About Sunita Aron

Along with the appointment letter had come the advice, “ Covering UP can be risky.” But her over 25-years long journey through the Hindi heartland has been the most testing and thrilling experience. Whether chasing dacoits in the ravines, the Mafioso and their politics, the communal riots and caste clashes or the Ayodhya imbroglio, there has never been a dull moment. The journey continues after a short break at Mumbai.

It was Asaram Bapu first, now Rampal – the two self-styled godmen who flaunted much touted healing and spiritual powers but failed to save themselves from incarceration. Without going into merits or demerits of their arrests, I somehow feel it’s time their gullible followers understand there are no ‘such spiritual superheroes on this earth who can provide them succour and support they go hunting for.

The power to hypnotize is different from the power to fulfill wishes and desires. Reeling under abject poverty, health problems, harassment, the innocent masses, turned away by the political systems, run to tens and hundreds of such ‘Babas’ believing them to be demi gods only to be taken for a ride as the so call sadhus use the same pains and sufferings to build their edifices and empires.

If they had any such ‘powers’, there was no way they would have gone to jail. Isn’t it? If they can’t save themselves, how would they save others?

But their incarceration is not enough. One needs to dig deeper into their activities- also their connections with criminals and anti- nationals foe whom they turn their heavily guarded ashrams into safe haven. The political and the bureaucratic system must answer for their meteoric growth.

The Congress cannot shun its responsibility in Rampal case. The new BJP-led government might have mismanaged or delayed his arrest but the Congress government remained deaf and dumb to Rampal’s activities for years. So is the case with Asaram Bapu.

How could they build their palaces, amass unaccounted wealth, arms and ammunition? Do we have a government, a system or not? And if we have one, then how, right under their nose, these godmen built huge boundary walls and gates to turn it into fortified lairs, where people could enter but not come out? Is our political system so weak that the common rules governing all construction activity in the country did not apply on them?

It’s a scary picture. And for all the sufferings of the unknown people, heads must roll.

Today it’s not about one ashram or baba— the two are dangerously mushrooming in rural India where the poor live. As one travels down the countryside, such ashrams can be spotted every hundred miles with few knowing the real face behind it. After all Rampal was just a junior engineer while Asaram Bapu sold tea in front of a magistrate’s office.

It’s not about their professional status but their meteoric rise in the spiritual world – rather materialistic world. How could they impart moral and spiritual teachings when they themselves were addicted to luxuries? It’s a wake-up call for the masses as well as the state and central governments.

It’s time to bring such mushrooming religious institutions of all caste and communities under the scanner.

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The Uttar Pradesh government on November 18 allocated Rs 556 crore for toilets in state’s villages. Media was quick in linking it with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Clean India campaign. [Read more]

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Recently BSP supremo Mayawati locked horns with the Samajwadi Party led government in the state over the construction of a railway overhead bridge near her house. She and her acolytes feared threat to her life and had strongly protested the government’s announcement in the state assembly.

For readers who know little of Lucknow’s geography, the two satraps of regional parties – SP and BSP- have not only been rotating powers in the state for the past two decades but have also captured two prime areas- Vikramaditya Marg where Mulayam has his residence, party office and Lohia Trust and Mall Avenue where Mayawati has her two sprawling residences, party office and Ambedkar sthal. As chief minister, she had further expanded her bungalow, merging the adjacent full-fledged office of Ganna Sansthan (Sugar Federation)which had to be demolished.

Coming to the construction of the railway overhead bridge perhaps even Mayawati in private conversation would admit its utility in view of the ever increasing traffic over a railway line that takes the weight of 160 trains in a day. It’s another matter that she rarely drove through Lucknow roads as chief minister and whenever she did take the road route all traffic was brought to a halt half an hour in advance. Even today traffic is stopped for present chief minister Akhilesh Yadav but for 10 minutes.

As the people of Luckow heaved a sigh of relief on November 4 as the new flyover was thrown open to the public, Mayawati and her party grew belligerent. She even threatened Mulayam of a similar flyover near his house as and when she came to power. This she did even after the engineers took care to ensure no one, while driving through the bridge, could look beyond the bridge sidewalls. The tough sheets that have been put up on its side concrete boundaries are also sound proof.

So there is no question of anyone peeking into Maya’s fort, which is 200 metres away from the bridge and faces the other side of the interior road.

I don’t understand why the politicians so averse to public that brings them to power And what is more important in a democracy – the convenience of the people or their privacy or for that matter their protection.

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My friend walked into my home in a flurry on the Diwali day. Instead of festival hug and greetings, she said with excitement, ‘I have become a Modi fan’. Incidentally, she is a Muslim and wife of a retired colonel. The couple strangely had this weird idea of leaving India and settling somewhere abroad when the news about Narendra Modi’s crowning came after BJP’s spectacular victory in 2014 general election. [Read more]

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This has become the theme for 2014 with people coming forward to bring light and smile in the lives of the underprivileged.

We, at Hindustan Times in Lucknow, were shown the way by the young scientists of CDRI, who celebrated their birthdays as well as every festival with the 100 odd physically and mentally challenged children residing at a home called Drishti.

They sang and danced with them, allowed the smaller ones to sit on their laps, held them in their arms. The happiness that we saw on the faces of these kids, many of them abandoned by their parents because of their disability, encouraged us to follow suit. Thereafter, we started our small exercise of collecting money to buy small gifts for them.

Diwali

Sometimes, we hear people condemning others lack of commitment to society . But it isn’t really so — there are many among us wanting to do something for someone all the time.

This was our first-hand experience wherein the shops sold us woollens and radiator heaters at unexpectedly a low price — stationery and footballs in fact came for free. A bakery owner took cake and patties, while balloons came as bonus. Still better the owner and his wife were personally present.

Children were thrilled — not by the woollens or the heaters but the quality time that we spent with them. We played handball, patiently heard them sing or narrate their painful story. Our cell phones excited them most as they wanted to hold them in their hands and talk to the world. Even they have aspirations.

Believe me, what these children actually need are your time and touch more than the goodies. Nothing makes them happier than an hour you spend with them. And that’s where we are a bit miserly, busy as we are in our jobs or businesses.
Have a look at the picture to know the happiness that the said time and touch can bring in the lives of those who have no one to take care of them.

How about an hour from your busy schedule — it will make a difference that your millions won’t.

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