CM calls for a positive approach

Hyderabad, Nov. 4: Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu on Sunday claimed that the three-day campaign against untouchability, which was only a beginning, had helped build a positive attitude on living together in society.

Maintaining that the Scheduled Castes were excited at being allowed into temples, Naidu said the government would continue its campaign against the social evil in a "positive" manner since the sensitive issue could not be solved using force.

The Chief Minister was addressing a press conference at his residence along with Home Minister T Devender Goud and Social Welfare Minister K Pushpaleela.

Rejecting the suggestion that power and water supply be stopped to villages still practising untouchability, Naidu said the government was against creating tension among various sections by taking an aggressive posture.

"I always believe in communicating with people and convincing them," he said, adding that enforcement of Acts would be the last resort for the government. Instead it would bring awareness among people on the provisions of various Acts on untouchability and the punishment under them.

A 10-day follow-up campaign will be launched during the next phase of Janma Bhoomi, during which official teams will visit villages with high incidence of untouchability, and take corrective measures.

"We will also publish the names of villages which failed to fulfil the parameters. They would be shown examples of other villages where the social evil was totally eradicated," he said.

Naidu announced that the government would observe Civil Rights Day on the 30th of every month. "We are also taking steps to issue an ordinance setting up the SC/ST Commission," he said.

Explaining the details of the three-day campaign, Naidu said it was conducted in 5,082 villages. Temple entries were organised in 1,627 villages, two-glass system was removed in 282 villages, access to drinking water was provided in 337 villages, community lunches in 1,080 and essential services were extended to SCs in 27 villages, he added.

YSR grills CM on Dalits

Hyderabad, Nov. 4: CLP leader Y S Rajasekhar Reddy on Sunday said Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu was shedding crocodile tears for the Dalits and wondered why he never acted on the cases regarding atrocities against Dalits if he was so committed to their casue.

Demanding a White Paper on the action taken on cases relating to attacks on Dalits at various parts of the State after Naidu became Chief Minister, he said it was unfortunate that the government had failed miserably in bringing the accused in these cases to book.

Naidu had launched the campaign only to divert public attention from his failure to prevent the spate of suicides by the farmers and the strike by the RTC staff and junior doctors, he added.

YSR told mediapersons that a day before Naidu kicked off the campaign, the Congressmen staged a dharna in Medak condemning the brother of Minister Karanam Ramachandra Rao for "ill-treating" Dalits. He also accused Naidu's relatives of violating Dalit rights in Chittoor district.

To buttress his claim that the TD government was not committed for the betterment of Dalits, he cited the reported advice to Dalits by Minister for Civil Supplies N Janardhan Reddy not to consume non-vegetarian food.

If the TD government had commitment, it would have released funds allotted for SC and ST welfare as per budget allocation and appointed Dalits in key positions as members of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam and other temple trusts and vice-chancellors of universities, he added.

The CLP leader, along with PCC president M Satyanarayana Rao, also denounced the murder of Tadipatri mandal president Venkata Chalapathi and the brutal attack on Chandragiri MLA Galla Aruna.

At separate press conferences, they said the attacks had been engineered at the highest level. The TD had planned to liquidate elected representives of Congress after it received a setback in the local body elections, they said.

The government failed to provide gunmen to the deceased leaders despite a categoric promise by Home Minister T Devender Goud, said MSR.

They appealed to DGP H J Dora to take stringent action against the culprits involved in the killings.

Book banned: Minister's father held

By Our Staff Correspondent

RAIPUR, NOV. 4. The police today arrested Mr. Nand Kumar Baghel, father of the State Minister, Mr. Bhupesh Baghel, for his controversial book ``Brahman Kumar, Ravan Ko Mat Maro'' that had been banned by the Government last month. He has been charged with fomenting communal trouble.

The sale of the book has been prohibited in view of derogatory remarks made by the author against some leaders and Hindu deities. The remarks, police feared, would hurt the sentiments of a section of society and generate ill-will among the people.

However, what complicated the matter more was the forward written by the author in which he had described the Chief Minister, Mr. Ajit Jogi, as an inspiration behind the work.

The Chief Minister had to come out with a clarification saying that he had not authorised the author to mention him as an `inspiration'. He had said he did not agree with the contents of the book and neither did he subscribe to the sentiments of the writer.

The Government seized the copies of the book and issued arrest warrants against the author and the printer. While the printer was arrested, the author was evading arrest for quite sometime. However, he was arrested from his village near Bhilai recently and has been sent to judicial custody.

Movie Review: Asoka
by Anil Saari Arora

The latest film production by Shah Rukh Khan is a bore. Asoka - Love in the Time of War, to gives its official nomenclature, is a bore perpetuated by director Santosh Sivam and an indulgent producer.

Contemporary Indian filmmakers are simply not able to make historicals. The genre seems to be beyond them.

In recent decades the only cohesive and effective film venture into the Indian past has been Jabbar Patel's Dr. Ambedkar, which rather typically in the contemporary intellectual milieu in the desh has not been given its due by the local cognoscenti. Otherwise, Satyajit Ray's Shatranj Ke Khilari, the recent films on Gandhi (two of them), on Sardar Patel, Meera the bhakti poetess, Razia Sultan, the TV series on Nehru's Discovery of India and so forth have been both artistic and commercial failures. The artistic failure hurts more.

Above all, it hurts to see that Indian filmmakers refuse to learn from the history of the cinema itself. Otherwise Santosh Sivam, a good cinematographer but an unnecessarily over-rated film director, would have been less pretentious in working out this film's screenplay.

Pretentiousness is the bane of the 'serious Indian artist'. Whenever the Indian filmmaker aspires to make a film on a grand theme, pretentiousness is so malevolently pervasive that the filmmaker is out of his depth from the word go, because he simply forgets what cinema actually is! Having chosen a supposedly noble theme or subject, our filmmakers tend to overwork themselves in supplicating their work to that subject's nobility.

I am disappointed that though Indian filmmakers see so keenly the Hollywood films that make super-grosses, they seem to learn nothing from the common sense and down-to-earth intelligence that goes into the scripting and cinematization of Hollywood films. In the first 15 minutes of Asoka, I for one could have suggested 3 or 4 things that would have been better cinema; and I speak only as a filmgoer!

One does not know whether director Santosh Sivam and actor-producer Shah Rukh Khan were inspired to make their Rs.13 crore Asoka by the stupendous impact of Mel Gibson's Braveheart, but they should have seen a film like Braveheart or Gladiator more carefully. Instead, because there are some derivative shades of Braveheart in the early battle scenes of Asoka, one feels that the Sivam unit tries to outdo Braveheart and come a cropper! There is also a "tribute" to Kurosawa's Seven Samurai in the last death scenes, but to no avail in terms of cinematic effectiveness.

It is disappointing that in this film on Asoka, one of the subcontinent's great emperors, the director, the scriptwriter and the set designer repeatedly commit a major historical blunder, showing huge, Bamiyan-scale statues of the Buddha as part of the backdrop, when the truth is that there were no huge idols of Buddha in Asoka's lifetime. On the other hand, the Buddha was against idol worship and while history books record Asoka's rock edicts, after his conversion to Buddhism, they make no mention of gigantic Buddha statues in the moanstaries and vihars in the Asokan era..

It is also disappointing that Sivam's screenplay is ignorant of other crucial historical contexts as well.

Firstly, while much is made of Asoka's guile in war there is no mention of the guile that his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya had learnt a few decades earlier from Chanakya, the oriential machiavelli. Surely by the time Asoka grew into his youth, the existence of Chankaya-niti would have been well known among princes and warriors.

Secondly, the plotting of the royal intrigues is caste ridden and much is made of royalty's pure Kshatriya blood, quite oblivious of the fact that Chandragupta Maurya did not come from pure royal stock himself, nor did the Nanda dynasty which he uprooted.

Thirdly, in an age when the colloquial prakrit was the more popular language, the pseudo-aristocratic dialogues in this film are heavily Sanskritised. Even the film's Buddhists speak a Sanskritised diction though history textbooks have always said that the Buddha preached in the dialect prakrit.

I am also disappointed that Shah Rukh the actor seems to have misplaced his keen intelligence as an actor and the ability he had shown in the early years of his career for script-selection.

But I am truly amazed by the opinions that the widely popular Indian columnist Shobha De has made on the film. She had seen the film a few days before its release, at Shah Rukh's private screening, in the star studded company of filmmaker Karan Johar, actresses Rekha and Simi Garewal, actor Salman Khan, the painter M.F. Hussain and a group of India's top tycoons including Dr. Vijay Mallya and Anil Ambani.

Shobha De's misguided comment on the film was: "Asoka could still be the one path-breaking film that makes India a serious contender in the international market." (The Times of India, October 24, 2001).

For the truth is that all the pretentious "path-breaking" stuff in this film is the boring part. On the other hand, where the film does show kind of liveliness is when, in typical Bollywood style, it tries to cash in on Johny Lever the bawdy comedian, Danny the Bollywood villain, and the typical Bollywood sex dances choreographed by the likes of Farah Khan.

Indeed, there are not enough "stunning vistas" in this film outside of the bare shoulders and the bare midriffs of the young actresses. The bare midriff is what the contemporary Indian filmmaker seems to cinematize best these days, thanks to the music videos that MTV and V Channel have brought into our life!

The blatant exposition of the female body, in traditional Indian apparels and in the fashion of V. Shantaram's Geet Gaya Patharon Ne (1964), is what might bring in some money at local turnstiles for Asoka the film. For this is certainly Kariena Kapoor's film - film as a purveyor of sexual fantasy about the female body. Specially because her co-star, Shah Rukh, seems to suffer from a stiff neck and is less of an actor and more of a fashion model posing in ethnic costumes - perhaps because his director wanted him to demonstrate in all its grandeur the nobility of the emperor Asoka.

When it comes to the genre of costume dramas, Indian filmmakers are good at fantasies and love stories: e.g. K. Asif's Mughal-e-Azam, Manmohan Desai's Dharam-Veer, Vidhu Vinod Chopra's 1942 - A Love Story. Most of them should stick to that, for the time being.

Is Taliban paying for destruction of Buddha statues?
Ajay Kaul
New Delhi, November 4

Is the Taliban regime, whose ouster appears imminent, paying for its "sin" of destroying the centuries-old Lord Buddha statues in Bamiyan in February this year? Although perceptions may differ, believers feel that the incident was the "last nail in the coffin" of the Taliban regime which had otherwise also committed a lot of misdeeds.

"Our religion prescribes that one will reap what one has sowed and we strongly believe in that. This is the classic example in that context," said a prominent Buddhist leader from Ladakh, Lama Lobzang.

"Taliban are being punished for what they did in Bamiyan," he said.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore termed it as "daivya (Godly) punishment" explaining "if you trouble God and cause harm to him, He is not going to let you live in peace."

Lama Lobzang said while there was worldwide outrage over the destruction of the statues, the Buddhist community had a "strong feeling that the Taliban regime will pay for it."

The Islamic militia rulers of most of Afghanistan shocked the world when they bombarded two massive statues of Lord Buddha in Bamiyan province in February declaring them as "unislamic".

Although the whole world condemned the Taliban move and tried all means to stop them, the Islamic militia refused to heed to the requests and brought down the tallest statues which had been attracting tourists from all over the world.

"We were sure the result for their foolish actions would be immediate. It has taken only six months for the beginning of end of the Taliban regime," said Lama Lobzang referring to the international campaign launched against the regime after the September 11 terrorist strikes in the US.

Stating that the Taliban won't accept the theory, he said Muslims in Kargil could give them some lessons on this belief.

"Muslims in Kargil strongly believe that if they touch the Buddhist statues, they will get troubles. Besides, they always turn to Buddhist statues whenever they face any problems like an ailment," the Lama said, adding this is the main reason why Buddhist statues are well looked after in the Muslim district of Ladakh.

Criticising the Taliban action in Bamiyan, he said "the statues were innocently standing there. These were not preaching anything like conversion which could offend the Taliban."

"The statues being a major tourist attraction could be a major revenue earner for the impoverished country," he said, adding destroying them was a "barbaric act".

The statues had been built by the ancestors of Afghan people like Raja Inder Bodh.

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Published on: November 04, 2001
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