Saturday, Dec 09, 2023

The Subcontinental Menu

The Subcontinental Menu

Newfound benefits of meat of an ass; a yagya for victory in the 2019 assembly elections; a waqfnama by Shah Jahan. Read all the juicy gossip here...

The Subcontinental Menu Illustration by Sajith Kumar

Asses Cure Asthma

The ass is a panacea. It’s been believed that its milk is useful for dealing with snake bites, liver problems and even bronchitis. Its skin is used in Chinese medicine as a “blood tonic” for certain conditions, such as anaemia. And now, Indians have “discovered” that consuming its meat will cure asthma and snoring. This misinformation (which butchers display openly on boards) has led to a massacre of the animals in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Doctors have ­reportedly dismissed these ideas as “baseless rumours” with no support from any scientific study, but it seems that many are yet to get the message. Donkey meat is currently being sold openly for Rs 400–500 per kg—violating the norms of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, which does not classify it as edible.

Corporate Jet Set

It’s good to plan ahead for the summer.  Accompanied by their families, corporators of the Mira-Bhayander (Maharashtra) Municipal Corporation recently enjoyed a six-day sojourn in Nainital. The ostensible purpose of the Rs 10-lakh mission: visit the local municipality (the remaining time was for sightseeing). Another set will fly to Coorg in May for a four-day visit costing about Rs 45 lakh. Yet another group will head to Darjeeling and Sikkim’s capital Gangtok—the dates aren’t fixed, but Rs 10 lakh has been set aside.  Meanwhile, the citizens these corporators represent are struggling with increased property and water taxes, while outdoor fumigation has been halted due to a lack of funds.  The corporation’s Congress members are boycotting the tours, the killjoys!

Soma For The Poll Gods

Kingship often came with obligations to conduct rituals and sacrifices. Now this has devolved upon our chief ministers. Leaders of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi are pressuring CM K. Chandrasekhar Rao to perform a yaaga for victory in the 2019 assembly elections. It certainly seemed to work last time, when he conducted a five-day Ayutha Chandi Mahaa Yaaga in 2015 before the Hyderabad municipal elections; the party went from zero seats to 99, and thanked the yaaga’s “favourable stars”. The CM has been performing yaagas since the Telangana statehood agitation. But has anyone been keeping count? If he completes 100, he won’t just be king—­tradition has it that he will be equal to Indra shatakratu, the lord of 100 sacrifices. Perhaps the opposition should pray for a Vamana to stop him.

Legends From The Waqfnama

In response to the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board’s claim that it owns the Taj Mahal due to a charitable donation (waqf) by Shah Jahan, the Supreme Court has asked the board to produce the relevant waqfnama (deed declaring the donation) signed by the 17th-century Mughal emperor. A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked, “Who in India will believe that it [Taj] belongs to the Waqf Board,” and enjoined the board’s counsel to “show us the signature.” The hearing took place as part of an appeal filed by the Archaeological Survey of India in 2010, in response to the Waqf Board declaring the site its property in 2005. The counsel asked for more time to ­produce the documents—presu­mably, 352 years weren’t enough.

The Unchecked Cost Of A Cheque

Telangana is giving farmers cheques that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on—litera­lly. The state government’s Rythu Bandhu scheme pledges to give financial assistance of Rs 4,000 per acre of land to every farmer. A farmer with one gunta of land (1/40 of an acre) will thus receive a cheque for Rs 100.  The process of printing the cheques turned out to be expensive, working out to Rs 140 per leaf, because each one includes many of the beneficiary’s details as well as the government’s logo etc. About 60 lakh farmers are to rec­eive the cheques, with distribution in phases from April 19 to May 31.

Wicket-Keeper’s Third Slip

Afghanistan wicket-keeper Mohammed Shahzad can’t keep out of trouble, it seems. Shortly after he completed a one-year doping ban and rejoined his country’s side during a tour of Zimbabwe, he earned a two-match suspension for slamming his bat on the ground when he was dismissed. And now he has been caught playing for a Pakistani club in a tournament in Peshawar without the required ‘no objection certificate’ from the Afghanistan Cricket Board.  Ordered to pay a fine of 3,00,000 Afghanis (about Rs 2,80,130), Shahzad will have to return to ­Afghanistan.

Spotted: Pillion With Paws

A leopard took a motorcycle ride to hospital in UP’s Maharajganj district recently. Two forest department emp­loyees found the animal lying unconscious and informed a ranger, who quickly arrived on the scene with his assistants. The ranger called for a cage to take the leopard to a veterinary hospital, but there was a risk that waiting too long would prove fatal for the animal. Thus, two of the staff lifted it onto a motorcycle and transported it, heedless of personal risk. The DFO was reported as saying that the big cat responded well to treatment, and that they were trying to find out why leopards were getting sick—ano­ther one was found dead in the area last month.

No Sullan Retirement

Former military dictator Pervez Musharraf, the most powerful man in Pakistan barely a decade ago, is now one of the most controversial individuals in the country.

The list of charges levelled against Musharraf in his own country never seems to end. They have ranged from treason for sacking senior judges to other misdemeanours while in power. Now he is being accused of handing over Pakistanis to foreigners in exchange for currency.

Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and president of the National Commission for Enforced Disappearances, said on Monday that, during Musharraf’s regime, over 4,000 Pakistanis were handed over to foreigners for US dollars.

The News International reported that, while briefing the ­National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights over the issue of missing persons, Iqbal said that 70 per cent of the missing individuals were involved in ‘militancy’, and that recovered individuals were often unwilling to share details because they “were too scared to open up about their experiences.” Iqbal deplored the cause of this fear, arguing that “a terrorist’s family should not be labelled terrorists.”

Musharraf created history a few years ago when he became the first senior general in the country to be put on trial for treason. Interestingly, he was charged not for the military coup he staged to oust Nawaz Sharif in 1999, but for dismissing a number of sitting judges by declaring a state of emergency.

Ultimately, the army and the judiciary reached a ­compromise that allowed them to avoid embarrassment by letting Musharraf go to the UAE to see his ‘ailing mother’. When he returned home a few years later, he was quietly encouraged to retire into a quiet life.

The current charges are no less serious.

Iqbal said that, during Musharraf’s tenure, the then interior minister Aftab Sherpao handed over 4,000 Pakistanis to foreigners. He added that Musharraf had himself admitted to having done so and that Parliament did not raise its voice against the former president and interior minister. “He should have been questioned according to [sic] which law he handed people to foreign elements,” Iqbal added.

The NAB chairman linked these “foreign elements” to foreign NGOs working in Pakistan, adding, “These NGOs are working for foreign elements...If I had the authority, I would have placed a ban on the organisations.”

Illustrations by Sajith Kumar