India’s ruling BJP lawmaker threatens to shoot protesters

Dilip Ghosh (L) with Narendra Modi. (Photo/Twitter)
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Updated 14 January 2020

India’s ruling BJP lawmaker threatens to shoot protesters

  • Dilip Ghosh: “Look at Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, our government has shot these demons like dogs”

NEW DELHI: The head of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in the state of West Bengal has threatened to shoot and jail people who protest a new citizenship law that has triggered a month of nationwide demonstrations.
Dilip Ghosh, a member of India’s Parliament and the president of the BJP in West Bengal, made the comments to party members on Sunday in a district of the state that borders Bangladesh.
Cabinet Union Minister Babul Supriyo distanced the BJP from Ghosh’s comments, calling them “very irresponsible” on Twitter on Monday.
The citizenship law provides a path to naturalization for people from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, unless they’re Muslim.
Many Indians worry the law will be used in conjunction with a National Register of Citizens that could require all Indians to produce documents proving their origins, a challenge in a country where many people lack official records including birth certificates.
Ghosh called out West Bengal’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee of the opposition All India Trinamool Congress party, comparing her government’s treatment of protesters to BJP-controlled governments in other Indian states.
Banerjee, one of several state chief ministers from opposition parties who have pledged not to comply with the citizenship law, has led massive street marches to protest it.
“Look at Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, our government has shot these demons like dogs,” Ghosh said.
“You will come here, eat our food, stay here and then damage property? We will beat you with (batons), shoot you and put you in jail,” he said, referring to demonstrators in West Bengal.
Twenty-three people have been killed nationwide since the citizenship law was passed Dec. 11. Massive protests erupted across the country, with Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Assam states the hardest hit.
Police in Assam have acknowledged fatally shooting five people, and Karnataka authorities offered compensation to the families of two men killed by police during protests.
Sixteen Muslims were killed in Uttar Pradesh on a single day after the BJP chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, promised to take “revenge” against protesters. Uttar Pradesh authorities have denied any responsibility for the deaths.


A tale of two cities: Project aims to retell lost stories from Lahore, Delhi

Updated 22 January 2020

A tale of two cities: Project aims to retell lost stories from Lahore, Delhi

  • Will give migrants a virtual tour of their childhood towns and homes torn apart by partition of 1947

NEW DELHI: Sparsh Ahuja and Ameena Malak grew up listening to their grandparents narrate stories of the partition from 1947.
Ahuja’s grandfather, Ishar Das Arora, was 7 years old when the Indian subcontinent was divided into two by the British, creating India and Pakistan. 
More than 14 million people were displaced at the time, and about one million perished in the fighting that followed.
Arora moved from a Pakistani village, named Bela, to Delhi after living in several refugee camps and escaping the violence.
Meanwhile, Malak’s grandfather, Ahmed Rafiq, moved from the Indian city of Hoshiarpur to Pakistan’s Lahore.
Now in their 70s, both the grandparents yearn to go back home and see the places where they were born and spent their childhoods. 
However, the constant uncertainty in the relationship between India and Pakistan and their old age has made the task of visiting their respective birthplaces extremely difficult.
To fulfill the wishes of their grandparents, and several others who yearn to visit their ancestral homelands, Ahuja and Malak decided to launch Project Dastaan (story).
“What started as an idea for a student project last year at Oxford University became a larger peace-building venture,” Ahuja, the director of the project, said.
Project Dastaan is a university-backed virtual reality (VR) peace-building initiative reconnecting displaced survivors of partition with their childhood through bespoke 360-degree digital experiences.
Backed by the South Asia Programme at Oxford, it uses VR headsets to give these migrants, who are often over 80 years old, a virtual tour of their childhood towns and homes. It shows them the people and places they most want to see again by finding the exact locations and memories that the survivors seek to revisit, and recreates them.
“It is a creative effort to start a new kind of conversation based on the direct experience of a now-foreign country in the present, rather than relying upon records and memories from the past,” Ahuja told Arab News.
He added that Pakistan-based Khalid Bashir Rai “teared up after his VR experience, and told us we had transported him back” to his childhood.
“At its heart, the project is a poignant commentary on its own absurdity. By taking these refugees back we are trying to highlight the cultural impact of decades of divisive foreign policy and sectarian conflict on the subcontinent. This is a task for policymakers, not university students. In an ideal world, a project like this shouldn’t exist,” Ahuja said.
Other members of Project Dastaan — Saadia Gardezi and Sam Dalrymple — have a connection with partition, too. Gardezi grew up with partition stories; her grandmother volunteered at refugee camps in Lahore, and her grandfather witnessed terrible violence as a young man.
Dalrymple’s grandfather had been a British officer in India during the twilight years of the British Empire. So scarred was he by the partition that he never visited Dalrymple’s family in Delhi, even after 30 years of them living there.
“I think Dastaan is ultimately about stripping away the layers of politics and trying to solve a very simple problem: That children forced to leave their homes, have never been able to go back again,” Dalrymple told Arab News.
Ahuja added: “The partition projects are a peace offering in the heart of hostility. It is an attempt at creating a wider cultural dialogue between citizens and policymakers of the three countries.”
The project aims to reconnect 75 survivors of the partition of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh with their childhood memories, when the subcontinent observes 75 years of partition in 2022.
Project Dastaan is also producing a documentary called “Child of Empire” that will put viewers in the shoes of a 1947 partition migrant, and will be shown at film festivals and museums.