(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
The news from Bengaluru is disturbing. A facebook post on the Prophet Muhammad enraged a mob of Muslims; they went on a rampage; hundreds of vehicles were burnt; dozens of policemen injured; houses put to torch; people killed. Alongside are stories of how Muslims formed a human chain to protect a Hindu temple from being vandalized; how a Muslim father named his son as “Krishna” as he was born on Krishna Janmashtami.
Bear with me for a couple of minutes as I build the background for you to connect the dots. In the hope that you would become a careful consumer of news and not one who just swallows any vomit by our newspapers.
I not only consume but also create news so know where my objectivity ends and bias begins. It’s true for most. We won’t disagree too that Muslims by and large don’t favour BJP. Or that your Sikh cousins—intermarriages are common, my mom was a Sikhni—would greet you on Holi and Deepawali but try telling them that Sikhs have emerged from the Hindus. Or that Sikhs are required to this day to register their marriage as Hindus.
I also notice a practice which if you are not careful enough would pass you by. Whenever Muslims as a religious minority do something which alarms the nation, by causing riots, killing civilians or soldiers, stories would start doing rounds in newspapers about how a few Muslims are reaching out to Hindus and shielding them from arsonists, how a few Muslims are upholding the ganga-jamuni tehzeeb, how a few were exemplary citizens before the state turned them into monsters.
Barkha Dutt made sure that the nation never forgets Burhan Wani was the son of a school teacher even if he happened to be the poster boy of Hizbul Mujahideen; that another top Hizbul commander Riaz Naikoo was a math teacher; and so on and so on. Who would forget the Indian Express headline: “And they hanged Yakub Memon”? It’s a classic news report which should be a matter of eternal shame for the newspaper. Please read it.
If somebody was reading the story today, he wouldn’t have a clue what Memon did for which he was hanged. There is no mention at all of why the State deemed Memon to have done a crime grave enough to be hanged. NO MENTION AT ALL. All you have is a poignant report of a man preparing for his final moment; fresh white kurta pyjama, letters exchanged in English with his family etc. Oh, I must tell you Memon had been found guilty in 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts which had left 257 killed.
Why do you think this happens? Why the innocent killing of civilians, threat to national security, incalculable damage to assets fades into the background and the image of an innocent, lovable kid in the neighbourhood, one whose only affair was with books and academics, is kept in your face? Why no sooner Pulwama happens, which leaves 46 of our soldiers martyred, you find stories in our newspapers that Kashmiri students all over the country are being beaten in hostels, in streets, and that they are fleeing and railways stations are filling up? Why a sympathetic narrative is spun alongside a grave crime?
On matters of Kashmir Valley or Punjab insurgency, it’s simply to cast in stone the image of a carefree youngster who was alienated enough by the Indian state to turn into a terrorist. Remember, movie “Maachis”? The chief protagonist only loafs around with his friends when police frames them and puts them on the run, seeking revenge against the system.
Now let’s return to today. Let’s look closely at the Muslim man who has named his “Krishna” on Janmashtami. Aziz Khan belongs to Indore in Madhya Pradesh. India Abroad News Service (IANS) informs us that “the doctor Praveen Jadia asked for the baby’s name to be filled in for the form. I immediately named our boy as Krishna, as the day was Janmashtami.
“Although the doctors and other family members objected to it, but I told them that a father has the right to give any name to his child.”
The IANS further adds: Khan’s mother Yaniki had suggested another name “Kafir” but Aziz did not change it.
What say folks. Teary-eyed. Angry at right-wingers poking fingers at innocent, harried Indian muslims? The violence still on in Bengaluru already faded in your memory? The anger you felt at Muslims taking their reverence to their Prophet to murderous levels already diluted?
So let me disappoint you readers. This story is a dozen years old. This happened in 2008. Why this story is doing rounds now after 12 years? it’s commendable but what relevance it has to the present situation which would only polarize society, feed the islamist elements and is bad for all of us? Try googling this story and you would see every newspaper, magazine, website swooning over the exemplary Muslim.
That’s why I say folks connect dots. When your respected Tauji forwards a WhatsApp image moved by his proclivity for Narendra Modi or his undying faith in the Gandhi clan, THINK. When your aunt in Pondicherry has just forwarded a map which shows Chinese incursion in the Galwan Valley, PAUSE. I guess now there are more economists in our homes than we had ever suspected. Or the very next day, these economists are ready with their nuanced view on India’s latest defence purchase. If you, reader, are an evolved consumer of news, it would foil their sinister designs. India only breaks up when its citizens don’t connect what they consume as news.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Kids have numbers. I mean there are 25 crore children who visit 15 lakh schools in India—or when they last visited before March 16 shut them down.
Most liked the break. Some didn’t. For India had found an alternative to physical classes. It moved online. Government and educational bodies launched several e-learning portals and apps such as DIKSHA portal, e-Pathshala, Swayam, STEM-based games etc.
Hawks were keen to found out if much-touted India’s 4G network spread would hold up. Yes, the 4G data is very affordable, it’s said to be robust enough to cover the entire country, but India is that dark abyss for marginalized communities, those stuck in deep interiors, who don’t have smartphones, leave alone laptops and desktops.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) tells us that although 78 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population have mobile phones, the tele-density hasn’t seeped beyond 57 percent. The rest are innocents to such advances. Then not everyone at home has access to smartphones. How could a family of three teenagers with one smartphone fall into a lockstep to study online?
Well, some did. There is a Kumar family in Ghaziabad, in Delhi NCR itself, where three teenagers worked out a schedule to use their solitary smartphone to good use. Nidhi, 15, begins the day with an hour’s coaching on a WhatsApp video call; the younger brother gets hold of the phone next, and finally the older brother pushes his applications to colleges.
At the other end of the spectrum is Ishan Khandelwal from a privileged background who isn’t able to come to terms with the final XII paper he missed due to Corona suspension of exams. He still has emerged with a grade to envy, booked his berth in a premier US educational institution and hopes Donald Trump would smile one of these days.
There is no end to such stirring tales of defiance. Pravinsinh Jadeja, a primary school teacher in Gujarat’s tribal district of Dahod, has turned an open space into an e-learning school of his own. The kids in their two-room school, now shut, don’t have internet or access to TV. So Jadeja, all of 43, has done his own smart bit.
Every morning, Jadeja, armed with his 5.5 inch Android smartphone holds a live session on DD Girnar’s YouTube channel. The students sit on cots while the winds blow and cows moo in the background. Jadeja is not alone. There are 30 other teachers across 10 villages in Dahod who do similarly and hold a shining light on the community of teachers. In Chennai, class 10 students in corporation schools have been temporarily provided with Android phones.
Similarly, at least 20 percent students don’t have e-access to the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) online classes even though 8 million others do. The body has now arranged for 500 colleges to provide access of internet to any student living nearby, even if he or she is not a student of that institution.
Pakistan a disturbing contrast
Sometime, we don’t realize how good India has been with education in this distressing spell of Corona Virus pandemic. Lakhs and lakhs of students are being taught at home. Contrast this with Pakistan where students are being put in jail for demonstrating against the e-learning diktat even as they don’t have access to internet.
Quetta is one of the largest and most impoverished districts in Pakistan. Nine out of 32 districts are completely devoid of mobile internet services due to security reasons. Schools in Pakistan are closed since March 13. Students are holding demonstrations, sitting on hunger strikes, and subjected to violence, for demanding e-access to studies. Some have gone to High Court.
Quetta isn’t a stand-alone district in Pakistan. Much of the country doesn’t have internet infrastructure. Where it’s available, the network quality is poor. Only 35 percent of population have access to internet. Mostly it’s 3G connections. According to The Inclusive Internet Index 2020, Pakistan is 76th ranked country out of 100 nations. It’s the lowest among all Asian countries.
India, despite its multiple challenges, is among the top 50 countries on quality internet access. It’s only 13 rungs below China, now that a comparison between the two is regularly sought. India has massively bridged the gap vis-à-vis China in recent years.
At the time of independence of the two countries in late 1940s, the two population-behemoths suffered from massive illiteracy. India’s rulers lacked resources, if not the will, to put education as priority. Thus, just a generation ago in 1982, China’s literacy rate was almost double at 64 percent to India’s 37. Today, in 2020, India’s literacy rate has jumped to 81.3 percent compared to China’s 96.84 percent. India is in a hurry to make up the lost years.
So when Corona pandemic threatened this march, India was up to the task. Not just the government or commercial ventures but even NGOs like Pratham are pushing their digital, radio and SMS-based programmes via village administration in 10 Indian states. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) is busy disseminating lessons through radio and television. State education departments are innovating new models to reach their local populace.
There is also intense involvement at the school, parents and the government level. In Karnataka, the state government stopped online classes for children below six, citing an advice by NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences), a premier Bengaluru-based mental health institution, that it could affect the mental health of kids.
The furious schools—goaded by parents–though would’ve none of it. After the state government banned online classes up to Class 5 on June 15, they challenged the decision in the Karnataka High Court. The court has quietly asked the state government to take a walk as its act is a violation of students’ fundamental rights to life and education.
The syllabus for next year has been reduced by 30 percent. The HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank” has tentatively put the reopening of schools after August 15. But India is undeterred by the delay. If the present pandemic is any guide, India could make virtual education a norm, and not an exception, in the next five years.