Monday, August 10, 2015

Christian 'Witch' bludgeoned! Comments Christian soldiers?

A news photo showing a village elder showing the spot where Jacinta and the four other women were murdered

Mandar in Ranchi district (Jharkhand State, India) is particularly close to my heart. It was there, at the Holy Family Hospital, aged 16 where I first came under the surgeon’s knife. Today, Mandar haunts me in a different way. Fifty five year Jacinta Toppo, a Catholic woman, was one of five unfortunate women who met a horrible, savage death, when a mob, among whom were some of her own relatives, declared her a witch and stoned and bludgeoned her to death.

This woman, stoned as a ‘witch’ by a mob Mandar in the dark hours of Saturday morning, was a progressive matriculate who donated 3 cottahs in 2009 to set up a school in her village. The four others were Ratia Oraon (70), Madni Oraon (55), Etwaria Oraon (50) and Tetri Oraon (35).

Jacinta, the only tribal Christian among the victims, was educated and known for her good works. Among her children, a son is in the army (Bihar battalion), a daughter a nurse. Besides donating land for the village primary upgraded school, Jacinta led a campaign against alcoholism. With some others, she campaigned for power supply in the village, which it finally got six months ago. Four months ago, Jacinta got a tube well installed.

 A frenzied mob of 250 villagers, stripped them, lynched them and pelted stones on their bleeding bodies around 1am on Saturday. And this on the instigation of another woman an ‘ojhain’ (a female ojha or witch doctor) named Aichin in Jhakhra Tola, another cluster blamed them for causing the death of village boy Bipin Khalkho, a Class VI student.

 And yet, at among the 27 persons arrested for the grisly killings, two youths Xavier, 22, and Moses (locally called Mojes), 26, were Christians, Xavier a Catholic college student and related to Jacinta. Xavier, despite his college education, was among those who believed that women of his village practised black magic to kill a child.

 Though Bipin was ill for some time, exhibiting symptoms of jaundice and typhoid, his family did not take him to a hospital till it was too late, relying on witch doctors, local media reports say. Taken to missionary-run Holy Family Hospital in Mandar on July 29, Bipin died on August 2 morning, a nurse saying his liver was damaged beyond repair.

 Just last year, a young friend of mine, David Tirkey, died of malaria and jaundice based complications in a village near Torpa in Ranchi, in somewhat similar circumstances. The death of this young man, well liked by the community in his village and among the Adivasi and Catholic community on Bodh Gaya came as a cruel shock. But imagine the greater shock to find that all his family, brothers and sisters came back to Bodh Gaya from the funeral with totems and charms around their necks. They were told, apparently by some ‘ Christian’ ojhas that another family in the village had cast spells on them. The younger brother Rajesh, himself in college, clung on to the charms for dear life, and would not listen to reason.

The Catholic priests in Bodh Gaya, Torpa, and in other tribal areas for that matter are more concerned with social issues and human rights, than addressing these fundamental issues of blind superstition and primitive fear. But on the other hand, can they really rein in the ‘Charismatics’ and the other fringe religious who actually see manifestations of ‘evil’ in everything they don’t agree with? Seems like a good formula for stirring up some good 'witch hunting' in the jungles, no?

I still haven’t seen a statement from the Cardinal or the Archbishop, or any officials of  the Church in Ranchi on this issue. Correct me if somebody has actually made a statement to the press, and mentioned this in the pulpits over this Sunday!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

All That Jazz -1

April 30 every year is celebrated as International Jazz Day.  Jazz was something we were accustomed to listen to while growing up, my Dad being an amateur horn blower and piano accordion enthusiast, who also had an impressive repertoire on the mouth-organ.

Ella, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Frank Sinatra were constantly on the record-player or on the radio, and scat sounded so deliciously fun to the ears of an eight year old. Louis Banks was a household name, and so were Pat Crain, and Usha Iyer, later Uthup.

After all, I grew up a 'Calcuttan', having spent a goodly portion of the first ten years of my life in my Grandad's house at Eight Sudder street.

Jazz is integral to our composite culture. I recently invested some fifteen hundred rupees to acquire my very own copy of Naresh Fernandes' gem of a book 'Taj Mahal Foxtrot', which is Musical History in more ways than one.

Consider this. On August 15, 1967 , the  Anglo-Indian band leader Ken Mac was flown to Karachi from Bombay to perform in honour of Pakistan's founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah at the Karachi Club. Jinnah requested the band to play Paul Robeson's "The End", one of his favourite tunes. Ken obliged. Meanwhile, on the midnight of August 14, in India the combined bands of Mick Correa and Chic Chocolate were on stage at the Taj in Bombay, and on the ballroom floor were people like JRD Tata and Vijayalakshmi Pandit, and at midnight, the band let out a swinging jazz version of the Jana Gana Mana, the tune that would officially become the national anthem three years later.

I'm still sipping at Taj Mahal Foxtrot, it's a heady cocktail that you should savour and not rush through at a single sitting. And each day, I learn more about how jazz actually became an inseparable part in the great mosaic of pan-Indian cultural expression.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Bhaiya Letters: Kaidi number 4702

My Dear Ammaji,

Finally after shedding lot of sweat, and making hole in the sole of my Bata chappal,  I am sending to you the Puja greetings enclosed in this letter. In these days of email -shemale, the post office in Bangaluru is taking on appearance of dodo, that dead bird of British Raj.  It took me damn long time searching for post office asking this one and that, but finally it is located like needle in the haystack. Last time my Uncle Bholanath found needle in haystack by sitting down on it and he caused awful commotion and much consternation and I am thinking that you remember well this incident.

Accept my respectful pranam and I am hoping you are in the pink of health after you have survived the pink eye condition. I am just coming from Chennai where many Madrasi ladies are going around with pink eyes, not because of the conjunctivitis, but because of conjunctions in the stars. Dusky Dravidian damsels are pink eyed because of weeping copiously over the misfortunes of their world famous Ammaji. One day Ammaji is the queen of Tamil Nadu, and next day she is cooling her high heels behind the bars of Parapanna  jail. So sad, because this Ammaji is heaping so much of happiness on heads of faithful followers: Sometimes free television, sometimes free cycle, one rupee kilo rice, and many others things free she is giving every time election is rounding the corner. Poor lady, she is only keeping one rupee of salary for herself, not like our netas in Bihar who are eating the fodder and keeping the cows in the air-conditioning! But who can ward off evil eye of green eyed jealousy monster from rival party who is doing much jadoo-tona and so putting corruption case against this Ammaji! (This Ammaji is looking so sweetly smiling from her poster not like sour-faced and pouting Didiji who only mutters ‘cholbe na!’. I am eyeing the  smiling face and I am thinking: How can judge be so stone hearted to send her to the grinding stone where she will make attafrom chakki for four years!)

Oh what a brave lady! For fourteen long years this damsel warded off the evil eye, with army of pundits, jyotishis, lawyers, liars, new shoes, and other worthy items. The fellow responsible for making the madras ladies teary eyed is called Subramaniam Swamy who has been eyeballing a political plum. Now in Chennai all the people in Ammaji’s party are warily eyeing one another while they are waiting to know who Ammaji has her eye on. But I hear that Ammaji’s eyes were occupied staring at the four walls of her single cell. They are calling her Kaidi number 4702!

This Ammaji is the female Lalooji of Tamil Nadu, mind it! I am sure you are remembering how our dear Lalooji also finally went behind the bars? This is kali-yug. They are acting like Raja Kans , but can prison keep the Raja of the Yadavs inside?  The bars bent just like butter and let out our makhan chor who is now moving with rosy cheeks hither and thither all over Bihar!

I hope this letter reaches you in good condition. Bengaluru is getting rather soggy, and it is not the winter monsoon. The babu at the post office counter is wetting the stamp with his tears. Not because of the Madrasi Ammaji. His eyes are leaking like a chai-chalni. He is getting this emotional because I am paying for postage stamp and he hasn’t sold a single one in the past six months.

With salutations and laying my weary head at your lotus feet,

Your very own

B.I. Hari ; Traveller at large.