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.

There is a complete mismatch in what PM says and his party, the Bhartiya Janata Party, does. While his oratory is filled with messages of inclusiveness, unpalatable actions of the BJP and its associated wings cause unnecessary consternation amongst a section of the society thereby raising questions like, ‘Is there a hidden agenda?’. West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh are under their radar.

The dust in Aligarh, kicked up by the BJP insistence on celebrating the 128th birth anniversary of Jat King Raja Mahendra Singh on AMU campus, had barely settled down when the union minister from Fatehpur Niranjan Jyoti made an unwarranted statement during campaigning in Delhi. Her rural and poor background (as quoted by the prime minister while seeking pardon for her behaviour ) can hardly justify her use of abusive language in denouncing those who don’t believe in Lord Rama.

Behind both, the reasons are purely political. Ironically, in Aligarh the BJP saw the caste of the leader while coolly ignoring the fact that the Raja was also called Peter Peer Singh because he had imbibed three religions. The game plan was clear in Aligarh, to keep the Jat-Muslim wedge simmering till the 2017 Lok Sabha elections as the unity of the two dominant castes could prove politically dangerous for the saffron brigade.

But why defend the indefensible like union minister Niranjan Jyoti, whose popularity is waning in her own Lok Sabha constituency. But then how can the Prime Minister drop her when his party is out on its woo-OBC-Dalit mission. On this December 6, instead of observing Shaurya Diwas, the saffron brigade was celebrating Ambedkar Jayanti in Uttar Pradesh.

Now, we have this news about a conversion camp held in Agra.

On a day prime minister Narendra Modi won hearts at a rally in Kashmir by saying, ‘They want Android smart phones and not AK 47’, a group of Dharam Jagran and Bajrang Dal volunteers were converting 57 Muslim families to Hinduism describing it as the homecoming of those who had embraced Islam only 25 years back. Knowing the bullying character of these organisations, it is hard to know whether these Muslims were forcibly converted to Hinduism under their ‘Hindu Bachchao, Hindu Banao’ campaign.

While making it clear that these conversions camps will continue, the volunteers held hawan amidst Gayatri Mantra for the purification of those ‘coming home’ and handed over deity of Kali for worship.

The families were from Kolkata and claim to be happy with their new identities. The very next day, accusing Bajrang Dal of tricking them at a religious event denied conversion to Hinduism. But by then the rumour mill had started working across the country.

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“After he got award for Abhiman he said ‘Shankar, thank you. But there is one thing I will tell you, I did not spend any money. I got it genuinely.’ Maybe it was in his mind that Shankar-Jaikishan must have done something, bought a huge number of copies of Filmfare to fill in the votes, or something like that, as they had won in the previous years rather frequently. There was an interview on the Internet with Pyarelal in which he admits that Lakshmi-ji had told him to buy copies of Filmfare and fill the forms, nominating themselves. He said, ‘It made kachra of us, devalued our worth and integrity a lot, but after the award, we got a lot of work.’

This is SD Burman in Sathya Saran’s latest book, ‘Sun Mere Bandhu Re- the Musical World of SD Burman.’ I anchored Sathya’s session on her two well-researched and riveting biographies at Lucknow Literature Carnival last weekend and to the audience shock came to know that even greats like SD Burman had doubts about the credibility of awards in the good old days. Then why should we raise questions over Aamir Khan or Ajay Devgan’s decision to stay away from award ceremonies.

Sathya Saran has authored two brilliant biographies on giants of the film industry – SD Burman and Guru Dutt (Abrar Alvi’s journey). Incidentally, both the stalwarts had to wait for recognition even after giving several hits to Indian cinema. Abrar had directed Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam and was not merely a front man for GD, as many had so believed, he was also the guy who discovered Waheeda for Pyasa.

Of course, the books also talk about their personal lives – GD’s relationship with all-time popular Waheeda Rehman and SD’s with his son RD Burman who many thought had composed ‘Roop Tera Mastana’ for Aradhana. SD was even accused of lifts, of plagiarism.

These facts are revealed in Sathya’s book in Burman’s words, ‘‘You have heard my famous song in Aradhana, ‘Safal hogi teri aradhana, kahe ko roye’. It is composed on a simply Baul melody. Then there is the famous Guide song, ‘Wahan kaun hai tera musafir jayega kahan’. That too is done on Bhatiali lines. What’s more surprising is that the rather jazzy sort of hit song ‘Roop tera mastana’ sung by Kishore Kumar is but a beautiful folk melody that I happened to hear a long time ago. I remembered the tune because of its peculiar effect. It merely uses two notes and has a very special influence on the senses.”

So how did RD get to compose music for ‘Hare Rama , Hare Krishna’.

Despite media reports to the contrary, it was not Dev Anand who chose Pancham for the film’s musical score. It was SD Burman who decided his son would handle the film. For one, the elder Burman disapproved of drugs and the filming of such scenes. He was not sure of its impact. Besides, he felt someone younger would be more in tune with the kind of scene Dev would shoot and be able to deliver the music better.

After the session Sathya left for Mumbai – to finish her another first – a book on Jagjit Singh.

While I attended the session with the giant of Indian cinema Shyam Benegal – an adorable guy who is going to turn 80 in two weeks time. We, the fans of his films like Junoon and Ankur, couldn’t have asked for more when he shared with the audience his ambitious plan of making a film that will touch the knotty issue of land acquisition, most probably one to be shot in Uttar Pradesh. Since then I have been wondering if another Mother India in the offing? The wait, for me, begins.

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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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