run by these people.

Being a Social Media person I know how rumor mills on Social Media work and how main stream media falls prey to it. I would request the main stream media to at least cross check and verify the facts when it comes to statements and arguments of this nature.

Written by Ankit Lal while lying on a hospital bed.