Archive | June, 2012

Religious tolerance not an option in Canada

Posted on 27 June 2012 by admin

Not too long ago came the news that a Muslim Sunday school in the GTA was propagating anti-Jewish messages through its website. Jewish groups expressed shock and reservations over the curriculum on the Madrassah’s website that called ancient Jews “treacherous” and “crafty” and accused them of “conspiring to kill the Prophet Muhammad.”Following this, the Toronto Public Board barred the school from using a Scarborough school for holding weekend classes until investigations were wrapped up. The Madrassah or school under scrutiny wasted no time in issuing an apology. In a press release, the school wished to, “unreservedly apologize to the Jewish community for the unintentional offence that the item has caused.”

The incident brings to light the sensitive yet important issue of religious tolerance. In a multi-religious country like Canada, respecting faiths different than one’s own is paramount to maintaining harmony. Any breach of this can lead to needless conflict, which doesn’t serve anyone in the end. However, what is more disturbing about the above incident is the possibility of young minds being infected with negative information regarding a faith other than their own. Growing children are amongst the most impressionable of age groups and must be treated with great care. Their minds, sponge-like, can absorb whatever is fed to them.

Nobel winner anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela once said, “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate…” This is exactly the possibility one fears with institutions or teachings that tend to deride particular communities in an effort to exalt their own. Growing minds exposed to such teachings can, unbeknownst to themselves, “learn to hate the other.”

At the core of every religion is love. Being compassionate, caring for one’s fellow human or animal is part of all religious teachings. This week, we feature a lady who has been passionately working to disseminate that message to different faith groups across Canada. We need more people like her, who bring together, not divide, religious groups.

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Happy Canada Day!

Posted on 27 June 2012 by admin

Canada Day is a great chance to remember our history, and come together for an even brighter future for ourselves, our elders and our children, here in Ontario — the greatest province in the best country in the world.

 

Happy Canada Day! I hope you take some time to discover Ontario’s beautiful outdoors, spend time with family and take advantage of the many great long-weekend events across the province. Canada Day is a great chance to remember our history, and come together for an even brighter future for ourselves, our elders and our children, here in Ontario — the greatest province in the best country in the world.

 

In the last election, we ran on our vision for that future—to balance the budget as we weather a global financial storm, while protecting the gains we’ve made together in services families rely on most: education and health care.Those include North America’s first full-day kindergarten program, and the lowest wait times in Canada. We also know that Ontario families expect us to do our part to make our minority government work. And that’s what we’ve done, while delivering on our key campaign promises.

 

One of the first things we did was introduce the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit. To help seniors stay in their homes longer, we proposed a credit of up to $1,500 per year to make renovations such as installing stair lifts, or accessibility ramps. This is good news for seniors and their families, good news for contractors in the renovations sector and good news for our health care system because it costs less when care is provided at home rather than in a long-term care facility.

 

Many families choose Ontario for our schools — now ranked among the best in the world. Our schools are exciting places to learn and develop, and with our Accepting Schools Act they’re now more inclusive. We’re taking tough action against bullying in all its forms. Bullying a child because of their faith, race, colour, language or sexual orientation is not acceptable. The Act sends a strong message that our public schools are welcoming places and provide equal opportunity to all students.

 

And we know that in the new knowledge-based economy, postsecondary education is more important than ever. That’s why we launched the 30% Off Ontario Tuition Grant. So far, 200,000 students have received money back to help lower their costs.

 

As we demonstrated during the recent budget negotiations, we’re willing to roll up our sleeves and help ensure this minority parliament delivers what Ontarians expect: jobs, fiscal responsibility and reliable healthcare and education. Together we’ve come a long way, but there is always more to do. Have a great summer!

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Federal judge rules IRB erred in case of Pakistani refugee claimant

Posted on 27 June 2012 by admin

A federal judge has ruled that the Immigration and Refugee Board made a mistake in denying the claim of a Pakistani man who sought refuge in Canada on the grounds that his wife’s parents set police on him because they disapproved of their marriage. The judge said it was unreasonable for the IRB to suggest that the man could “live in hiding” in another part of Pakistan. He cited a corrupt police force and the high number of “honour crimes” committed against couples who marry in defiance of parents’ wishes in countries like Pakistan. As Nadir Saleem’s wife’s parents did not approve of their relationship, the couple fled to the city of Mardan and took refuge with the family of a friend. They married in 2007. Subsequently, his wife’s parents lodged a complaint against Saleem that resulted in charges of abduction and rape being filed against him. Saleem fled to Canada and sought protection.In reviewing his case, an IRB adjudicator suggested that Saleem could reside in the cities of Multan or Mardan — “Internal Flight Alternatives” — which are more than 400 kilometres from Sialkot.Saleem applied for a judicial review of that decision, arguing at a hearing in Calgary that it was wrong for the IRB adjudicator to suggest his in-laws and police were not actively searching for them.

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Diversity counts

Posted on 27 June 2012 by admin

Organizations with more diversity deliver better performance

 Mehdi Rizvi

Maytree foundation and Civic Action recently released the fifth report in the DiverseCity Counts series. The series features research by Dr. Chris Fredette, an Assistant Professor with the Sprott School of Business in the area of management and strategy. He holds a PhD in Organizational Studies from York University’s Schulich School of Business. These researchers used three surveys of board chairs and executive directors to develop detailed analysis of diversity in the boards of non-profit sector organizations. They say that the focus on governance and leadership diversity is both timely and increasingly instrumental to the success, legitimacy, and viability of non-profit and public organizations. Dr.Fredette says that greater leadership diversity among senior executives and boards of directors can help non-profit organizations meet challenges such as funding and fiscal instability, limited access to highly skilled human capital, and the changing demographics of the communities and constituents that these organizations and agencies have pledged to serve. Of the total 4254 board members in the study, only 15.59 percent are visible minorities. This compares with 40 percent of visible minorities in the GTA’s population. However, 77.9 percent of organizations have at least one visible minority on their boards, suggesting majority of boards are making some some progress on diversifying their leadership. Regardless of the organization’s own diversity, overwhelmingly respondents to the survey — who were primarily executive directors and board chairs — said that a diverse board generates strong returns and better performance. Even small amounts of diversity benefit boards and organizations by adding new and fresh perspectives in decision-making, bringing innovative new thinking and ideas to bear, extending the reach of organizational networks and social inclusion. In addition, leadership diversity was found to contribute to organizational governance by helping to shape and guide the strategic direction of the board, improving board governance procedures, strengthening the board’s financial management, and enhancing fundraising. As our demographic make-up changes, diversity and inclusion have become essential to non-profit sector success. Immigrant communities also benefit from increased confidence and trust, and the chance to exchange experiences and learning. To achieve these benefits, the report recommends making participation meaningful; assign diverse members to special committees and taskforces where ideation and problem-solving are critical, and mobilize senior organizational leaders as catalysts of change. Diversity is one lens for looking at, identifying, developing, and advancing talent of those who came from distant lands with good knowledge and valuable skills. We bring in nearly 250,000 immigrants every year. Along with differences in race, gender, and socio-economic and educational background they bring differences in learning style or differences in professional field and working culture. Diversity is about empowering people. It makes an organization effective by capitalizing on all of the strengths of each employee, by understanding, acknowledging, and using the natural differences from person to person. In the private sector, research has documented a connection between investment in diversity and overall organizational success and performance. This connection needs more attention from employers and policy makers to make Canada a truly diversified and successful nation. Honestly speaking, the model of leadership in Canada has been largely based on white males. Therefore, as people from different ethnic backgrounds come forward, we must monitor whether they are being asked to continue to play as subordinates, or being given the full opportunity to effect change as leaders in their organizations. Immigrants usually come to Canada seeking a peaceful, tolerant and welcoming society. The host communities respect newcomers and treat them equally and respectfully. But the doors to leadership are still not fully open to them. Diverse leadership is more likely to attract and retain a diverse workforce and it may help new immigrants to learn and understand how to contribute, participate, make progress and integrate, and attain leadership in a new working culture and environment. Mehdi Rizvi is a former member of the Community Editorial Board, Toronto Star and an affiliate of the Center of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement, which is a consortium of three Toronto universities. He is a chemist who has worked in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, cement and UV printing products for the last 35 years. eMail: smehdir@yahoo.com

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Beyond the headlines

Posted on 27 June 2012 by admin

Abbas Nasir

Pakistan

We have a new prime minister. The vacuum left by the guillotining of YousufRazaGilani will now be filled till the judicial blade comes swishing down again to decapitate his replacement.

And come down it will. But what is really significant is the scenario being discussed by informed commentators. Call it a conspiracy theory if you will but what they say does seem to carry weight. Their scenario goes thus:

There is consensus among the powers that matter that the country’s economic and security mess needs to be sorted out and a democratic set-up, in particular one headed by an ‘inept/corrupt’ PPP, isn’t best placed to deliver it.

So, a caretaker set-up comprising ‘competent technocrats of integrity’ be brought in and given time and space to tackle issues a political administration can’t or won’t. But even if the current parliament ceases to be, isn’t it the president’s prerogative to name the caretakers?

Well, recent constitutional amendments, they maintain, stipulate that the president is bound to decide in consultation with the leader of the opposition. In case of disagreement, the burden of naming the caretakers falls on the chief election commissioner.

The chief election commissioner’s office itself can only be filled by the president after the prime minister’s consultation with the leader of the opposition. If there is a deadlock, the current acting arrangement could continue, which means the chief justice’s nominee may well hold the key to who forms the caretakers.

Even this scenario can be faulted on the ground that for it to be realised opposition PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif has to be on board. However, given his experience with the president and the PPP, wouldn’t he have more faith if he feels the judiciary is calling the shots?

Yes. But will he not be worried about not being in control? After all, despite all his reservations about the PPP-led government, his party found it impossible to ask its legislators to resign in order to mount the pressure for fresh elections. They attach a certain premium to power.

So, he’d have to weigh one factor very carefully. If the deadlock on the appointment of the CEC continues, the PML-N may not only have to live with the acting CEC’s set-up, it may have to address another possible scenario.

What happens if someone, perhaps the caretaker set-up itself, approaches the apex court and seeks a polls postponement on the grounds of an emergency-like situation in the country for up to a year, even more? An uncomfortable, unsavoury prospect for all major parties.

Now only constitutional experts can say whether this scenario, including all its assumption, is legally tenable even if it passes the plausibility test. One feels handicapped being unable to make sense of a murky political scene, leading to a murkier scenario.

But let me list what I can see with clarity. These are mostly issues that have fallen out of the headlines or haven’t received the attention they merited. Where does one start?

What’s the point of delving into issues from the past year into the security failures which allowed the US SEALs to strike deep into the heart of Pakistan with impunity, eliminate their target and also make a clean getaway?

We still don’t seem to have an idea whether it was complicity at any level or merely intelligence lapses that the world’s most wanted man was able to occupy a comfortable home under our very nose and live undetected for several years.

When we have most needed honest introspection and analysis of our mostly self-defeating policy of relying on zealots as a second line of defence and as a tool of attaining our national security objectives, we have silently led society slide deeper into the extremist abyss.

And I wouldn’t even mention the fiasco our relations with the United States are beginning to represent because I might have to point the finger of blame at the ‘senior’ partner in the decision-making process. Of course, the civilian government ought to be ashamed for conceding ground.

Have we paused to consider why there is discomfort even if expressed with dignity over the recent court ruling among such champions of constitutional rule as Tariq Mahmood and AtharMinallah? Have we lent an ear to the staunch defenders of the judiciary like Munir Malik and Ali Ahmad Kurd?

When the so-called Familygate scandal broke, there was speculation that it could be the handiwork of either the military agencies angered at the vigour with which the chief justice has pursued the cases of ‘missing’ or a government harried by a relentless barrage of corruption cases.

But with the warrants of arrest popping up as if by magic for the PPP’s favourite nominee for the prime minister’s office issued by the army-staffed and dominated Anti-Narcotics Force, what should we think is happening?

And then you hear that the ANF operation is being run by a commando-brigadier who is taking extra-keen interest in pursuing elected representatives amid reports witnesses are being pursued with enthusiasm to give ‘evidence’.

Finally, was the damning leaked video of those telltale breaks in that famous Dunya News interview aimed at cutting to size an aggressive media alone or was it to serve a greater purpose: remember the phone call received by ArsalanIftikhar’s accuser from one Bunny (Gilani)?

Allow me to quote Mian Nawaz Sharif from his Swat rally this week. “…Isshukumat nein jajonkesaathjosulookkiya, us kanateejabhugatliya. YousufRazaGilanikogharjanapara (the government mistreated judges and had to reap what it sowed. YousufRazaGilani had to go home).”

Courtesy: Dawn

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Constitutionally empowered Act

Posted on 27 June 2012 by admin

S. Viswanathan

India

Twenty years have passed since the Act on new Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) was put in place by the Constitution 73rd Amendment (1992). There were high hopes of empowering rural India’s two long-neglected sections of society — women and Dalits — through reservation of seats in elections to panchayat bodies. The reform was seen, understandably, as a major step in the direction of Dalit liberation.

Yet after two decades of its functioning, many feel that nothing much has come of this exercise. The reasons are not far to seek. From Day One, hard-core caste Hindu opponents of Dalits seemed bent on making the system non-functional inasmuch as it benefited Dalits. The 1992 constitutional amendment introduced systematic reservation of political positions for Dalits (besides women) in institutions of governance at the grass-roots level. This was the first time this was happening in the long history of local bodies in the country — something large sections of caste Hindus could hardly digest.

In some places in Tamil Nadu, for instance, rich and powerful caste Hindu groups either forced Dalit aspirants to keep off the polls, or fielded handpicked farm workers as candidates, or ‘auctioned’ the PRI posts to the highest bidder. In many villages across the country, Dalit candidates who manage to win are very often denied cooperation from their caste Hindu masters elected to the post of vice president or as panchayat members. In several panchayats, the clerk remains indifferent and disrespectful, more so if he happens to be a caste Hindu. There are also instances of corrupt government officials misleading panchayat chiefs by taking advantage of their many weaknesses. In five village panchayats in Tamil Nadu reserved for Dalits, no election could be held for two five-year terms owing to strong resistance from caste Hindu residents. The failure to conduct elections always leads to tension between the two social groups in the villages and discrimination of the worst kind against Dalits.

Instances of discrimination against Dalits have been reported more intensely and frequently in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka, States in which the Dalit population is concentrated. The 20 years of work in village- and district-level panchayat institutions notwithstanding, there is still a long way to go. When the PRIs in their amended form were launched two decades ago, governments at the Centre and in the States declared that the empowerment of Dalits by providing them reserved seats in PRIs would lead to the abolition of the practice of untouchability in the years to come. But the reality is that much more has to be done to achieve this, say, by delegating more authority and giving more funds to these institutions so as to create confidence among panchayat leaders. The government must revive the practice of conducting capacity-building classes for Dalit panchayat chiefs if it is really interested in further empowering elected panchayat functionaries and facilitating the underprivileged to fulfil their commitments to the people. What is needed today is to equip Dalits with what they need to ensure the achievement of the twin objectives of economic development and social justice.

‘Major discriminations persist’

Simon Chauchard, in his brilliant article Panchayati raj and untouchability, in Business Line (Opinion Page, June 6, 2012), throws new light on the subject.

Commending the government for going ahead with the introduction of reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in PRIs ignoring the protests from dominant caste groups, he points out that this has enabled the SCs and the STs to get elected to tens of thousands of political positions. He says recent studies have shown that “major discriminations persist.” In his view, “while members of the SCs on average do not materially benefit in a significant way from an experience with an SC sarpanch, these reservations lay the ground for what may be an equally important kind of social change.”

A recent study by Evidence, a Madurai-based organisation working on Dalit issues, has documented a series of discriminations against panchayat presidents spread over 10 districts in Tamil Nadu. The study finds that 94 per cent of the 171 Dalit panchayat presidents studied have not been given any training; seven panchayat presidents were not allowed to sit on chairs; all the 171 panchayat chiefs have complained of discrimination by caste Hindus; and 32 of them have given in writing charges of discrimination. The study also shows that the majority of panchayat presidents are ignorant about the need to fight untouchability. This, if anything, tells us that real empowerment of Dalits lies not in merely providing constitutional status to PRIs but in strengthening their capabilities for independent thinking and for standing up to their oppressors. Only education and knowledge, and pro-active interventions by emancipatory socio-political movements, can help achieve this. The media can also play a significant agenda-building role in bringing this about.

Courtesy: The Hindu

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World Refugee Day 2012

Posted on 27 June 2012 by admin

The Word Refugee Day Program was hosted by Canadian Christian Association (CCA) and Evangelical Asian Church (EAC) on June 22, 2012 in Brampton Ontario under the guidance on United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The event was held across Canada in several major cities.

Prof. Obaid Chaudry CMA, CA. past president of CCA, welcomed the guests on behalf of CCA and EAC, moreover he highlighted some accomplishments of CCA and EAC and explained the objectives of the World Refugees Day Program. Mr. Shabaz Sindhu explained about the UNHCR and World Refugees Day. There were several guest speakers including: Mr. John Gill, president CCA, Mr. Sharoon Gill, barrister and solicitor, Mr. Joseph Dean, Pastor Shaid Kamal, Jose Mathew, Mark Dozert, Adly Abanoub – representing Egypt, Medlum Meroginew – representing Iraq and Tabassum Iqbal. Several topics were covered by the speaker such as Private and Government Sponsored Refugees Programs, strategies on how to sponsor refugees. Daniel Niamat, executive CCA, closed the program with thanks remarks and encouraged everyone to get involved to help each other. The program was conducted by Augustine James of the ECA.

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South Asian Canada Day 2012

Posted on 27 June 2012 by admin

By Shivani Sharma

The South Asian Canada Day is an annual event that started in the year 2009. I was lucky to witness South Asian Canada Day on June 24th, 2012 from 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the Celebration Square.

 Though there was a thunderstorm expected during the day, but we had a beautiful weather with sun peeping in between just to make it perfect for everyone. This year’s program included a top singer all the way from Pakistan Farooq Mehmood, a female singer from lndia, local English band, ‘Crossroads’ of Charlene Flower.A variety of stalls displaying South Asian food, clothing to jewellery, business promotions and many more were visible in the heart of Downtown Mississauga.

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India: Presidential Elections

Posted on 27 June 2012 by admin

Priyanka Walia

Being the largest democracy in the world, India has transformed itself into a socio economic power since independence. It is characterized as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic as a nation and the politics takes place within the framework of a federal Westminster-style Parliamentary democratic, in which the President of India is head of state and the Prime Minister of India is the head of government. The President is elected, from a group of nominees, by the elected members of the Parliament of India which comprises of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as well as of the state legislatures, known as the Vidhan Sabhas. In the past, the nominees from the ruling party, with a majority in Lok Sabha, have been elected. The current presidents are permitted to stand for re-elections. A president enjoys many powers – Legislative, Executive, Financial, Judicial, Diplomatic and Military.

Election of a President is the most crucial time for a republic. In July, 2012, India would be gearing up for its 14th presidential elections as the 5 year term of Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil is coming to an end. She won the presidential election held on 19 July 2007 defeating her nearest rival Bhairon Singh Shekhawat by over 300,000 votes. She was India’s first woman president and took office on 25 July 2007. During her tenure, India enjoyed enormous growth and the much appreciated Commonwealth Games were also held while she was in office.

The Presidential Election will see regional parties playing an important role because they do have MLAs in the states that they contest for. The coming elections will see as much as 18 candidates being nominated. Although this is the official number filed, various names continue to be speculated by the Indian public, media and politicians.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr. P. A. Sangma, nominated candidate by AIADMK chief,Jayalalithaa and Biju Janata Dal chief, Naveen Patnaik, is one of the strongest candidates in contention. He has been suggested promoting the thought that a tribal person should hold the office.

On 15 June, the United Progressive Alliance also announced Pranab Mukherjee as its presidential candidate. He is currently holding the position of the Finance Minister of India. Rumors suggest that the Samajwadi party may support the proposition. Besides Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, several Union Ministers and also leaders of constituent parties of UPA are expected to be the supporters of Mukherjee’s candidature for the July 19 election. Mr. Mukherjee is expected to file his nomination papers for the Presidential election on June 28 and resign as the Finance Minister on June 26.

A favorite amid the Indian public is Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. Retired nuclear scientist and former President, APJ seems to have the public support for sure. As Mulayam and Mamata ask for a return of Kalam, the scientist is weary of being used as a political hock again. Infact his candidature could even put strong UPA allies like the DMK in a delicate spot. But Kalam seems clear for the moment. He has announced that he will not contest till he’s convinced of a comfortable victory.

RJD is supporting the Rajya Sabha chairman, Hamid Ansari. Mohammad Hamid Ansari is the 12th and current vice president of India. Presently, he is also serving as the President of the Indian Institute of Public Administration and Chancellor of Punjab University, Chandigarh. N. Bhaskar Rao, a political analyst who has followed the Congress closely, said “Ansari would seem the best bet for the Congress, too. It would continue to retain the trouble-shooting services of Mukherjee; it can claim credit for making a Muslim the president; and it could split the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The Janata Dal-United, a key ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had strongly opposed views by party leader Sushma Swaraj who said that Ansari did not have the “stature” to become president.”

Other prominent names include Gopal Krishna Gandhi, former Governor of West Bengal and grandson of Mohandas Gandhi; Meira Kumar, Speaker of the Lok Sabha;Somnath Chatterjee, former Speaker of the Lok Sabha;A. K. Antony, Defense Minister;Karan Singh, Member of Rajya Sabha; S. Y. Quraishi, former Chief Election Commissioner; Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister of Punjab; Mulayam Singh Yadav, Samajwadi Party leader;Mohsina Kidwai, Member of Rajya Sabha and independent candidate, Pallav Kumar.

June 30 is the last date for making nominations and the poll, if necessary, shall be taken on July 19. 2012 is an election year for United States of America too. The president elected for both the countries will have a vital impact on their relations. The 57th Quadrennial United States Presidential Election will be held on November 06, 2012. Current Democratic President, Barack Obama, will run for a second and final term during this election.

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Anhey Ghorey Da Daan- A Review

Posted on 27 June 2012 by admin

Bhupinder Singh

It takes some time for the film to sink in, but when it does, AnheyGhorey Da Daan (Alms for a Blind Horse) has mastery written all over it.

That AnheyGhorey belongs to niche contemporary cinema is not insignificant, even more striking is that the film is in Punjabi. This is a dissonance- the film in every way is far removed from what one expects from a Punjabi movie, or even the Hindi movies that Punjabis make.

Isn’t any movie in Punjabi about a Jatt on a revenge spree? Isn’t every Hindi movie with Punjab in the background about lush green fields swaying with bright mustard crops? If not about the big fat Punjabi weddings, isn’t it supposed to be about the valour of militant patriots like Bhagat Singh?

Based on a novel of the same name by Gurdial Singh,AnheyGhorey presents a contrarian perspective- something that isn’t found in the Bollywoodized versions of Punjab. The story is not about the revenge of the Jatts, it is not about a militant valour either. It is a life that at best is stoic, and at its worst is impassive in the face of hardships. It shows one day in the life of a Mazhabi Sikh family that lives on the fringes. The characters don’t jump into a frenzy of song and dance every few minutes- instead they eke out a precarious existence against a volley of brutal attacks on their daily existence.
The title of the story is taken from Hindu mythology that portrayed Dalits as the descendants of the asuras or the demons. When there is a lunar or solar eclipse, the demon Rahu comes on a chariot led by blind horses to settle scores with his enemies- the Sun and Moon gods. . The title itself speaks a lot about the theme of the film. (More about the novel and the myth)

The film starts with the demolition of Dharma’s house by the local landlords who have sold their piece of land, as well as Dharma’s, for setting up a factory. When Dharma and members of his landless Mazhabi Sikh community approach the sarpanch to intervene, they are asked to go to the courts. The sarpanch, who is evidently a representative of the landholding Jatts uses a combination of guns and mollycoddling to evade the group. Soon, Dharma is arrested and his community is scared off.

The film’s main protagonists are the family of Dharma’s neighbour, whose wife has to beg for a few stalks of mustard from the landlord for whom she works. Finding no support from his own community in the face to the landlords and village sarpanch, her husband decides to leave for the city at the end of the day where his son, Melu is a rickshaw driver. Melu is a hard worker, yet he is unable to make ends meet and provide for his family. His health deteriorates and he is injured during the demonstration earlier in the day. A fellow Mazhabi doctor treats him. Another two of his associates drown themselves in alcohol, while ruminating on their existential condition. Despite being a leader of the town’s rickshaw pullers, Melu is a fatigued and defeated man. Late in the night, he decides to take the train back to the village- even as his father takes the opposite direction. His sister, driven to restlessness, wanders out in the midnight fog. At that point, her brother returns, and they walk back home in silence.

The characters in the family are driven from the village to the town and from the town to the village, unable to find succour.

Just like its theme, the film’s form and the narrative structure display dissonance. Even though the story is about one day in the life of the family, the way the film is structured brings to mind a jigsaw puzzle. Each character takes one aspect of life in the family- the sequence is not very clear as each episode comes to an abrupt end and then it moves on a to a different one. Most of the characters are played by non-actors and they don’t seem to get or ask for the viewer’s sympathy or understanding. Each episode, however, takes the viewer to experience a slice of their grinding life and underlines a certain aspect.

 Half an hour into it, the film becomes documentary-like–with long sequences of rickshaws pulled by a truck, the camera taking a three-sixty-degree view of a rickshaw pullers’ demonstration or Melu monotonously eating his dinner. These are almost often disrupted by sounds- the bulldozer breaking down the house, a train chugging past, a tailor sewing clothes in his shop, a Punjab Roadways bus sputtering or the screeching noise of metallic blades being sharpened. The usage of sound is anti-musical at crucial points in the film. It’s intent is not to create harmony but disruption, a dissonance that plays throughout the film. The cinematography is outstanding. The emotive power of the film, as it approaches the end is overwhelming as the elements come together and soak the viewer in the life and experiences of the marginalized family.

The film has won many international prizes. It has also won the best director’s award for the young Gurvinder Singh and the best cinematographer (Satya Raj Nagpaul) at the Indian National Film Awards.

It is pertinent that a film like this belongs to an aesthetics that is foreign to the sensibilities of the large chunks of people that speak Punjabi. It is also pertinent that a film that speaks about the most marginalized castes and sections in Punjab should be made by someone who grew up outside the state.

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