मला मराठी असल्याची लाज वाटते हो…

माननीय बाळासाहेब ठाकरे,

लहानपणापासून तुमच्या सभा, भाषणातून तुम्हाला पाहतेय. तुमच्या सेन्स ऑफ ह्युमर ची मी चाहती आहे. आहे म्हणण्या ऐवजी होते म्हणणे जास्त बरोबर ठरेल. का ते मी पुढे लिहिणार आहे.

मी एक मराठी मुलगी आहे. माझ्यातल्या मराठीपणाचा मला प्रचंड अभिमान आहे. हा अभिमान केवळ भाषेचा नसून, मराठी संस्कृतीचा अभिमान आहे. शिवाजी महाराज, ज्ञानेश्वर माउली, तुकोबा, कुसुमाग्रज, पुल, गदिमा आणि अशा कलाकारांनी घडवलेल्या या संस्कृतीचा मला अभिमान आहे. पण गेल्या आठवड्या भरात घडलेल्या घटना आणि तुमच्या वक्तव्यामुळे मला माझ्यातल्या मराठीपणाबद्दल थोडीशी शंका वाटू लागली आहे.

तुम्ही शाहरुख खानच्या एका वक्तव्याच्या विरोधात, त्याचा येता चित्रपट ‘माय नेम इज खान’ प्रदर्शित होऊ देणार नाही अस धोरण रचलेल आहे. माझा तुमच्या या धोरणाला विरोध आहे. तुम्ही एक कलाकार आहात. एका कलाकाराच्या मनाला समजून घेऊ शकला नाहीत? केवळ तो एक मुसलमान आणि एक अमराठी कलाकार असला म्हणून काय झाला. कला शेवटी कला असते. त्यांने केलेले वक्तव्य मला पटले. दोन देशातले संबंध सुधारले, आणि कलाकार व खेळाडूंना भारतात दुय्यम दर्जा मिळायचा थांबला, तर हि चांगली गोष्ट ठरेल अस मला वाटत. कोणत्याही कलाकार अथवा खेळाडूला त्याच्या कले व्यतिरिक्त दुसऱ्या कारणांनी झिडकारले गेले तर हा संस्कृतीचा अपमान ठरतो. एवढच नाही, तर त्या कलाकारला काय वाटेल ह्याची जाणीव तुमच्यातला कलाकाराला व्हायला हवीच. ह्यात शाहरुख काय चूक बोल्ला? असो, तुम्हाला ते खटकल.

पण तुम्हाला खटकल म्हणून तुम्ही शाहरुख खानच्या भारतीयतेवर प्रश्नचिन्ह लावलत? त्याच्या चित्रपटातून, शाहरुख खानने भारतीय सिनेमला जगाच्या कानाकोप्र्यात पोचवलाय. जगात त्यांनी भारतीयत्वाला एक चेहरा दिलाय, त्याच्या चित्रपटांमधून होणारा फायदा हा भारतीय अर्थव्यवस्थेचा फायदा ठरतो, हे तुम्ही नाकारू शकत नाही. मला शाहरुखचा एक भारतीय नागरिक म्हणून अभिमान वाटतो. आणि माझ्या वयाच्या अनेक भातीयांनाहि वाटतो. त्याच्या देशप्रेमाबद्दल जर प्रश्न उठवला जात असेल तर माझ्या सारखे लाखो लोक ठामपणे शाहरुखच्या बाजूने उभे राहतील, ह्यात मला शंकाच नाही.

भारतात सिनेमाक्षेत्र रुजवल ते दादासाहेब फाळकेंनी. हिंदी चित्रपटसृष्टी मुंबईला आपला घर मानते. त्यामुळे हिंदी चित्रपटसृष्टी हि माझ्यालेखी मराठी अस्मितेचा एक मोठ्ठा भाग आहे. ह्या अस्मितेवर असा वार केल्याने माझ्यातली मराठी मुलगी हादरली आहे. जर मराठी असण आणि मराठी अस्मिता जपणं म्हणजे मारामारी आणि राष्ट्र्घटनेचा अपमान करण असेल, तर मला माझ्या मराठीपणाची लाज वाटते.

शिवसेना एक राजकीय पक्ष आहे. भारत हि एक लोकशाही असून, आपल्या भारतीय राज्यघटनेत ह्या देशाच्या नागरिकांना भाषण आणि अभिव्यक्ती स्वातंत्र्य दिलेले आहे. एखाद्या नागरिकाला त्याच्या वक्तव्यामुळे देशद्रोही म्हणताना तुम्ही त्याच्या भाषण स्वातंत्र्यावर आवर घालता. त्याच्या सिनेमाच्या प्रदर्शनात अडथळे आणून आणि तो सिनेमा पाहायला आलेल्या लोकांवर दगडफेक करून तुम्ही ह्या देशातल्या, राज्यातल्या अनेक नागरिकांच्या अभिव्यक्ती स्वातंत्र्यावर वार करता.

ह्या देशाच्या राज्यघटनेत दिल्या गेलेल्या मुलभूत अधिकारांचा असा अपमान करणे मला पटत नाहीच, परंतु एक भारतीय नागरिक म्हणून तुम्हाला मत द्यायचा विचार मला चुकीचा वाटतो.

आणि हो, जर महाराष्ट्र राज्यासाठी काही करायचंच असेल, तर लहान मुलांच्या, शेतकऱ्यांचा आत्महत्येचा प्रश्न सोडवा. महाराष्ट्राला नेता असा हवा कि जो या राज्यात जगणं सुसह्य करेल. इकडे तिकडे मारामाऱ्या करून, बंद पुकारून, जगणं कठीण करणारा पक्ष कसला हो आमच नेतृत्व करणार?

PS: Please contact the author before replicating this post elsewhere… Thanks..

Of Rights & Duties & Being Indian

Well what I choose to write about today is something we have all written, read, discussed and felt angst about. I am not shocked about the shameful 42% voter turnout. I am not surprised. But yes, I am angry. I am disappointed that a city that poured out into the roads to light candles in protest of the horrific 26/11 attacks, refuse to show up at their polling booths to cast a vote.
To vote is our right and to vote is also our duty. Until when are we going to go on blaming the leaders, politicians and others when we fail to get out and stand in a queue to press a button?

I agree, the right to vote is given to you after a fierce struggle because of the adamant ERO people who refuse to take their job seriously (well, most of them). We admire campaigns like Jaago Re and praise websites like Mumbai Votes. We generate independent, dependable, well educated candidates like Meera Sanyal and yet decide not to vote? How can you think it’s a holiday? It’s a day you are supposed to forget that you’re a banker, doctor, engineer or a writer and think of yourself as an Indian.

I ADMIT. The year I turned 18 I was complacent. I did not bother to register but I felt shame, I felt regret when I did not vote for the state elections back then. I struggled, fought and boiled my blood to get my name on that list. And when I stood within the limits of the cardboard box, thinking about the research and thinking I put in, and pressed the blue button, I felt a high. I felt proud. I felt like I had finally gotten my lazy ass off the couch and decided to do something. It’s not enough but it’s the first step. When are you all getting out there and taking that step?

We The People Of India

I wrote this post out for a website, however, it couldn’t be published there in time. Just wanted to share it…

I owe this post to Jerry Pinto, a well known journalist, poet and a writer. As a professor whose aim was to introduce us to journalism, he asked us to read a couple of books, one of which was the Constitution of India. “You are living in the country, na? You should find out what the country is all about otherwise each one of you pay me Rs.17.56 paisa! Most of your education comes from the taxes I pay and if you don’t know this much also na, my money went to waste, I want it back. Ok?”

That’s when it dawned on me. We take pride in being Indian, we get a lump in our throats when we hear our National anthem and we take pride in slamming the politicians for totally screwing the system up, but how many of us bother to find out what being an Indian legally means, what are the fundamental factors that built India. How many of us have ever read the Constitution leave alone possess it?

As we approach the 2009 elections, various groups are being proactive in urging citizens of India to vote. The tedious process of registration is being simplified and a lot of questions are being thrown at the political parties hoping to get power.

Most important of all though, is self-introspection. It is important to understand your own civil duties and rights before you choose the leaders of the nation. It is your duty to find out what we stand for. It’s easy for us to blame the government and ministers for debacles but we as a society are to be blamed.

Here is what our Preamble says. Read it and ask yourselves, is this what my country stands for, am I, as a citizen of India ensuring that these words do not remain just words:

“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a _1[SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC] and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the _2[unity and integrity of the Nation];

IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.”
Source: http://indiacode.nic.in/coiweb/coifiles/preamble.htm

While there’s poverty, while there’s corruption and while there exists communalism how can these words ever be held true?

So as we ready ourselves to vote and exercise our right, let’s take it upon ourselves to make sure that the preamble stands for more than just words. Lets fight for a better tomorrow, for you, me and the generations to come. And that’s where I recommend you watch this ad campaign featuring Aamir Khan.

So lets make sure that each one of us uses our vote sensibly and sensitively. Jai Hind!

Jaago Re Aur Kuch Karo Re!

Yes, I am a procrastinator and I was convinced I am my country’s worst citizen. Jaagore.com reminded me time and again and yet, I would say ‘next weekend!’

Finally, I managed to get my documents together, ensured I had true copies, photos and set off to the ERO situated at the address mentioned on Jaagore.com to ensure that my name gets added to the voters’ list. I blessed Raj, who had made things so damn easy for jokers like me. Thank God for Raj, lazy bums like me could easily get their right to vote or so I thought.

Of course, as soon as I reached the address I was told the office had moved. So, I went in search of the municipal school where the office was now situated.
‘Documents are all okay, but you don’t have Form 1A.’
‘Jaago Re says its not compulsory,’
‘No No, here fill out and come back after 1st February.’

So yeah, though the website said 23rd Jan was the date, the guy refused to take my form. I had no choice. I made another trip yesterday.
‘Why passport? Ration card is needed,’ he looked at my documents with disdain.
‘Passport is the most relevant document for age, address and identity proof. I am sure this will be accepted,’
‘I don’t think so. Why is your father’s voter id here? Its too old. Finding the number will take too much time, find someone nearby whose id was issued recently.’
‘Nobody in my building has a new one!’
‘Go and find, don’t say no without checking.’

And then I lost it. I started arguing that it was his job to find the number not mine. Finally I was redirected to a lady who sweetly told me that the passport was okay but the form won’t be accepted until 1st week of March.
‘Will my name appear in the list though?’
‘It will after the revision,’
‘Will the revision happen before election?’
‘I think so!’

I walked out with my documents. Angry.

This is my country that prides on being the largest democracy. However, the basic right to vote is a pain to get. I blame myself. I should have done this ages ago. I should have known all the facts and been able to fight it out.

But fight with who? The man who sweetly speaks to the guy who came through the Corporator and guides him with utmost courtesy but is extremely rude to a senior citizen who wants to rectify his erroneous name in the list. Or should I fight with the man who refuses to look up a number even though it is his job to do so? Or should I fight with a system where the minimum qualification for being a leader is a couple of criminal records and a few trips to the jail? Or should I fight people like me who do not find out how the system works or why it works the way it does?

And then I get daunted. I get bogged down.

Our country probably deserves this political apathy. Somebody pointed out to me a few weeks back that this is because we lack the fiery, passionate love for our country. We forget that loving the country goes beyond singing patriotic songs. We have brought on this apathy on ourselves because we refuse to change. We refuse to question and we refuse to fight back even if the battle is immensely long!

BIG thank you to Jaago Re. At least our eyes have opened. Now, lets get up and do something!

PS: My overanalytical mind thinks that these guys are hostile to guys who come through Jaago Re probably on instruction from politicians. Afterall, the parties benefit from low turnouts on voting day and the guys at the ERO have lesser work to do.