Frail academic standing surety for Siddique Kappan shows all isn't lost yet

Living far away from the media glare and fighting for human rights, Roop Rekha Verma’s courage is indeed a rarity in today’s dark times

Journalist Siddique Kappan (left); Professor Roop Rekha Verma
Journalist Siddique Kappan (left); Professor Roop Rekha Verma
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Humra Quraishi

Professor Roop Rekha Verma, former acting vice chancellor of the Lucknow University, has shown remarkable grit and guts to stand as surety for the release on bail of journalist Siddique Kappan, languishing for several months behind bars in Uttar Pradesh.

The bail conditions required the surety of two residents of the state, and with the prevailing political climate, nobody seemed keen to come forward. Till, of course, Verma came forward to volunteer to stand surety for this journalist from Kerala. 

I have met Roop Rekha Verma on two occasions and she came across as a woman possessed with a well-rounded personality. Soft spoken, humble and modest, sincerity and genuineness seemed writ large in the way she spoke, and spoke out.

Alas, today, there are only a few of her kind and we ought to salute her and her spirit. Living sans frills and far away from the media glare, fighting for human rights, Roop Rekha Verma’s courage is indeed a rarity in today’s dark times.

Displacements continue  

Hundreds of people are getting displaced not just because of natural calamities but also because of the prevailing political climate in the country.

Displacements and forced shifts have been taking place in several states of the country, in the backdrop of communal provocations, forcing the victims to flee to protect themselves and their families. 

The political mafia, together with the land mafia, is using shrewd strategies to effect such displacements and forced shifts in several locales of Outer Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. 

In fact, in these recent times, Bilkis Bano and her family have been shifting from place to place, from village to village, in Gujarat, for safety and security. Can this not be termed displacement?  

A few years back, the All India Secular Forum team led by L.S. Herdenia was one of the first forums to have focussed on a series of communal incidents in two villages, Gandhwani and Pipalya, in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. Those incidents in 2016 were severe to the extent that Muslims families fled from their homes.

To quote from that report: “On October 12, more than 40 houses and about the same number of shops owned by Muslims were set on fire in two villages…After setting shops on fire in Gandhwani, the violent crowd entered Pipalya village and set many houses on fire. In order to escape the fury of the violent crowd, residents left their houses. This gave freehand to the crowd which burnt everything in the houses or looted ... In fact, nothing was left. The crowd attacked every Muslim they came across. One woman told us it was a ‘war like situation’. Members of the crowd were hurling choicest abuses, ‘Why you are here? Go to Pakistan, you traitors!’” 

And when the Modi government was flaunting ‘Start Up India’, there was an artisan family of Yusuf Khatri in Madhya Pradesh, who was on the verge of shifting base. One of India’s prominent families in the field of art, producing and exporting award-winning Bagh prints, they were considering shifting to the United States when Khatri’s brother and nephew were attacked by goons at the start of 2016. After those communal attacks, they found it difficult to live in their ancestral place.

According to news reports, two members of the Khatri family were brutally attacked with rods and swords when they were returning from the mosque after namaz. One news report quoted Yusuf’s son, Mohammed Bilal Khatri as saying, “We identified some people involved in the assault. They are all members of local Right-Wing units, but are yet to be arrested.”

Incidentally, one of the victims, that is, a member of the Khatri family attacked by the goons, had received a national award for his work just a few days before that brutal assault. 

In 2018, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was speaking at the Davos summit, asking investors to come to India, a Muslim family in Haryana’s Sonipat was threatened to get out of their ancestral village, to get moving towards Pakistan! This, when their forefathers had been living in that village for 300 years! The only saving grace was that sense prevailed amongst the village elders and that Muslim family was not bullied out. They did not get uprooted.  

I do realize that the deterioration has been going on for a few years, but it has never been so traumatic. Also, on those earlier occasions in the past, if people shifted out, it would be because they wanted to.

I recall my last meeting with sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar at the start of 1993, when he was shifting to the United States. He told me he was just too fed up and disgusted with the 'political decay' in the country.

“Yes, I’m shifting from India, to the US, because the mess in the country is getting too painful for me. I’m not a fighter. I’m a musician and I can’t stand vulgar people, besure log….even in Benaras all sorts of crude elements have sprung up, those decaying values stifle me, so I’d decided to shift out of Benaras to New Delhi but even here the political pollution is killing … I only wish our present-day politicians were more musically-inclined; then there’d be more harmony and not the present-day cacophony!" he said.

"When I was 18, I went to live with my Ustad, Baba Allauddin, and though he was a devout Muslim, his home in Madhya Pradesh’s Maiher was full of photographs of Kali, Krishna, Christ, Mary. Music makes you more tolerant. For me, religion is a very personal thing. I am certainly not ritualistic. In fact, like me, most musicians are broad-minded,” he added. 


World Alzheimer’s Day (September 21, 2022)  

Each year, I make it a point to focus on the Alzheimer’s Disorder (AD), as its awareness seems rather low in our country, unless, of course, one’s parents or grandparents get affected by it. My father battled with this disorder for seven long years in the early 1990s, till he passed away. 

It is a disorder that affects the memory cells, which start shrinking, fading, declining, and deadening. And with that, what is affected is not just the memory but also the AD-stricken person’s entire personality. He or she finds it difficult to perform routine tasks or even recognise relatives, family and friends.

And as it accelerates, physical movements are also greatly affected. Some withdraw into a shell; others turn aggressive and have to be handled with much care and sensitivity. Though till date there is no cure for AD, two very basic essentials to take care of those affected by AD are an abundance of gentle handling and emotional support and love.

Also, avoid shifting a patient from his or her familiar home settings, as that could further aggravate their condition. 

These lines of poet-writer Kamala Das aptly describe how AD affects its victims. These lines are from her poem titled ‘Alzheimer’s’, tucked in her book 'Closure’: 

‘Alzheimer’s disease 
is a spider 
deadlier even than 
the tarantula. 

It weaves its web 
within the brain, 
a web rugged like 
wrought-iron 
and thought-proof. 

My mother 
For seven years had 
Alzheimer’s. 
It looked out 
through her eyes 
although she was 
silent as a safe 
plundered bare, 
emptied of memories, 
her disease talked. 

Like a Buddhist monk, 
it said life is sorrow …’
 

(Views are personal)