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Kamod’s Nameplate Girls

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The door to Sarpanch Sudarshan Kumar’s home in Kamod village

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Rio and Dangal have energised and mobilised Meri Beti Meri Pehchan, a campaign for gender equality in the badlands of Haryana

By Karan Kaushik

It’s a hazy and cold afternoon in Kamod, a village in the Charkhi Dadri district of Haryana, about 90 km from the national capital. A tractor offers me a lift to the sarpanch’s house from the spot on the highway where I have been dropped by a state bus.

Buffalos seem to be in a lazy mood as they relish their freshly cut fodder. A snake-charmer and his pets are entertaining the village folk. Kids clap and smartly click pictures of the show on their mobiles. While tradition still rules, this tiny village is determined to usher in a significant social change—that of equal respect, freedom and opportunity for girls and boys, men and women.

And for this, they have taken the important first step—nameplates on the houses here will sport the name of the eldest daughter, followed by those of his mother and father, under the Meri Beti Meri Pehchan campaign, which owes much of its momentum to the Aamir Khan starrer wrestling biopic—Dangal.

Now, Haryana has always had this image of a state unfair, even misogynistic, towards its women. Having one of the worst sex ratios, it has been witness to rapes, honour killings, cultural oppression of women, and more. But social change has been taking place, incrementally as well as radically, quite inexorably, with the rise of the Phogat sisters, Rohtak sisters and the Selfie with Your Daughter campaign, and now this, and Kamod is an apt example.

Shruti Kumar, daughter of Sudarshan

Shruti Kumar, daughter of Sudarshan

Meet nine-year-old Shruti Kumar, who studies in Third C. The little lady is excited to have ‘occupied’ the nameplate of her house. But it is the excitement of a child. Her father Sudarshan Kumar, the village sarpanch, however, shares with us the rationale of the move. He also lets us know how the campaign will pan out.

The gram panchayat has started with houses belonging to 20 anganwadi workers first and plans to expand it to include 500 anganwadi workers’ homes.

“Our village has taken this initiative because we saw that in the Rio Olympics, it was our women who saved the day,” says Kumar. “In our own village a few days ago, a girl named Preeti won a prize for making a documentary about legal literacy on female foeticides. Our daughters have also won first position in sports at state level,” he recounted, adding, significantly, “We, too, here recognise that women are not far behind than men in any field.”

It was Aamir Khan’s blockbuster Dangal that inspired many in the village though Kumar adds that the campaign had been planned before the film’s release. Says he: “The movie made us think, if we can use our daughters to do all the daily chores, why can’t we give them a chance to prove themselves in other fields?”

“Since the Sarpanch has initiated this campaign, everyone is excited and motivated,” says Jagdish Chahar, a village landlord.

Rajwani, Poonam and Sujata pose for a photograph

Rajwani, Poonam and Sujata pose for a photograph

Rajwanti Devi, who is in her late 50s, is one of the anganwadi workers whose home sports her granddaughter’s name on the door and who has played an active role in the campaign. “We want to set an example for other villages,” says she. She, too, admits, that the “story of the Balali sisters” inspired her and her daughter-in-law Poonam Devi, Sujata’s proud mother.

Cinema is a powerful catalyst for social change and Kamod’s story proves it. Having an impressive child sex ratio (0-6 years) of 1,300 girls against 1,000 boys (When the panchayat was formed, members had decided they will honor those homes where a girl was born during Independence Day and Republic Day, says Kumar), Kamod village has around 450 houses and a population of 2,100. It is 15km from Balali village, where wrestler sisters Geeta and Babita live with their father Mahavir Singh Phogat.

The man who started it all, Mahavir Phogat of Balali village

The man who started it all, Mahavir Phogat of Balali village

Mahavir Phogat told India Legal: “This is a great initiative. It will set a good example for the rest of the villages so that they can give their daughters the real honour that they deserve. Through this initiative, girls will claim their identity. When such initiatives are started, it also gives the girls a chance to remain in news and be treated equally also by the media.” In chaste Haryanvi, the proud father added: “Dekho bhai nameplate pe naam aaega to charche to honge hi. Isse badi kya baat ho sakti hai bacchio ke liye? (When their names will appear on the nameplates, it will definitely bring much-needed attention to the girls, and what could be better?)”

Manju Rani travels daily to the city to attend her BA first year classes. All she wants is employment and autonomy before she gets married, she says. Then there is Vandana, an eighth grader, who wants to be a doctor because she likes studying. The teen feels that Dangal is a “wonderful film which left a mark” on her mind.

The village struggles with its own share of problems.  Lack of an internet connection, no hospital and no playground (eventhough the panchayat has purchased sports gear for youngsters) are some of them.

Sarpanch Kumar and his team are working on these. As of now, they are getting a new sewerage system laid. A playground is next on their agenda.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Book reviews

The Hill Of Enchantment Review: Ruskin Bond revisits his life as writer

The book not only delineates Ruskin Bond’s journey as a writer but also depicts the changing literary landscape from the 1950s to recent times.

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The Hill Of Enchantment Review: Ruskin Bond revisits his life as writer

India’s most loved and prolific writer from the hill, who wrote his first book when he was around 17, Ruskin Bond, turned 90 this year. In his seven decade literary journey, the author has written more than 500 novels, short stories, and poems set mostly in the hills and mountains of India. 

The Hill Of Enchantment published by Aleph Book Company, is a memoir of his writing journey, with the subtitle, the story of my life as a writer. Bond revisits the people, mountains, railway stations, rooms, and markets that shaped him as an author. He says, characters in his novels and short stories are mostly inspired by the people he met in his life. The author confesses that some characters also portray his adopted family, friends and colleagues. 

Expressing that if a writer wishes to create a little magic with his pen he must find a little magic in his life, Ruskin Bond shares that he only has to open his window to see a magical world – clouds racing across the sky. In the book, the author mentioned how Pari Tibba, Fairy Hill, which he could see from his window, and solitude has influenced his books.

In The Hill of Enchantment, Ruskin Bond pens about how his need for privacy and solitude have inspired his first work, The Room on the Roof, published in 1956. He also portrayed how his frequent visits to a railway station led to the story, Time Stops At Shamli and others. Sharing an anecdote, Bond wrote that his frequent visits to railway stations made him so popular, just like a coolie, he did not have to buy a platform ticket to sit at the railway station.

The book also highlights the ordeal of Indian writers in the days dating back to 1950s to get published as compared to modern writers. It pointed out the change in the literary scene in the twenty-first century, which brought literary festivals along with online forums for writers and publishers. The author says, “writers were becoming faces and mini celebrities”. 

Ruskin Bond’s book not only delineates his journey as a writer but also stresses on the changing literary landscape from 1950s to recent times. The book is an utter testament for the aspiring writers. 

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2024 Lok Sabha Elections

Amit Shah claims NDA has already got 310 seats after 5 phases of Lok Sabha elections

Shah was addressing 2 election rallies in Sambalpur where the BJP has fielded Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

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Amit Shah claims NDA has already got 310 seats after 5 phases of Lok Sabha elections

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday claimed that the NDA has already bagged 310 seats after the completion of 5 phases of the Lok Sabha polls. He urged the people of Odisha to free the state from babu-raj and allow the BJP to form government at the Centre and also in the state.  Shah was addressing 2 election rallies in Sambalpur where the BJP has fielded Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

Shah claimed after the 5th phase of elections, the NDA has already got 310 seats and they will secure 400 plus seats after the 6th and 7th rounds of elections. The union home minister added that Odisha has been ruled by a handful of officers and this election will end the ongoing babu raj in the state.

He said that the tribals of Keonjhar get no benefit even though most of the mines and mineral reserves of the country are located in Keonjhar district. Shah enlisted Modi government’s achievements and said that the prime minister has ensured that there is no terrorism across the country. He added that PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) was with India and it would remain with India.

Shah criticized Congress of being frightened over Pakistan possessing an atom bomb and said PM Modi has given a befitting reply to Pakistan’s terror activities and he does not fear such threat of nuclear bombs. He attacked the previous Congress government for doing nothing for tribals. Shah pointed out that former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had formed a separate ministry for tribal affairs while Narendra Modi as the PM has worked to eliminate Naxalism in Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

The Union Home Minister said PM Modi has constituted District Mineral Foundation and given crores of rupees for the development of the tribal region. Shah said the budgetary allocation for tribal affairs has been increased to Rs 1.25 lakh crore during Modi government from Rs 25,000 crore given during the previous UPA regime.

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2024 Lok Sabha Elections

Congress accuses PM Modi of communal campaigning, questions his silence on key issues like caste census, reservations

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh’s attack came over Modi’s remarks in an interview to the media in which he had said that he has never uttered a word against minorities, and the BJP has not just today but never acted against them.

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Congress accuses PM Modi of communal campaigning, questions his silence on key issues like caste census, reservations

The Congress on Tuesday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been indulging in polarisation throughout the election and has prepared a communal pitch, but Congress refused to play on that and pursued its paach nyay agenda. Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh’s attack came over Modi’s remarks in an interview to the media in which he had said that he has never uttered a word against minorities, and the BJP has not just today but never acted against them.

Jairam Ramesh said that PM Modi’s entire campaign from April 19 has been based on communalisation with the Hindu-Muslim rhetoric throughout and has not talked about Viksit Bharat, issues of the farmers, Modi ki guarantee, women, youth workers, SCs, STs and OBCs.

Speaking about the remarks made by PM Modi on minorities, Ramesh said what nonsense was he talking about?  He further added the prime minister is fast losing his memory and he has never had any adherence to truth. Ramesh called PM Modi a jhoothjeevi and said PM Modi does not remember what he said the day before and then claims that he never said it.

Ramesh said the prime minister had raised the issue of Muslim League imprint on the Congress manifesto, the mangalsutra remarks and the allegation that the Congress will give reservations on the basis of religion, which are all bogus statements.

He said this is the prime minister who, when asked some years ago whether he had any remorse at the killings during the Gujarat riots, said even when a small puppy comes under a car, one feels bad. This is the language that he had been using. Ramesh claimed that when Atal Bihari Vajapayee became the prime minister, L K Advani and company wanted a committee to review the basic structure of the Constitution. Ramesh said Congress boycotted that commission and this has always been the objective of the BJP and the RSS.

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