The first thing you notice is the fresh coat of mud that has been plastered on the exteriors of the kuchcha houses in Shergarh village near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. The drains have been cleaned too, and very recently. Truckloads of mud have been spread to make the dilapidated roads manageable for the visiting vvips.
On some grotesque level, it’s a Peepli Live moment for the village of decapitated soldier Lance Naik Hemraj. The media has arrived here in droves. There was another soldier victim of the January 8 incident, Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh, whose corpse was sent back to his village Dadhiya, in Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi district. But that hamlet is a long way away. Mathura, meanwhile, is less than 200 km from Delhi, hence the media spotlight on Hemraj’s village.
A big compound with a huge black gate has been kept open since January 8 when the men in olives came to the village to inform the family about the tragedy. People from the villages nearby have gathered since to express their solidarity with the family. Village elders share hukkahs, shake their heads and discuss the vagaries of the world and talk of a time when everything was so much more simpler.
In the midst of all this is the tragedy-stricken family. The wife of the 29-year-old slain soldier is sitting staring blankly at the sky. Dharamwati though did recall snatches of her last conversations with Hemraj for our benefit. “He called to inform me about his leave. He was coming home on February 7. He told me this time he would put the two children (the school-going ones) into the Army Public School in Mathura cantonment. He also wanted to know about the health of his mother. He promised to call me the next day. When I didn’t get the call, I called up the unit but his colleagues told me Hemraj was out. After an hour, one of his friends called me from Mathura Cantonment to say that there had been firing at the border and that I should call the unit to get details. But before we could make sense of it all, two armymen were at my door with the news.”
The army informed the family in the morning and by evening his remains were at home. The family was told that Hemraj’s body was not “in a good shape” and hence would be better left “unseen”. His identity was confirmed, though. Hemraj’s 18-year-old cousin Narendra Singh told Outlook: “We were told by the army that his body was in a very bad way. They requested us not to see it. However, when the last rites were performed the mortal remains were taken out. We have no doubts, it was him.” Just then, there is a whirr of a chopper. The whole village looks up at the sky. Army chief General Bikram Singh has landed.
By Chandrani Banerjee In Shargarh village, UP
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Tragic. After the OB vans have left, the Army should adopt the family and place the two young children in its public school in Mathura. That is more constructive than talk of creating another ten sets of orphans.
The media political circus exists. Get used to it.
Selectively going after the media now, is pathetic. The media does the same at all times.
Peepli Live is for real. It was a very perceptive take - great movie but in this very much real too. This should be expected with 24x7 news channels - news will have to be manufactured - there isn't that much news happening in the whole world forget just India. It is the nature of the beast - take the good, the bad and the ugly and deal with it in our own ways as individuals/families/communities.
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