Friday, October 12, 2007

Where There is Light

V and I went out for dinner last night with Shuki, Beanie and Joy. S and J are old collegemates of mine (we go back all the way to the first days at JU) while B's sis was another member of our gang. So we had lots to chatter over, and since we went to Mocambo, the food was pretty good too. V and I went the whole 3-course-plus-drinks way and I enjoyed it so much. We've been on a very strict budget since last month, trying to economise because of our debt pileup, and I had set aside some of the money I have earned these last two months for just such an evening. In the end it didn't matter that we didn't dine alone, because we all had so much more fun than I'd expected.

Anyway, we went an hour early, V and I, because I wanted to spend some time at the candle-light vigil that is being held everyday from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. in front of St. Xaviers for Rizwan-Ur Rehman. I'm glad we went. Took our own candles (scented long-lasting ones from Pondicherry that I'd been gifted years ago and that I had been saving for a special occasion) and wrote on the poster and in the book and stood around for a while. Thought about his death. And his wife.

1. He was no saint. From some accounts he seems to be a kind of person I wouldn't exactly run to be friends with. But most of the world consists of people I am not running to be friends with, and I don't think his nature is of importance to me. It is vital that we focus on the injustice. He was a dutiful son, a loving husband and a good friend. So the reports say. But above and beyond all that is, whether he was Mr. Perfect or a total slimeball, he did not deserve to be murdered. And despite today's declaration of suicide from the post-mortem authorities, I do not believe he killed himself. It is very important to me as a person, as a citizen of my city and my country, that cops do not collude with killers. And that the cops who do are caught and kicked out of the force. I believe they should be punished and for all their lives, because they have a special duty towards their fellow citizens, and by evading or ignoring that duty they are not just harming some people but everything that the force stands for.

2. I wonder about Priyanka. I do not hold, as some do, that it is her duty to return to Rizwan's family. She only stayed with them a short while, and why would she want to return when her reason for living with them is dead? If she had wanted to, I'd have understood, but since she hasn't shown any such inclination, I don't think any of us have the right to say she 'should'.

What kind of a life will she have? When it is more than likely that your own father caused the death of your husband, what kind of a life does that leave you? I'm sick of the psychologists' opinions the newspapers see fit to print every morning about how they think she is feeling. Only she knows and I think it behoves every single one of us to respect that. Let her deal with it as she thinks fit. Whether she deals with her grief in her father's house or parades it on the streets, is it not her grief to deal with?

The NGOs currently manning the vigil, as well as the non-affiliated volunteers seem to be fairly level-headed about it all. No ranting, no unseemly grief for somebody they didn't know. But a determined stance for justice. I'm all for that too. I want to know what happened.

I do wish those kids would re-light and straighten the candles that fall down, though. Tending the flames ought to be one of the duties at such a vigil. That request apart, they won my respect with their calm and obvious dedication.

I appreciated The Indian Shitizen's piece on the issue. Rimi'di also writes often about this, and to the point.

I'm adding here a letter that was sent to me by Shuki a few days ago. At the bottom it contains a petition and the email addresses you can send it to. Please take the time to read it, and if the issue bothers you at all -- as friends, parents, men and women, it should -- please, copy it out and send the email. It will add to your good karma, I think.

(Oh and you can make changes to the covering letter, if you like. Some of us did. Just make sure you don't mess up the facts.)

Dear Friends,

Allow me to share a small story with you. A story that most of you might have come across in fairy tales or sometimes even in real life. A story of love between two people from two different social backgrounds that usually ends with "… and they lived happily ever after" or in a classical way where both or one of the lovers dies due to the evil forces that ply against their union.

Rizwanur Rahman and Priyanka Tody fell in love with each other and decided to marry. Rizwanur was a graphic designer by profession and Priyanka was his student at the multimedia center in Kolkata where he worked. In spite of coming from a lower middle class family that lived in a small, tin-roofed house in one of the poorest colonies of the city Kolkata and narrowly surviving through a fatherless childhood, Rizwanur and his brother managed to grow up well-educated and well-groomed gentlemen. Priyanka, on the other hand, came from one of the richest merchant families in the city spending her days in extreme luxury in her palatial house in one of the most posh areas in Kolkata and should never even have dreamt of stooping down to get inside the house where Rizwanur lived. But little could she resist the charms of Rizwanur and was perhaps bowled over even more by the creative hand of Rezwanur that drew mind blowing graphic images on the computer screen which sent loud and clear messages to Priyanka saying "Love him…".

Priyanka's family was flabbergasted by her decision. Being a merchant family too used to the concept of purchase & sell and the curves of profit and loss, it was clear to the Tody family that this venture of their very 'prized' little daughter would reap only losses and bring in a huge threat to the fame and prestige of their 'traditional' family that was protected meticulously over many centuries. They tried to disassociate Priyanka from her 'madness'. They warned her of the consequences. But Priyanka would listen to none.

On 31 August 2007, Priyanka and Rizwanur, both being well over the permissible age for marriage, silently went to the court and got married. From the court, Priyanka went straight to Rizwanur's home, empty handed and penniless, even without her personal mobile phone to save Rezwanur from the possibility of her parents accusing him of abduction or robbery.

That night, hours after Priyanka informed her parents of her marriage, her father Mr. Todi, who owns Rs. 200-crore-plus Lux Industries, came to Rizwanur's home in Tiljala Lane and tried to convince her to go back with him. He even called the police to intervene. But Priyanka would not go and the police had nothing to do as the couple was consentingly & legally married by the Indian court of law. Todi went back without his daughter and Rizwanur assured Priyanka that everything would be all right. Little did they know about the intentions, the power and the rage of the Todis. As, from the very next day Rizwanur was flooded with interventions from different law-enforcing agencies, all suggesting, in different ways, to change their decision, dissolve the marriage and let Priyanka get back to her parents. The police repeatedly tried to counsel the couple, the detective department carried on continuous interrogations, but none to much avail. Priyanka lived happily with Rezwanur's family. She had no difficulties in adjusting to the new way of life. She even cooked for the family and Rizwanur's mother was only too happy to have her daughter-in-law.

On September 8, 2007, Priyanka reluctantly agreed to go to her parent's house for a week after hearing that her father was ill. Her uncle even gave them a written note of promise stating that Priyanka would surely return to Rizwanur after a week. But Priyanka never returned after that. Moreover, Rizwanur couldn't even get her on the phone. He tried calling her father, but his frantic calls were only respond through the 'no response' message. But he did get responses from other avenues… from the same law-enforcing agencies, threatening him of dire consequences like jail or third degree torture if he didn't leave Priyanka alone. Rizwanur reportedly knocked the doors of several NGOs and Human Rights Agencies. But it was perhaps a bit too late…

On September 21, 2007, at around 10.30 am Rizwanur's lifeless body was found on the rail tracks in the suburbs of Kolkata. The first declaration by the police was that of a suicide case. But by then, the NGOs, the Human Rights Agencies and the Media were well aware of the actual proceedings. There was a big out cry over the issue. Thousands of common people and humane organizations came out on the streets in protest…. So, the government could not ignore the case (though they would probably have never disturbed Todi, had the matter been a bit more subdued).

Today the case of the murder of Rizwanur has taken a political shape with the intellectuals and HROs demanding justice from the government, the opposition parties demanding an explanation and the government itself ordering a higher level probe into the matter.

We from Drik India, at first did not know what to do in facing this kind of a situation. It seemed that the needful reaction was on to see that justice prevails. Indeed the way the media and most importantly the common man has come together to protest against the atrocity was a commendable proof of the fact that the world still has the good old people who believe in peace, harmony and coexistence . We decided to pay a visit to Rizwanur's mother. She told us and we quote, 'I don't want this to happen to any other mother like me, and want that it be assured that this happens to no other son… I will be happy if you can ensure this for me.'

We came back. Can Rizwanur's mother's wish be ever fulfilled? In West Bengal, one of the most democratic and peaceful State in India, ruled for the last 30 years by the left front government, we thought that we are in the safest hands. That was until the communist (!) government of the State decided to go for the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to support industrialization by seeking agricultural land and in the process had to Kill or rape thousands of villagers who were not ready to give up their soil for an industrialization that they (the illiterate villagers!) thought would yield no better benefit to them than their mother soil which gave them their daily fish, vegetable and rice….

We protested a lot even then, but little did happen in actuality.

Isn't this something that happens in every corner of the globe? And isn't it also true that most of these cases go unnoticed and unheard? We are at least at position to raise our voice… for failure or for success is a question that should be put to broader perspective. Therefore we ask you friends to give it a thought and if you feel that your contribution to this incidence would somehow, in a miniscule way, be effective in reducing the imperial state of industrialization and globalization of our lands as a whole, please do sign in the petition of protest and of reproach written below and send it to the websites mentioned below which should carry it to the ears of our Chief Minister and his cabinet as well as to the Indian Prime Minister. If we succeed, some way or the other won't you succeed too! It's a success of basic humanity that we are talking about… about the fundamental rights of people to exist out of the chains of fascists.


I strongly condemn the barbaric act of atrocity toward innocent, consenting & adult citizens of your country which spelled the death of Rizwanur Rahman. I feel it is a matter of shame and disgrace not only to West Bengal or India but our humanity as a whole. I have known India to be one of the strongest democracies in the world but this incidence has hugely shaken my belief. I therefore urge you to take immediate steps to track down the violators and do the needful to ensure that no other person meets with the similar faith as of Rizwanur and set an example for others to follow.

In anticipation

(Your Name & Address)

Please copy the above mentioned letter of protest and send it to the following officials: (Chief Minister of West Bengal , Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee), (Governor of West Bengal , Mr. Gopalkrishna Gandhi), (President of India , Mrs Pratibha Devisingh Patil).

You are free to change or add to the content at you will. Thanks a lot in advance for your support.


Daneel Olivaw said...

Gah, the lurker comes forth.
Can one modify the cover letter and delete the SEZ bit?
That bit left a bad taste in my mouth.

Sue said...

Daneel -- Yes, feel free to do so. I myself cut out huge chunks. Felt obliged to paste what I had originally received so as to allow ppl to make up their own minds.

Suki said...

Dammit. This one still hurts. Will probably join vigil sometime during Pujo.

BTW Shuki is what me Mom used to call me, and that's how my nickname was spelt when I was a kid. So seeing it anywhere else gives me the nice kind of shivers. Well, hope the other Shuki doesn't mind!

Thiagan said...


Reg Rizwanur

Non muslim girls marrying muslims are doomed to be a disaster. My objections:

> the girls will be invariably from affluent families and the husband can not afford to maintain her earlier lifestyle
> the girls brought up in liberal circumstances can not adjust to the suffocating surroundings for women in Islam
> in Islam marriage is a contract and can be terminated by the husband by uttering triple talaaq; in Pakistan Hindu girls are regularly abducted, forcibly converted and married off to muslims. Six months later, they are abandoned and they become destitutes. The status of women in Islam is worse beyond imagination.
> I can not accept a teacher marrying his own student; it is against professional ethics.
> the boy has brought dishonour to the family and he should be killed to protect the honour of the family. This is in accordance with shariaat.
> Ram Madhav earlier quoted the instance of a UP senior IAS officer married to a muslim lady. Their son died and there was virtually a war whether to cremate or to bury.
> Culturally they are poles apart and the marriage will never work
> there is a definite attempt by muslim boys to lure Hindu/Christian girls to marriage; it is an effort to increase the market share
> Betty Mohamed, an American lady, married an Iranian doctor and after seven years, she was persuaded to go to Iran with the daughter; the husband became a fanatic and started imposing Arab customs on them. She escaped to USA after great difficulty and she has written a book, ”Not Without My Daughter”. It is favourite present when any American girl marries a muslim. It is also filmed
> muslim girls can cope up with marriage because they brainwashed from birth
> US state department has issued a booklet advising American women against marrying muslims
> This is a very relevant concern of every parent and I wish the media should not make circus of it
What is your response?