Kangana Ranaut

Arnab’s arrest: And why it must concern us beyond BJP-Congress, Right-Left binaries

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

A case is filed on two deaths/suicides. The complaint is that the two deceased were driven to take the extreme step because some THREE didn’t pay up. After a while police gives up. Admits in court there is not enough evidence to incriminate the THREE. The case is closed.

A year later the case is reopened in May 2020 at state government’s behest. On November 4, 2020, that ONE is arrested. Manhandled and with policemen toting AK-47s in tow. A measure you and I would recommend for a dreaded terrorist.

But Arnab Goswami is no terrorist. He could be one in the TV news industry or for certain forces. He could have been an asset for the ruling dispensation in the Centre. You and I could be on one side or the other. But none of us would deny he is a media celebrity. Possibly the biggest name on our media firmament. It sends signals, right or wrong, across the country. It affects India’s millions and millions of citizens. If not now, then pretty soon.

I am for law to take its course. I am not here to argue Maharashtra government reopening the case. I am not too worried about Mumbai Police too. Arrests are made in India, there are courts who on the basis of evidence take a call. I am not worried too about missing Arnab Goswami in my evenings. I hardly watch him. But I have the option to go for remote. As everyone has. You want to watch him, watch him. You want to shut him out, do it.

I am not going hysterical on either of these two lines of arguments:

One says it’s a revenge for raking up Palghar, dogging the drugs-Bollywood connection, and pursuing the Sushant Singh Rajput case with relentless vigour. After months, Arnab didn’t let up on these themes. He also took Sonia’s original name with certain contempt which upset the Queen Dowager no end up. What more proof do we need against the fascist nature of present Maharashtra government when it beats up ex-soldiers, locks up ordinary citizens for social media posts and make a crane comfortable within the drawing room of a nationally acclaimed actress? And don’t we have multiple sting operations which reveal that “Arnab-would-have-no-option-but-to-commit-suicide”, such would be the ferocity from the state government? That you get Arnab and you take heat off Bollywood and Sushant Rajput?

The other side is driven to despair at Goswami not letting up on Palghar, Sushant Singh Rajput, Bollywood and Kangana Ranaut. They feel such attacks are motivated. That it’s Centre which is working overtime to sink the rather unholy alliance between Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress. They argue what’s so big about Arnab when journalists are being hauled up all around the country, including in a few BJP states.

You and I could differ. Hindus and Muslims could differ. Political parties could differ. Ideologies could differ. But there is something we must not differ. And that’s about the nature of our Republic. We won’t be a democracy if media is under a siege. There is no gain showing me International Press Index which shows India very poor in freedom of press. That India is turning fascist. If it was so, NDTV’s alleged financial scams would’ve been taken to logical conclusions. The Telegraph won’t be so openly abusive. If people were under fetters, there won’t be open threats to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, and more than just on their lives. Vilest language on social media goes unpunished.

A free media though doesn’t mean unfettered media. If Arnab is arrested or some journalist in Uttar Pradesh is, there are redressal mechanisms. One or the other would be shown up wrong. Law would take it’s call. But if you manhandle a media celebrity and bring in armed men toting Ak-47, this is more than justice pursued. This is criminal intimidation. The is State trying to send the message across: to media and to people. That even though we derive our power from you, our naked force is meant to terrify you. That if this could happen to arguably one of the 10 biggest names in the country, you could be the next.

There is no gainsaying that Mumbai Police has acted on its own accord. It’s answerable to State government who, by now, ought to have taken a public stand on the matter. I scanned the twitter-lines of Uddhav Thackeray (office), Sharad Pawar, Congress (Sonia Gandhi) and Rahul Gandhi. Blank. Shashi Tharoor? Blank. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra? Blank. Mamata, Pinarayi Vijayan, Ashok Gehlot? Blank. looked up for Shekhar Gupta and Rajdeep Sardesai. Bland. I could promise you they would be the next. And then you would go to town on the “fascism” of Modi government. And then you would be teased on your silence on Arnab Goswami. Be principled or drop the pretence.

In a jungle, might rules. Humanity was no better than jungle. But it was centuries ago. Since then, Magna Carta happened, Napoleon happened, Tocqueville happened, Voltaire happened. We all agreed to the way a society functioned. A cobbled-up state government today wants to tell us we were wrong. That a Genghis Khan or a Taimur still lives. No sir, they no longer do. Before long, your fate would be decided as its done every five years. You are too weak to fetter a billion voices. India would assert and show you your place.

Is Covid-19 letting up out of deference to our Festivals? Or the worst is over?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

I sought out Deepak last morning. I hadn’t met him for long, at least since my daughters still used to hold my hand and walk into his teaching institute nearby. Always above the board, energetic enough to be suitable for a protein ad, and good enough in maths for Rahul Gandhi to figure out how he messes up his numbers on public platforms.

Let’s leave aside why we met. Important for you folks is his Covid-19 experience which he contracted almost to the day when we responded to Modiji’s call to sound pots and ring bells. Every inch of his bones creaked, fever raged like a tropical storm and he thinks it was pandemic. “I didn’t know where to go, the tale of expenses was scary and here I was, in my one-BHK flat, with my wife, kids and old parents. I couldn’t separate myself from them, couldn’t afford treatment and left myself—and my family–in the hands of Gods.”

Well the Gods looked after him and his family. He is fine now but still complains of nagging pain in his ankles. He feels he avoided death not because he submitted himself to good hands but only because some die and some don’t to this scourge of our times.

Now we hear that Covid-19 is in retreat in India. But it is resurging in US and Europe. Ireland has reimposed a complete lockdown; Czech Republic, Spain and France have opted for similar measures; Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland are some of the worst hit. The United States is beginning to hit a lakh each and so it is with France. But India smiled on Tuesday with only 36,601 cases recorded the previous day. We might still touch 10 million by December but recovery rate is above 90%.

It’s the lowest in last 101 days, since July 17 that is. In September, we too were touching a lakh positive each. Now even Maharashtra is reporting its lowest in last five months. Asia’s biggest slums in its belly are beginning to chirp. Its another matter that Thackerays have now moved from one villain to Arnab Goswami and Kangana Ranaut but we would glean on it some other day.

Why Covid-19 is dipping in India? Before you scoff at India’s testing numbers, let me tell you its one million Tests a day done across India on an average for the last few weeks. Yet numbers are dipping. Hospitals which were overflowing with Covid-19 patients are beginning to have freer beds, oxygen cylinders and ventilators. The laudable healthcare workers are even shooting videos of their dancing footwork and have one Hrithik Roshan swooning. Nurses are without PPT cover and gossiping. Intern doctors are again longing for those night shifts when the male-female ratio in whites is abnormally skewed.

Would it last? Our prime minister won’t like us to entertain such a devilish thought. He knows he hasn’t allowed Covid-19 to get out of hand—the proof is that even Rahul Gandhi has let go an issue which he could’ve harped upon for nine months. But Modiji is worried for festivals are upon us, congregations would happen on a Tablighi Jamaat scale (well almost), fairs would abound and shops would overflow. None of them could be restrained, for it’s a moment of cheer and some well-needed finances would come the way of shopkeepers and businessmen. But festivals would also onset winter, which is playtime for viruses in colder weather. Modiji has even got an official body to warn Indians that 50 per cent of them could be infected by February 2021.

I suspect there won’t be an upsurge. For the “herd syndrome” has already taken over us. There are 10s of millions of Deepaks in this country who haven’t reported the Virus to public. They have either survived—like Deepak—or died. None have come in the official count. If around a crore are to be infected soon, there are at least 20-30 crores Positive who haven’t submitted themselves to scrutiny.

It’s just not my suspicion. You might have ignored the news of a few weeks ago that one-third of Delhi already has antigen bodies. Half of Mumbai’s worst slums were declared to have been in grips of Covid-19. Away from news, this is the truth of Covid-19 in India. That the pandemic probably has run its course.

India’s numbers are not dropping because they have hit upon a wonder drug, or because our admirable healthcare staff have acquired a midas touch (well, from inside PPT that is), or Modiji has done any surgical strike on the Virus. It’s only because you and me, or most of us, have already had our brush with the pandemic.  And that this is a perfect moment when you could say: Ignorance is Bliss.

 

 

What is it that the Gandhis have against women: A father-daughter present their own villains

(A reprint from NewsBred).

I had just picked up my morning tea in balcony when my elder daughter tapped me on shoulder. “Would BJP stop at anything? Gender, patriarchy, misogyny—what do they have against women?”

She was drawing my attention to an Indian Express news where Nirmala Sitharaman, our present finance and past defence minister, had raked up a recent brutal murder in Hoshiarpur, Punjab. A six-year-old girl child of a Bihar Dalit migrant labourer has been raped, killed and her half-burnt body was discovered this week.

My daughter wasn’t amused that Sitharaman had chosen the gruesome murder to make some political points, like “Doesn’t it shake the conscience of the brother and sister pair (Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi) who rushed to every other chosen site…as if they were going (Hathras) for a picnic…But why not in Hoshiarpur? Why not if it (the crime takes place) is Rajasthan?…the pretentious Congress is nowhere…A woman heads their party.”

I wasn’t sure the bit in Sitharaman’s words which had offended my daughter till she drew my attention to another story in Indian Express. The “rejoinder” from Gandhi scion and the chief minister of the Punjab state, Capt Amarinder Singh: “Unlike in UP,” we are not “denying” the rape or “blocking the course of justice.” Amarinder was more lyrical: He found BJP doing a “political puffery.”

Well, that might be true. With first phase of Bihar elections due in a matter of hours, parties are jostling for political points. But leave aside politics, my girl, if it is gender, patriarchy and misogyny could we please look at Congress more closely please.

Till last year Congress had a high-profile spokesperson. Priyanka Chaturvedi commanded attention on media of all kind: Print, digital, social media etc. But she quit in disgust in 2019. She felt “hurt and self-dignity” compromised when her offenders, within Congress itself, were reinstated after being suspended briefly. “I put in 10 years (for Congress)…they ignored a woman..(I had put up) at a great personal cost, self-dignity…If I don’t (quit), it would let all those women down who want to join politics, raise voice.”

More recently Khushboo Sundar, a high-profile Congress spokesperson in South, quit Congress. She said she had given up her personal life to work for Congress in last six years but she has no option but to quit as she was being “pushed and suppressed.”

Let’s say, these incidents were ambitions couched in sexist pretence, I ventured to my daughter. Let’s also not make much of Rahul Gandhi’s “Come, Rape in India” remark in the Parliament which had led to a massive uproar. Mr Gandhi thought he was being witty when he said “Come, Make in India” is more like come “Rape in India.” The fellow women Members of Parliaments were outraged for they found Mr Gandhi being cavalier about a crime which leaves a victim with two options: Suicide or a living dead.

But let’s not deny that it was the kind of remark which should make gender-activists see red. A newspaper like Indian Express ought to have initiated a debate on the mindset of India’s wannabe Prime Minister. It’s no excuse that he is still a bachelor. He has women in family, his grandma was India’s iron lady. Rape can’t be a matter of wit.

If she wants she could give this another instance a miss, I proffered by daughter. Mr Gandhi was all pompous when he had said in Parliament last year that the prime minister had “got a woman (Nirmala Sitharaman) to defend him (Modi),” on Rafale deal. It surely smacked of patriarchy. A woman who is a model to millions in this country—try to see how Nirmala makes such earnest effort to speak Hindi, good one at that—can’t be ridiculed as if it wasn’t the Parliament but some Duryodhana’s sabha.

But no apology. No reprimand from their mother Sonia who has been at the “helm” longer than even Indira. No outrange or OpEd in Indian Express or The Hindu.  And if I could ask you my daughter how do you think they ought to have reacted to “haram-khor” jibe in their own coalition-run State to a young lady who has achieved more than arguably anyone in Bollywood? Did the Gandhis mind the threat to Kangana dare she descend in Mumbai ever or when a crane made itself comfortable in her Bandra room?

It was not the BJP but the Dalit supremo Mayawati herself who was angry beyond words at how the murder and rape of a Dalit girl in Alwar was “hushed up” by the Ashok Gehlot Congress government, as there are a string of other rapes which are occurring in Rajasthan even as Gandhis lost their shirt on Hathras. And when your former chief minister (Kamal Nath) mentions a sitting woman minister (Imarti Devi) an “item” should a perfunctory disapproval by Rahul be enough to cover the silence of Sonia and Priyanka? Has there been any consequence on Kamal Nath? Has Indian Express sought out Randeep Surjewala for his reaction?

I won’t go into what happened to the “Nirbhaya Fund” of a 1,000 crore which was set up by Congress in the aftermath of the terrible incident on Delhi streets. It remains under-utilized even by the BJP states. But the larger point is Gandhis indeed are convenient on women. Debating points, highlighted by predisposed newspapers is no shield.

So, when you raise banners against gender-bias, patriarchy and misogyny my child, I told my daughter, do keep a memory log. And could I have another fresh morning tea please now?

 

 

Anarchy has come home to roost in India: What options do BJP have?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Breakdown.

Is that what India has come to?

Most Indians are battling this conundrum.

This perceived breakdown, internal, is largely at two levels: (a) harmony between Hindus-Muslims; (b) Centre and state relations.

Both are interlinked. A power seemingly in perpetuity loses an election. And another. Both by a landslide. The winners are identified with majority. The losers with minority. The turfs have exchanged hands. It’s an existential moment for losers; like those countless in history where Czars and Caliphs came to rest in tomes and tombs.

Losers now rally their forces. It joins hands with those it was in fight with all these years. All the parts must matter in sum. It doesn’t. Those who made a meal out of caste politics in India’s heartland are uprooted; those who swore by Maratha identity sound like a hag’s croon; elsewhere in volatile Bengal, the monster-slayer Didi stomps ground, flashes eyes and fingers, yet barely keeps her head above the surging water.

The Winners are surer after second win. They know they have come to stay. They won on planks of development and incorruptibility. On keeping India First. So out goes Jammu and Kashmir and its armour of special status. Minority wakes up to post-Shah Bano world in Triple Talaq Act; Ram Janmabhoomi arrived at an opportune time; and then the long-standing Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is approved by India’s chosen representatives.

So Losers can’t win people’s confidence. The judiciary too doesn’t fall to their mechanisms. Prepaid media is doing its best but little is changing on the ground. Their Samaritans in movies, culture, academics have little traction. The echo-chamber in West is drowning in its own noise.

Anarchy thus is the last resort. It’s always two-faced: One is led by the system. The other by the people. As I mentioned at the start: Break it down at (a) people; and (b) governance level.

Anarchy at the people’s level is your anti-CAA protests, Hathras, Farms Bills, Reservation stirs etc, etc. Anarchy at the governance level is passing resolutions against the Central Acts in your State’s assemblies; refusing CBI a peek into your vice-dens; protecting your favourite police officers even against the judiciary’s strictures; and ridiculing Governors every alternate day.

Uddhav’s Maharashtra is taking it to the next level. Mamata’s police was bad on cartoons on their leader (Uddhav’s too as ex-navy officer Madan Sharma would testify); it would land on doors at different States;  a journalist here and there; but Uddhav’s is booking the entire Republic TV network—claimed 1000 of them ! Kangana Ranaut was just a teaser it would seem. What next?

Some fundamental issues are stake in India. How far could this anarchy be allowed? The ruling BJP apparently has two choices. Let the masses know who are their enemies. It would teach them a lesson in due course. The other option is to exercise the power that the Constitution empowers it with: Dismiss state governments. The long rope which BJP has extended to Mamata Banerjee in the last six years conveys they would rather not do it and leave it in people’s hands.

BJP also knows what is noise and what’s substance. The noise is the ant-Farm Acts stir in Punjab led by its Congress chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh. It could pass assembly resolutions but nothing would come out of it. The Punjab government is saddled with enormous debts and in the era of GST, you can’t trot your own horse when the whip is with someone else. You need Centre at every stage: Disasters and finances are one thing; telecommunications and security is another. More so in a border State.

It doesn’t mean that BJP ought to be at peace with anarchy. Mandate comes with responsibility. Anti-CAA protests led to Delhi Riots. They didn’t see Shaheen Bagh become what it did in the end. It made even Supreme Court helpless. The State must never be seen soft. India can’t afford it. All societies run on larger good. Those sloganeering “freedom”, “democracy” and “Constitution” don’t mean a bit of it. This chimera must yield to rule of law. Or it would persist in our lifetimes; and in our children’s. To horrific consequences if a malleable power was to come to Centre.

(Meanwhile, don’t fret on the welfare of Republic TV. Nothing would come out of it. Indians don’t like or even see somebody being browbeaten. More so by Powers. Brazenly. Mumbai Police has taken a bigger bite than it could chew. So, enjoy the drama but don’t miss your routine. The Karma would catch up with Mumbai Police and the rulers in Maharashtra).

 

 

Uddhav and his miserable attempt at Arnab the Bull rampaging his china shop

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Uddhav Thackeray has lost the plot badly. I mean Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar have nothing to lose—their fiefdom would survive only till they are alive. But Uddhav had many advantages which we could count as (a) Balasaheb who had nurtured a regional identity; (b) Hindu plank which is only now peaking and; (c) and BJP’s hand-holding which could have morphed their rogues into those adorable kids who knock our doors for social cause and not to knock us out (Ask Madan Sharma, if you must).

So, here we have a man who by his own admission left the groovy train of BJP because he wanted to be the chief minister. That was the first transgression against the mandate of his own people who had BJP as first choice. The second overstep was joining hands with those who were arch enemies of his own dad, his own legacy and not people’s preferred choices. Then Palghar, Sushant Singh Rajput, Kangana Ranaut, Madan Sharma (again) and Arnab Goswami reminded us of a cave man on street you ask you sister to keep eyes closed to lest he bumps in and asks for a fig leaf.

I mean who looks the other way when your khaki guys are boarding trains to nab a man in Hooghly only because someone has made a threatening call to your spokesperson who himself doesn’t suffer a flushed face in “haramkhor-ing” others? Who throws journalists in a cell only because they were loitering outside your gates? Who declares Mumbai out-of-bounds for a celebrated actress whose national recognition vis-à-vis acknowledgment in media is the biggest giveaway on caucus that manipulates the success and failure of our films? Who brings bulldozers into drawing rooms? (Well, okay office). Who allows broken bones for cartoons and still not called out for an Indian version of Charlie Hebdo? Who calls celebrated journalists into interrogation rooms only because he addressed the Dowager Queen by her original name? And you move Maharashtra assembly for a privilege motion against the man?

And this brings us to the latest saga of Thackeray’s Maharashtra which is akin to those Seasons of Netflix which abuse Hindu deities (in form of canines and monkeys) and ridicule its holy men (beef-eating Pujaris) in the name of artistic licence. So here we have a Police Commissioner holding a press conference which is an unveiled attack on a television phenomenon of our times with a script which a policeman even with Alzheimer could write as a second nature.

So, a complaint is made, a guy is caught, names are taken, arrests are made, complainants hail the model police and a noose is tossed on a raging bull of an anchor who is breaking all your China shops—from Palghar to Rajput to Bollywood to drug mafia to Hathras—only because there is so many cupboards and so many skeletons which it would be improper to leave unattended.  It’s as kiddish and Kalidasa-like (before the latter learnt not to cut the very branch on which he was perched) that you wonder if Congress-NCP are doing a hit-job on Shiv Sena on behalf of BJP. It’s like those suicides which Jihadis do only because they read in a dusty old book that its surest way to be in Jannat and enjoy 72 virgins (Why the figure of 72? Well some other day).

How this all would end? In a whimper though it’s a silly to stick neck out against a subject whose self-destructive streak by now is legendary. I mean all they have done is to only empower Arnab Goswami. A Kangana Ranaut which was fading from memory; a Rajput which viewers were getting tired with; our Deepikas and Saras and Shraddhas had come and gone and why, even Rhea is out of cell. But now there is a new fire and Arnab would harness it to the hilt.

The dye is cast. Arnab is daring them to arrest him. He says if called for interrogation he would walk to the police station and walk back (at least two-hours of primetime TV on his network which would break records of Sholay). He is baiting them for the lolly which they could serve him on a plate. You put him behind bars and all the hell breaks loose. You let him go and those two owners arrested as a collateral damage would go for your throat. You make a sheepish retreat and all your macho posturing would conjure image of a damsel who had gotten into the bed with high hopes.

I mean who needs enemies when you yourself are doing the job so spectacularly?

 

 

“Haramkhor” Sanjay Raut: Here’s listing all those who fit the description

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Sanjay Raut. Wait, wait. This isn’t a voice which you are hearing from behind Kangana Ranaut’s skirt. This man can fill up your nostrils all on his own. He is always in your face like the ones who knock at your car panels on red lights. Ranaut is only the latest excuse.

Raut is a leashed presence at the feet, a prototype all leaders keep only to be released in time. Some act suave, like Pavan Varma and Derek O’ Brien and some are cast in his inimitable mould such as Azam Khan and Sanjay Singh, if you may. Congress has too many which this piece is too short to do justice to. So, Randeep Surjewalas and Navjot Sidhus and Digvijay Singhs could relax.

There was a time when Sanjay Raut wanted to bar Muslims from voting in elections. He came around to stand with them on anti-CAA plank, chumming up to Jamaat-e-Islamic Hind. This change was overnight. It swung with equations of his Shiv Sena vis-à-vis BJP. He once bloated on the upcoming Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial site on the Arabian Sea. He is now drawing daggers at Rani Lakshmi Bai, i.e Kangana Ranaut in a filmi avatar.

So who is the real Sanjay Raut? Nobody. He is just a muckracker in the journalistic tradition of our times. He edits his party’s paper, Saamana, and takes credit for writing a biopic on Balasaheb and would be mistaken as erudite by somebody living in North Pole. Well, after all he has been an “elder” in Rajya Sabha for three terms now. But his calling card, as you would’ve guessed by now, is baring his teeth when his masters want him to.

So, it’s with him now on Kangana Ranaut. It was good he affixed “ladki” with his “haramkhor” adjective. Or somebody would’ve thought he was in a self-appraisal mode. I mean thrice a national award winner, four times of Filmfare, all by the age of 30, doesn’t quite fit the definition of a “haramkhor.”

As you would’ve guessed, the gender-warriors in our newspapers have ducked into their gutters. All your Shobhaa Dees, Mahua Moitras, Priyanka Gandhis, Brinda Karats who bristle at slights on the fairer sex are silent. And we are talking of no ordinary woman here. It’s a prized actress who is picking up the cudgels against the patriarchal Bollywood. Who wants to clean up the filmi stable of drugs and Dubai mafia. Who wants to offer a tomorrow of safety and respect and dignity to a newcomer who is arriving at VT station from Asansol. Who doesn’t want them to meet the fate of a Sushant Singh Rajput. That their young eyes with dreams aren’t closed forever.  A woman who is risking her life, lighting a matchstick on her own career, who if she was to venture into Mumbai today would have an idea how a PoK must feel like.

But not a word from our pen-pushers. Not a clap for the triumph of talent over entitlement. She is not a “Shero” to Barkha Dutt.  Nor she is a Safoora Zargar who gets a cry of outrage from Shekhar Gupta’s ThePrint. A Sagarika Ghose brings out international law in defence of Safoora. A Rajdeep Sardesai tears his heart out on a pregnant woman in jail. Somebody calls Ishrat Jahan a daughter of our own land. Never mind one is charged with inciting riots and the other with a plot to assassinate a chief minister.

Our Bollywood bimbos now can’t find the placard in support of their gender. Against one of their own who they can’t match in range in this lifetime. Why bother if there are couches perfumed for their hinterland preys, ringed by leering louts? That youngsters are no better than playthings for those who happen to be their dads?

All of them—these starlets, muckraking journalists, political clowns—are toxics in our life. They don’t allow us to smell a rose; inhale a breeze, whistle a tune. Once in a while, somebody stands up risking everything one has. And she is “haramkhor” to them.

Aren’t we sick, folks?

 

How Rani of Jhansi escaped the Nehruvian hammer of oblivion

I happened to watch “Manikarnika—The Queen of Jhansi” in theatre the other day. Kangana Ranaut as the protagonist was a force of purity and leaping flame. Fleeting were the images of India’s War of Independence of 1857 of which she was a leading light. It shook the East India Company and led to India’s formal takeover by the British crown.

People of my generation surely remember the immortal poem of Subhadra Kumari Chauhan (1904-1948): “Bundele Harbolon Ke Moonh Humnein Suni Kahani Thi; Khoob Ladi Mardani Woh to Jhansi Waali Rani Thi.”(Read the full nerve-tingling poem here). I am not sure if the inspirational poem is still part of Class VI textbook and the younger lot is as familiar as we were while growing up; so I advice do watch the movie, look up for Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi and you could also be wrestling with a few questions which have since assailed me.

Do we have a state celebration of the birth (November 19, 1828) or death (June 18, 1858 ) anniversary of the Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi as we have of Tipu Sultan (November 10) in Karnataka? Why May 10 is not celebrated as the day the 1857 War of Independence broke out? Why not have a commemorative trail from Meerut to Delhi? Or at least make accessible the book, written by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, on the subject. Isn’t those who forget history are condemned to repeat it?

The other issue which interests me is how Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi escaped the censorious Nehruvian impact which usually has been the fate of glorious figures of Hindu kings, generals and dare I say politicians (Sardar Patel and Madan Mohan Malviya, for instance). After all, she was the central figure of Hindutva politics circa 1857 and has been an icon ever since. How the Rani of Jhansi remained alive in the nation’s psyche despite the Western-oriented elites controlling the written and spoken words in this country.

 

For one, Rani of Jhansi herself was a subject of great attention by the Colonial authors and historians. The patriarchal society of West had a problem in coming to terms with the Rani. The British press was quick to dub her as “The Jezebel of India” or a shameless and immoral woman (after Jezebel, wife of Ahab in the Old Testament). Contemporary historian John Lang, who knew her, wrote in Wanderings in India (1858): “Her dress was plain white muslin, so fine in texture and drawn about her in such a way that the outline of her figure was plainly discernible—a remarkably fine figure she had.” Christopher Hibbert in his Great Mutiny says that Rani was to acquire among British officers an “undeserved reputation for excessive lasciviousness.” Basically, the colonial myth of British masculinity and the domesticity of Hindu women didn’t conform with Rani’s persona.

All this to go with her universally acknowledged bravery. Field Marshal Hugh Rose who fought her on warfields, thus described her: “She was the bravest and best military leader of the rebels—a man among mutineers.” Lord Cumberland said that she was the most dangerous of all the rebel leaders.

Her fascination among the natives has many roots. There have been novels and non-fictions aplenty, including one (Rani of Jhansi) by Mahasweta Devi; a great number of films and television serials, even a video game and countless folk tales, poetry and oral traditions. It’s a staggering amount of work. (all of which could be viewed here).

One of the more remarkable work is by Harleen Singh: The Rani of Jhansi: Gender, History and Fable in India (Cambridge University Press, 2014). The book analyses gender, sexuality, race and religion in India through the prism of Rani of Jhansi. She was seen as the Indian Joan of Arc, a heroic and saintly spirit (A goddess, divine spirit, a Maa Durga in the eyes of worshipping Indians). During India’s freedom struggle, she seamlessly became a symbol of the nationalist cause, causing an outburst in Hindi novels and literature and  kept her legacy alive. She became a metaphor of Indian daughter, mother, wife and queen of both home and nation. One who could be viewed from various prisms of nation, gender and identity.

Essentially, Rani of Jhansi captured the imagination of masses and their discursive tales: She was as much a Hindu revivalist of Maratha empire as she was owned by Dalits for the mass struggle she inspired against the British. She was something to everyone. I guess that’s the reason the destructive impact of Nehruvian philosophy couldn’t get to Rani of Jhansi despite her blanking in media and academia circles (just compare how the legend of Queen Padmavati was lampooned in English mainstream media recently).

Keep it alive folks, do a good job of it. For Rani of Jhansi is our glorious legend and heritage.