Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Indian Super League 2014: Football and other 'not so great' things.

Quick terms: CFC- Chennai FC
NEUFC- North East United FC
dated: 08 November 2014

According to my observation, India has not been one of the countries with a united sensibility. The recent ISL (Indian Super League) match I attended in Chennai only confirmed my belief further.
It is a country where things like withdrawal and humility is considered a weakness.
Qualities like TEAM SPIRIT, SPORTSMANSHIP or minding their own business are very much lacking.
You see, Indians, you have a lot to learn from the North-eastern whom you term as ‘outsiders’. We are peace loving people who believe in not fighting back unnecessarily but try to solve the problems as amicably as possible. We believe in choosing compromise over quarrel leading to the supposed win.
We don’t believe in cheating the other person off. When we keep quite or honest to the point where it may cost us, it is not because we are dumb, but it is because we are raised better and it is beneath us to be sly.
I will tell you what happened that day in the stadium that made me write this piece echoing my previous annoyance once again.
It was 8th of November 2014, - the Nehru stadium-, in Chennai. The stadium was packed with CFC, Chennaiyn fans with lesser but equally passionate supporters of North-east.  I travelled all the way from Bangalore to support my team.
Nehru Stadium, Chennai - NEUFC vs CFC
People from the North east have always loved football and the tradition of fandom is just beautiful. In Chennai, a city far away from home, the eager fans of the North-east team gathered in front of the stadium wearing the team colour white. Banners, jerseys, emblem of the NEUFC were seen everywhere. As I stood there I could hear conversations in familiar languages.
Most of us didn’t even know each other but we took turn painting faces with the team colour red, white and black. It was as if we had been friends for a long time.
NEUFC supporters with banner and CFC Fans at the stadium
Do not assume it is because we are similar or we are from the same place. No. We are very different; we speak different languages and we have different cultural backgrounds. Though you speak the same language you still differentiate among yourself and create differences according to cast, class etc. right? Well, we don’t. We communicate in English yet, we stood there united as one.
As the match proceeded on, some khasis began chanting in their own language, the neighbouring people followed them, including I. Here’s the interesting part, we don’t speak khasi or understand the song yet we were there humming it together.
Now, let’s see how the other team acted. Some of them apparently did not seem to believe in booking tickets in advance or coming on time. So that means a crowded sea of people in the aisle though there were empty seats in the other blocks.
It was their home match, something great and grand. There were CFC flags kept ready in each chair. The merchandise stores outside were filled with CFC T-shirts. Their blue colour swept the entire (almost) stadium, with pecks of NE supporters in white here and there.
What was a grand event didn’t become so grand once they started removing the Stems/Plastic stick of the small flags I mentioned earlier and began throwing it all around. The plastic sticks had some weight and can hurt if thrown with force. So there we are, with the CFC fans from the upper blocks raining down sticks below, on us. And also for some reason they seemed to be attacking the camera person on the field. Once Chennai scored there were flying sticks everywhere. I only hope nobody sustained any injury.
CFC paper torn to pieces and thrown around.
Earlier, I felt bad for wiping the chair with the cloth of the CFC flag (sorry I was wearing a white dress). But I think it can be forgiven because, towards the second half, the CFC Fans who came with the blue CFC banners began shredding it and throwing the pieces all around. Some threw it at us.
As the tension grew on and off field, CFC scored the second goal, the fans went ecstatic. One particular CFC fan came running towards our area, climbed the seats of the NEUFC fans, since everyone was standing at that moment, and started running on top of the seats from one end to the other.
He didn’t stop there. He stood behind one of the NE supporters who was wearing a Mohawk and started fiddling with it. I wanted to push that guy off the chair. But we just don’t do that. The friend of the NE guy with the Mohawk looked back and gave an expression of “are you kidding me?” Then before I could react, the cute NE girl who was standing right next to the Mohawk guy turned back and went ballistic because this particular CFC fan was standing on her seat. I would never have guessed she could even get mad. (There is something hilarious about a cute and calm looking girl getting mad.) Also, it simply means the other person was wrong, really wrong. In the end, she chased him off with the stick, one of the very same flag stem they had been throwing around.
It won’t be fair if I don’t add the other thing I noticed. You see, I was in the seat right behind this commotion, and standing next to me were two CFC fans. From what I could gather from their facial expressions, they were visibly embarrassed by the act of their fellow mate.
I am glad I went to the match for it strengthened my already strong faith in Northeast. But I won’t say the same for the mainland India. I am not the enemy here, in case one of you is reading this. You need to learn from us, us whom you consider ‘outsiders’, ‘foreigners’, ‘Chinese’, ‘stupid’, ‘too stylish’… It is high time to stop the stereotyping and the labelling.
We grew up singing the national anthem of India, the very anthem that forgets to mention a single line about us and our place. We are patriotic and right now we may be  more patriotic towards the place called North-east and not India because we seem to be reminded by ‘Indians’ again and again that we do not belong here.
We moved out to main India with beliefs and hopes and maybe doubts too. Then we saw a lot, more than we asked and bargained for. What more do you have in store for us?

Post Script:
I was supposed to end  on a positive note. I was told that maybe I should not be playing the blame game. Instead I should try to sympathise the bully and not continue the vicious cycle.
I am not trying to continue the cycle nor ‘bully’ or ‘hate you back. But I just cannot be positive about this or sympathise and end my blog on a pathetic understanding note. I just cannot roll over and play the understanding person again, especially with the on-going racist violence and deaths. The latest being the murder of a Ph.D. student (between the timeline of writing and publishing this very blog).
India, it is seriously a time for change, to change big time. And I don’t want to be tolerant because bullying, stereotyping, racism – big or small, is just not forgivable. There is simply no excuse for being mean.
John Abraham - NEUFC

     Special thanks to:
     Thingminao Horam (edits) and
     Reirorpam Duidang (photos)
     Disclaimer: The contributors may not necessarily share 
     the same opinion with the author.
     Images maybe subject copyright of the author.
    Not to be distributed for commercial suppose, strictly a
    personal blog/view.

Monday, 22 September 2014

The curious case of Devyani Khobragade

This case that circulated the news in late 2013 and early 2014 fails to bring me to an understanding. Mixed emotions after silent observations, I wish to vent here today. Visitors are free to share their opinions, articles for or against, or situations based by facts. Wish to oppose my view? Even better. I want to understand more about this curious case. And most important of all, I wish my views are not right as this will confirm my worst fears, that we are a hypocrite society ruled by elitist group putting up a face of democracy.
To brush up, you can start with the background info on the last paragraph before reading this opinion based article.

Devyani Khobragade, Indian Foreign Service Officer

Sangeeta Richard, domestic help

The charges against Devyani Khobragade were related to visa fraud and false statement, primarily. However, if you follow the news, the Indian news, Khobragade continuously lamented on her ill treatment and her personal breakdowns at the hands of the U.S. Marshals Service, but not on the charges of fraud filed against her.
Time and again, the media carried news of her strip search and being held “with common criminals and drug addicts”, as was mentioned in her letter to her colleagues at the IFS. (Does she mean to say she is a higher, more important human being than the other inmates?)
Moving on, the very, very, swift response from India, who is known for anything but being swift, and the response from the government and high ranking officials fearfully seem to echo that the elite will do anything to fight for their own kind.
Her dignity was of course so much more important than the fraud case. In typical Indian style retaliation, India demanded the salary details of all domestic help, gardeners and other staff employed by the US consulate to check for inconsistencies and frauds. (The message: Fraud happens everywhere why bother about that specific case about complaint filed by some  unimportant person, let alone a domestic help. Right?).
Every time, I hear the unsaid prevalent statement ‘how dare a ‘bara aadmi’ be shamed because of a ‘naukri’?’ I mean if this was not the case why did you have to focus so much on your loss of dignity due to the strip search, which I remind you were done according to law, instead of trying to clarify the fraud case and settling the issue amicably. And in the process why don’t you try and treat the other party (The Richards) on equal status?
I still have one more point to add. Remember the outrage showed by the Indian External Affairs Minister; Salman Khurshid because of the issue of T Visa to the husband of Sangeeta Richard, Mr. Philip Richard despite a police case pending against him in Delhi? Let me get this staright. Why is it a cause to be angry about for a father and children to meet his wife facing/fighting charges alone in a foreign country; a wife and mother, who is going up against a diplomat without any financial strength but relying on the help of organizations like Safe Horizon alone. While at the same time the diplomat mooning over missing her family is publicized all over the news begging sympathy.
Aren’t the diplomat and Philip Richard on similar grounds here? Philip, as was alleged has a police case pending against him, so does Khobragade, is it not?
So ,why is it an issue of outrage for Richard to meet his family while Khobragade missing her family is the ultimate tear wrenching situation. Are they both not humans? Don’t they have same human emotions and love for their family?

Let me not begin to go down the path of the many actions taken up by the Indian Government after this incident. Feel free to Google and read.
[Wiki] Short background for the first timers: In November 2012, Khobragade employed Richard, as a nanny and domestic servant for residence in New York.
In a legal complaint later filed by Richard and the United States government, it is described that before hire, Khobragade and Sangeeta Richard verbally agreed in India to a starting salary of 25,000 rupees per month, plus an additional 5,000 rupees for overtime
A contract was submitted to the U.S. government as part of the visa application where Khobragade stated Richard would be making "around $4,500 per month".
The complaint claims that Khobragade instructed Richard not to say anything to the embassy interviewer about being paid only 30,000 rupees per month, but to say she would be paid $9.75 an hour and work 40 hours a week.
The complaint then alleges that Khobragade asked Richard to sign another employment contract shortly before leaving India, which was not intended to be revealed to the U.S. government. This second contract allegedly says she was to be paid an expected salary of Rs. 30,000 per month with no mention of sick days or vacation time.

image 1: Indian Express
image 2: Hindustan Times


Monday, 17 March 2014

AFSPA 1958: Law of justice or law to legitimise lawlessness?

Irom Chanu Sharmila celebrated her 41st birthday on Friday 14 March, like any of her past birthdays, with no positive change on the political front to repeal the AFSPA from Manipur.

Miles away in Chennai, as an act of tribute to the ‘Iron Lady’ of Manipur, Ojas Suniti Vinay performed her one act play titled ‘Le Mashale’ for a mix crowd of PG students, Researchers, Professors and others of the Madras University including I. The solo act depicts the real life events of Irom Sharmila with a brief history on Manipur and how it was forcefully merged into India.

Ojas Suniti Vinay

Ojas S V performing her one act play 'Le Mashale' at Madras University.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) remains intact very much until today in Manipur, despite Irom Sharmila’s long indefinite fast since 2000. The fast was triggered by the act of ‘shooting spree’ carried out by the 8th Assam Rifles at the Malom bus stop which killed 10 innocent people on spot. It is famously known as the Malom massacre.

The Central Government’s least caring attitude to Northeastern states’ issue remains very much constant on the issue of AFSPA as well, except during interval interests shown by China towards Arunachal Pradesh. The main Media is more or less the same. It took mere months, oh just weeks for Anna Hazare to get more attention to his “fast against corruption” than the 13 years long fast of Sharmila.

Though there are speculations and debates on whether it is the right move to fast indefinitely until the government gives in to her demand, her move can with no doubt be seen as a woman who sacrifices the single most valuable thing, life, to bring justice and better law in the land.

If a Draconian law like the AFSPA 1958 is imposed in the state, giving the armed forces the right to shoot and kill on spot on the basis of mere suspicion without any proof does it not violate the primary right of an individual to life?

Every individual innocent or under suspicion (until proven guilty by court of law) has a right to life and livelihood. The situation changes when the concern place involved is declared “disturbed” by the government. There is no yardstick to measure ‘disturbed’. The term “disturbed” itself, is an ambiguous word and the cost of this ambiguity is paid by lives of innocent people.

The justice Jeevan Reddy Commission of 2005 was the single, sensible democratic move made by the government of india to tackle AFSPA in Manipur. The committee was to review the Act and recommend the government on whether to

(a) to amend the provisions of the Act to bring them in consonance with the obligations of the government towards protection of human rights; or

(b) to replace the Act by a more humane Act.

On June 6, 2005 the committee submitted the 147-page report and recommended that, “The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, should be repealed.” However, Government refused to accept the recommendations. The then Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee had rejected the withdrawal or significant dilution of the Act on the grounds that “it is not possible for the armed forces to function” in “disturbed areas” without such powers.

The Commission also noted that: “Though the Act gives sweeping powers to security forces even to the extent of killing a suspect with protection against prosecution, it does not provide any protection to the citizens against its possible misuse.” In plain words, a citizen does not have the protection of law to prove he is innocent and the armed personnel has the full power to shoot anyone.

The army personnel acting in supremacy is an all too common sight in Manipur.

The security forces can stop a person anytime anywhere to check and ask questions. This allows them to detain anyone on the ground of being suspicious, even without valid proof.

Road side checking and frisking in progress.

Identity checks through ID card or Driving license.

A security's force's Gypsy is being filled with petro while common citizen wait in line.

So far, through the exercise of such power, the security forces are able to capture insurgency members who are on errand ‘over-ground’, with demand letters or illegal ammunitions etc.

However, endless checks and unnecessary probing and questions, sometimes simply detaining youth without any justified reason has become a huge annoyance to the general public. Many youth, especially the male, have claimed that security forces wrongly detained them many times asking unnecessary questions, extorted money or punished them in publicly humiliating way on the excuse of not following traffic rules or not carrying necessary documents.

 The practice has left many people traumatized both physically and mentally.

Though bigger cases like rape and deaths are reported (while some are not even reported), everyday cases involving individual’s right violations, like frisking and detainments are considered ‘normal’ even acceptable.

The other common practice is the Combing operation. In this case, the army surrounds a particular area and the place remains on a lockdown, technically. All males above a certain age within that area are rounded and interrogated, basically, on their identity. Any person without a solid identification are detained and questioned further.

It is therefore advisable to carry identity cards or proofs always.

Since 1980, Armed Forces Special Power Act has existed in Manipur. It lived alongside us, and in some way or the other, we have come to accept it. However, when we look at it objectively, the underlying issues of human rights violation and individual’s privacy violation are endless.

Though officials claim it is impossible to remove the act due to security reasons in the conflicted state, the act has led to death and disappearance of many innocent citizens, fake encounters, alongside cases of rape and molestation by the ‘uniform’ men. ( Manorama rape case)

The unrestrained power given to the security forces has created an unstable environment of fear and threat.

Eight years after the Commission’s Report there are still no changes. On November 31st 2013, without any noise, the Act was extended again for another year in Manipur (see article AFSPA extended).

Tags: Irom Chanu Sharmila, Iron Lady of Manipur, ‘Le mashale’ (The Hindu), Malom incident, AFSPA Act, Jeevan Reddy Committee, Pranab Mukherjee, Fake encounters, Manorama case, AFSPA extended (The Hindu).

 Courtesy: Exposing AFSPA wordpress, epao, The Hindu.

 *At present, the AFSPA is relaxed in seven constituencies but the more vulnerable hill areas and a large part of Manipur are still exposed to continued misuse of the Act.

The above article is a toned down version on the various atrocities committed in the state in the name of AFSPA. Many sensitive incidents and issues have been deliberately omitted, however; interested persons can easily look it up in the internet under the Key word AFSPA Manipur.

The above article reflects the views and standpoint of the author.

All the pictures (Except for IMG 1) belong to the publisher and is subject to copyright.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Robert Naorem Fashion Extravaganza

11 January 2014
It was an enchanting evening on Saturday as Robert Naorem a self-styled beautician and makeup artist turned fashion designer brought to Imphal the biggest fashion extravaganza of the year with the reigning Miss India Universe 2013 walking the ramp as the showstopper along with Miss India Earth and Miss India Asia Pacific 2011.

Robert Naorem with the dignitaries at the inaugural function.

 Miss India (Universe) 2013 Mansi Moghe Showstopper
The mega fashion event which was held at the 1stManipur Rifles ground displayed the work of other renowned 10 designers including Project Bhutan from Bhutan and from the states of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. 

Robert Naorem
Robert Naorem

Speaking on the event, Robert Naorem the man of the show expressed, in an exclusive interview, the joy and satisfaction he feels in bringing the biggest fashion event to his state. Robert though based in Bangalore, had always had the keen urge to bring his show to home state Manipur and inspire the people. 
Last year, Robert mostly funded the show, which was held at the Hotel Imphal with an overall budget of 10-11 lakhs from his pocket. This year, though the show was on a much larger scale with a number of sponsors, Robert admitted that he had personally put in a lot of funding on the show. However, he feels money does not matter as he had succeeded in achieving his dream.
He added that hard work alone had brought him here, and hopes to share this message to other aspiring fashionistas of the state.

Amidst the show, we were able to catch up with Miss India (earth) 2013 Sobhita Dhulipali and Miss India (Asia Pacific) 2011 Tanvi Sigla. Shobhita, who is visiting the Northeast India for the first time, says she is excited to be here and is “enjoying every moment including the cold”. Tanvi joyfully stated she would like to visit all of North East including Darjeeling and Assam and geefully said she tasted some of the best momos in Manipur.
Miss India (Earth) 2013 Sobhita Dhulipala

Miss Sobhita Dhulipala Miss India (Earth) 2013

Miss India (Asia Pacific) 2011 Tanvi Sigla
Tanvi Sigla Miss India (Asia Pacific) 2011

 Imphal born 2nd runner’s up Kingfisher Calendar Girl 2013 Miss Lin Laishram enthralled the local audience and stole the show appearing in eye catching traditional Manipuri attires.
Other local favorites including Hailey Laithangbam and Nirmal Kangjam also walked the ramp as they had done last year at the Imphal Hotel. 

Lin Laishram
It was interesting to note that many of the models from outside the state who had walked the ramp for Robert Naorem last year on January made it back this year along with other excited fresh faces.

Miss Diana, a model based in Bangalore who had also walked the Robert Naorem show last year expressed her excitement to be here again this year. In an exclusive interview behind the stage adding that the state and the locals have given her a warm welcome and she hopes to elongate her stay here and also to come back again next year.


Robert Naorem who is very popular among the celebrity circle of Bollywood stated that the fashion industry is becoming one of the fastest growing sectors and the time has come for the fashion enthusiast to explore the vast opportunity in the sector. He also revealed his desire to make Imphal the fashion capital of North East India. He also added that it is high time to give up the old mindset and embrace the changing times to promote traditional costumes of the state and highlight in the world market.

Scenes from the show (Images)

Comparing to last year and the first fashion Extravaganza 2013, this year’s event is performed in a more massive and grander scale with more designers and super models from metropolitan city walked the local ramp.

The above article and pictures are subject to copyright of the publisher

Saturday, 11 January 2014

International theater festival

9th January 2014
The Imphal chapter of 16th Bharat Maha Rang Utsav, that kicked off in Delhi on 4th January, began with a solo performance by GabrielleNeuhaus, a Tel Aviv-based playwright and director from Israel, at the Shrine playhouse of the Chorus Repertory Theatre Company on Thursday.
Chorus Repertory Theatre, Imphal

The play titled  “The woman who didn’t want to come down to earth” is written, directed and acted by Gabrielle Neuhaus and talks in three sections about the surreal life of a woman who refused to touch the earth.

Gabrielle Neuhaus during scenes from her one woman show

Speaking to NETV, National School of Drama Chairman, Ratan Thiyam says the theatre festival happening simultaneously all across the country, mounting 71 national and international plays, exhibitions, installations, interactive open forum session focusses on searching for an identity of Indian theatre to analysis how creatively the Indian theatre concept is being utilized in expression.
It is to be noted that Manipur and Assam are the only North Eastern states chosen to exhibit a selected number of plays.
Mr. Ratan Thiyam, Chairman of National School of Drama

Mr. Ratan Thiyam, an international figure in Theatre and Performing Arts, who has been described by literary critics as  ‘genius’ for his works on folk theatre hopes and believes that the much talented and skilled folk theatre of Manipur will develop further, when international festivals such as this are brought to Manipur.
In Manipur, there will be a total of 6 plays including plays from Japan, Sir Lanka, West Bengal and Maharashtra, thrilling theatre lovers of Manipur until to 14th January
Tickets to the theatre shows were pre sold out. With the first day of the festival kicking off on a full house with theatre and art lovers, film celebrities, playwrights, theatre critics of Manipur attending the first stunning performance, the remaining days of the festival will definitely be a exhilarating experience.

The above pictures are subject to copyright of the writer and the NETV Imphal