Flashback: 13 moments from 2013

1. Jhaadu ka Jaadu

Though their leanings towards the left worries me but have to give it to Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party for their splendid debut in the Indian politics. They represent (or at least claim to) represent the voice and concerns of the ‘aam aadmi’ who wants to see a clean and non-corrupt system of governance. Aam Aadmi Party has clearly emerged as a credible alternative to the two major national parties in Delhi. I am no astrologer but their future looks bright and they will surely make the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 more interesting!

2. I am Malala 

The beautiful dark-eyed Pashtun girl Malala Yousafzai  who was shot by the Taliban for voicing her opinion on girl’s education wowed all of us when she addressed the United Nations. It was a moment of pride for Pakistan who has of late been in news for all the wrong reasons. More power to her because our neighbour needs many more such girls who can save Pakistan from becoming a banana republic.

3. Farewell, Master

As they say cricket is religion in India and Sachin Tendulkar is the God for millions of Indians. The master blaster decided to call it quits after a splendid career of many years. Every Indian was glued to the television as he played his last test match. Many of us (including me) might not be a fan of the sport, but whatever little we have seen is because of Sachin. In fact I used to stop watching the match as he got out. Many of us couldn’t hold back our tears as Sachin gave an emotional speech at Wankhade.

4. Year of Judgements

While the judiciary set an example by giving death sentence to the men who brutally raped the girl from Delhi; it let down the homosexual community when it upheld the law that criminalized homosexuality. In fact the judgement was a letdown for all the Indians who stand for liberty. Had the court decriminalized homosexuality, it would have been a milestone in India’s history.

There were many other talked about judgements too. Like the one which sent Sanjay Dutt & Lalu Prasad Yadav to jail or the one which accused the Talwar’s of killing their own daughter Aarushi. And last but not the least which gave Narendra Modi a clean chit in the Gujarat riots case.

5. Mangalyaan

India’s maiden spacecraft to Mars was launched this year under the ‘Mars Mission’ project. There was a lot of cynicism about India’s ability to pull it off or whether India should spend on these projects. However, all the naysayers went quiet as the ‘Managalyaan’ successfully cruised towards the Mars. A moment of pride for all Indians.

6. Maid in America

The year also saw the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade and the alleged mistreatment by the U.S. officials as she was accused of flouting the U.S. norms by underpaying the maid (who was also an Indian) and not having proper documents. India reacted strongly to the arrest while U.S. said that they were just following the law. Interestingly, in this whole debate nobody really seemed to believe the maid. Class bias?

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7. Namo Namah

Apart from the Aam Aadmi Party making news, there was one more person who was all over making headlines – Narendra Modi. Love him or hate him but surely cannot ignore him. Narendra Modi’s anointment as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate was an important moment in the Indian politics. Fighting all the odds and internal politics within his party, Narendra Modi rose to the top and is now leading the party into the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. If we go by the number of people who attended his rallies this year, the mood of the nation seems to be in his favor and we might just see him as our next Prime Minister!

8. Nature’s Wrath

One of the worst natural calamity that hit India this year was the floods in Uttarakhand which left thousand displaced and hundreds dead. The famous pilgrimage site for Hindus; the Kedarnath temple was also affected to a large extent. It will take almost 2 years for the hill town to get back on its knees.

While the floods saw poor disaster management by the state; another incident saw excellent management by the state governments. The cyclone ‘Phialin’ hit the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh & Odisha this year and brought back memories of Tsunami. However, because of the excellent management; the evacuation was done on time and there wasn’t much loss of life.

9. Muzzafarnagar Riots

Another blot on India as riots broke out in the Muzzafarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh. Like always, the politicians instead of calming the people , instigated them. A large number of people from a community left their homes fearing death and are living in tents. Last I read, over 30 children have died in the camps due to severe cold. Cry India, Cry!

10. Year of Good Byes

2013 will also be remembered as the year that took away many legends from us. Shamshad Begum, Manna Dey , Reshma (Music), Rituparno Ghosh (Director), Jiah Khan, Pran, Paul Walker, Farooque Sheikh (Actors) and Nelson Mandela. May their soul rest in peace!

11. The Lunch Box

The year also saw this gem of a film – The Lunchbox. If we will look back at the history of Indian cinema then this shall be seen as one of the finest films made in the country.

12. RIP Tehelka

The editor Tarun Tejpal was accused of sexual assault by a journalist working in the same organization. What followed was the management’s disappointing response, leaked e-mails, resignation of its ‘holier than thou’ Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury and eventually arrest of Tarun Tejpal. A magazine that has always taken a high moral stand failed itself when it came to standing by one of it’s employees. Read  Open Letter to Shoma

13. Hanged Till Death

Afzal Guru, the accused in the Parliament attack was finally executed as the President (rightly) rejected his mercy plea. A heated debate followed the execution with many calling the trial unfair and as expected it saw protests in the valley. My only complaint with the police was that in times of internet & mobiles, they chose postal service to communicate the news of his execution to the family. Of course, they never wanted the family to know in order to avoid repercussions. Sad!

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P.S. – The ‘moments’ are not ranked. So there is no Number 1 or Number 2. Just 13 moments from 2013! And on that note Happy 2014 !!

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An open letter to Shoma Chaudhury

Dear Shoma Chaudhury,

Hope this letter finds you in the best of your health; though I am not sure given the recent controversy that has surrounded your magazine. You must be wondering why I write this letter to you. I write this letter because I am so angry and disgusted with the way you have handled the recent incident of sexual assault in your organization. Your magazine has always taken a high-moral ground and has emerged as a crusader for everything that’s wrong around us. More importantly, as the Managing Director you have always been vocal about the issues related to communalism, corruption, and specifically women rights & empowerment. Your twitter timeline smells of morality, justice, truth and everything that an ideal world should have.

In your first encounter with the journalists after the email was leaked, you wore a smug look and instead of trying to answer them as the Managing Director of the magazine, you had the audacity to ask one of them “Are you the aggrieved party“? What if I put the same question to you? Were you the “aggrieved” party when you spoke about those dead in the communal clashes of Gujarat or were you the “aggrieved” party when you talked about the rape victims in Chhattisgarh? Sorry ma’am, but one need not be the victim always to speak about what’s not right. Like it or not but we all are the “aggrieved” party. DEAL WITH IT!

I also happened to see your interview with NDTV and CNN-IBN and I was amused to see the always articulate Shoma repeatedly coughing (acting?) and trying to answer in a low baritone.  You even ‘lost focus‘ and were ‘confused’ towards the end. You also had the arrogance to say ‘I should start speaking in Spanish‘ to Rajdeep Sardesai during the interview which showed how irritated you were while trying to defend the indefensible. Anyways, I was more nauseated with the way you guarded yourself. I would bring to your notice few points:

1. The email which you wrote to the employees implying that there has been an ‘untoward‘ incident. After reading the victim’s account in the form of another email which she had sent you, I was aghast. Do you really think it was an ‘untoward‘ incident? What stopped you from calling a spade a spade? Wasn’t it downright an incident of sexual assault?

2. Moving on, I am sure your command over the language English is much better than mine but even a school student can tell you that ‘Rescuing‘ is NOT the same as ‘stepping down‘. The accused decided to go on a break for 6 months and you call it ‘Atonement’? And this comes from the woman who had this to say a few days back! Hypocrisy thy name?

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3. A magazine that has been so vocal about the setting up of ‘Lokayuktas’ in certain states couldn’t get its own house in order and set up a committee as guided by the Court in the famous Vishakha case? Why? It is only now that you have decided to probe the matter when voices have been raised demanding an inquiry.

4. You also called the whole incident an ‘internal matter’ between the two persons. Doesn’t looks good coming from the Managing Director of a magazine that is known for its sting operations.  Going by your rationale, all the ministers caught taking bribe in your magazine’s sting operations shouldn’t be probed at all. After all it was an ‘internal matter’ between the parties taking and giving bribes.  The Vishakha Committee expected you to take ‘action’ as an ’employer’. What did you do?

5. Justice doesn’t always come through police and courts. Really? Why bother doing stories on your favorite Narendra Modi or for that matter anyone who is accused for any crime. Ishrat Jahan case which your magazine so passionately took up shouldn’t concern you anymore since according to your logic justice has little to do with courts. No? We should probably ask all criminals to take a six month break for repentance and come back. No?

6. The incident doesn’t involve Tehelka. Sorry, but it very much does! Quite like how every corruption case concerns Congress/BJP. Don’t you demand answers from the said parties even though those accused in scams are involved in their personal capacity?  You can’t just escape!

7. You also said there is ‘another version‘ of the incident and the matter is with the standing committee. Pretty much like there is another version of the Aarushi Talwar murder case where you defend the accused. Forget cases, I see a different version of Shoma Chowdhury in the last three days.

8. Lest I forget, when asked by Nidhi Razdan why Mr. Tejpal was not fired immediately you said ‘We are a small organization and there are financial considerations’. I was shocked when I heard it and couldn’t believe you actually said that! Your efforts of always putting up a high moral ground fall flat. Where did you sell your soul lady? Where are your ethics?

I wonder if we would have ever known about this incident had the Email written not leaked on the internet. You of course had no plans of getting the accused justice as ‘unconditional apology‘ and a ‘six month break’ seemed perfect to you. It takes guts for a sexual assault victim to come out and speak about it. Rather than helping her and setting an example you chose to cover it up. It shows your inability to stand up for someone who needed your support. It shows your intellectual hypocrisy.

As I end, I would like to leave you with something you said some time back;

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Heaven or hell is not important. What is important is that how will you face yourself? Remember, this will haunt you always. thInk!

By the way time you change the line that defines your magazine; TEHELKA – Free, Fair, Fearless FARCE, FARCE, FARCE!

Regards,

Aggrieved Indian