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Posts Tagged ‘Delhi

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Yogendra Yadav is gearing up for the Haryana Assembly elections. As he criss-crosses the state, the AAP leader tells Sonia Sarkar that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s electoral campaign was brilliant and that he wants to learn from it

Some say the bubble’s burst, but Yogendra Yadav will have none of that. He has hit the road and is travelling across Haryana to talk to workers of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which emerged with a bang last year and now appears to have dwindled into a whimper. Yadav, the soft-spoken face of the party, is gearing up for the polls in Haryana, slated to be held later this year.

Clearly, AAP — Arvind Kejriwal’s political alternative — is putting its house in order. “We have to focus on our sangathan (organisation), sampark (connect with people) and sambad (communication) before the Assembly elections,” Yadav says, talking about the party’s new programme, Mission Vistaar. “We are discussing the lessons that we have learnt from the Lok Sabha elections.”

AAP’s rise and fall took place almost at the same velocity. It rose to its peak by winning 28 of the 70 seats in the Delhi elections in 2013, and almost turned to dust a few months later, winning only four of the 400 seats it contested in the Lok Sabha elections held this summer.

Among those who lost — a grand list that also includes party leader Arvind Kejriwal — was Yadav, whose 80,000 votes from Gurgaon put him in the fourth place.

“In the course of campaign, I knew I was No. 3. I didn’t know I would come down to No. 4. That was a disappointment,” he says.

Yadav, occasionally wearing the party’s trademark boat-shaped cap and otherwise fiddling with it, is on his way from Panipat to Ambala, where he has a meeting with party leaders. Our conversation continues as he stops at a roadside dhaba for a cup of tea, which he has with the paranthas and aloo sabzi that his sister has packed for him.

He plans to travel to all 21 districts of Haryana to understand how to make a fresh start before the state polls. “We are trying to reach the last person in every district,” he says.

The Lok Sabha poll results came as a shock to AAP leaders, who had thought they’d perform a lot better than they did. Party chief Kejriwal, in fact, had claimed that it would win 100 seats. “That was his political judgement. Before the Delhi elections, he’d said we’d get 47 seats, but we got 28,” Yadav says.

“Getting 100 seats or so was an unrealistic hope. I have a technical background. I didn’t say a word on the number of seats because I knew we were going for a single digit win,” the psephologist adds.

But he also believes that if the euphoria that was created after the Delhi victory had continued till the end of the general elections, the party could have ended up with 100 seats. “Dilli chunaao ke baad hamari aadat kharab ho gayi thi (we got spoiled after the Delhi elections). That time, our feet were not on the ground. That sort of quick success brings you to power sooner than you deserve. But the people punished us for quitting Delhi,” he admits, referring to AAP’s decision to exit power after ruling for 49 days. The excuse was the failure to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill — an anti-graft platform that the AAP rode to power on.

The buzz in political circles is that it was Yadav who advised Kejriwal to step down.

“I shared the view that if we could not pass the Jan Lokpal Bill in Delhi we had no moral right to remain in the government. But I wanted this decision to be taken in consultation with the people, which did not happen,” Yadav rues.

The differences of opinion within the AAP are out in the open. People have been walking out of the party ever since the poll debacle. Yadav, too, resigned from the political affairs committee last month. In a letter to his colleagues, he referred to the lack of organisational building, absence of mechanism for consulting volunteers and policy deficit as among the many drawbacks in the party.

“This is not the first time that I have raised these questions. This time the public got to know about my concerns because the letter was leaked. Though it is a cause of embarrassment that it is out in the public, I am not ashamed of what I said,” adds Yadav, whose resignation was not accepted by Kejriwal.

In his letter, he said Kejriwal behaved like a party “supremo” and not a leader. It’s not a subject that he wants to elaborate on, but says, “I write more carefully than I speak, so I would rather that my written words be trusted.”

But Kejriwal, he adds, has an “extraordinary ability” to pick a single relevant fact from a heap of irrelevancies. “He has a superhuman capacity to remain focused. He has the gift of bringing people together.”

Yadav and Kejriwal have known each other from the time Kerjiwal ran a non- government organisation called Parivartan to press for the implementation of the Right to Information Act. Yadav had held public hearings on the then newly-appointed Central Information Commission on behalf of Parivartan.

But it was Anna Hazare’s drive against corruption in 2011 that brought the two together, though Yadav had his doubts about the movement.

“I thought it was a very positive movement but didn’t like it the way they were carrying it forward. I told Kejriwal that if he wanted to do satyagraha, he had to read Gandhi. I thought he would never get back to me because not many people like criticism. But he did, and asked me to be a part of the movement. And I joined them.”

Yadav — with his well-modulated voice and felicity with words — was soon one of the leaders of the party that was formed in late 2012. It helped that he spoke both Hindi and English fluently. “I learnt my Hindi from textbooks and Doordarshan. So my Hindi does not bear any regional influences,” says Yadav, dressed in a blue cotton kurta with white pyjamas.

Originally from Saharanwas, near Rewari in Haryana, Yadav, now 50, grew up in Rajasthan’s Sri Ganganagar, where his father was a lecturer in economics.

Yadav says that his father was seven when he saw his own father, a hostel warden in a Haryana school, being killed in a communal riot in Hissar in 1936. “The rioters wanted the Muslim children in the hostel,” he says. “My grandfather told the rioters he would rather have his head chopped. So they chopped off his head. My father saw it all happening,” Yadav narrates.

It was this incident — and the Hindu-Muslim killings during Partition — that made his secular father name him Salim. AAP workers brought the name up during Yadav’s electoral campaign in Haryana, leading to a barrage of scornful tweets and comments on social media sites, describing it as a gimmick aimed at the Muslim vote.

But though the name is used by some friends and family, most people know him as Yogendra. Yadav explains that he asked his parents to change his name because his Muslim name led to taunts in school when he was a small boy. “So I was rechristened Yogendra,” he says.

Unfortunately, he adds, the communal divide that his father witnessed as a child continues to haunt India. “The new generation of India wants to move forward. They don’t want to be in the shadow of 1984 or 2002 but politics will not allow them to do so. It wants to drag them back,” he says.

His own political leanings were given shape when he was studying in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University by socialist leader Kishan Patnaik, who headed a political body called Samata Sangathan.

“My initiation into public life, in fact my understanding of politics, dates back to that period. But party politics of the visible kind is a new thing in my life,” he says.

Yadav, who taught politics at Punjab University for eight years, joined the New Delhi-based think tank Centre for the Study of Developing Studies in 1993. Under the United Progressive Alliance government, he was a member of the National Advisory Council, from which he resigned, and the University Grants Commission, from which he was removed last year.

A political observer for many years and an able number cruncher, the Phanishwar Nath Renu fan now finds himself knee-deep in politics, leaving him with little time for reading or writing (“that’s a deep regret”), or for his family — wife Madhulika Banerjee, who teaches political science in Delhi University, daughter Sufi, 15, and son, Sahej, 10.

“The first thing I do every morning is check the newspapers to see if there is a stupid story about AAP,” he says.

He also wants to learn some lessons from the Bharatiya Janata Party’s electoral triumph. “It was a brilliant campaign executed to near perfection. If you get two seats in Parliament, you should not lose hope, you should continue to work,” he says, referring to the BJP’s 1984 electoral defeat which left it with just two members of Parliament. “One needs to be consistent for a long time to be able to achieve anything,” he says.

Yadav is doing that, as AAP gets ready to rewrite its own story.

 

Neha Taneja does not want to step out of her house. For almost a week, the 21-year-old Delhi student has stayed home, not willing to go to a pub or a movie. “I fear that if I go out, it will be my turn to get raped,” she says.

 Taneja’s concerns are real. Last Sunday’s incident of a brutal rape and assault have instilled a sense of fear in the minds of Delhi women. Six men raped a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus, beat her and her male friend with iron rods, and then threw them off the bus.

Spread over 1,482 square kilometres, Delhi — famous for its historical monuments, broad roads and butter chicken — is now being seen as a city that has no place for women. Not surprisingly, the media have started calling it the rape capital of India.

Statistics corroborate the fact that Delhi is unsafe for women. This year so far, 661 rape cases were reported in the city, according to National Crime Records Bureau figures. Last year, there were 572 reported rape cases — far higher than such incidents in Mumbai (221), Bangalore (97), Chennai (76) and Calcutta (46). According to government data, rapes per lakh population are higher in Delhi than in any of the metros. Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh has the highest rate (7.3) in the country, but experts say because the city is a small town with a smaller population than Delhi’s, the number of rapes in Delhi far exceeds those in the MP town.

“There has been a 20 per cent rise in the number of complaints related to sexual assault that we have received over the past two years,” says Nilanju Dutta, manager, violence intervention team, Jagori, a Delhi-based women’s organisation.

What makes Delhi so unsafe?

A combination of factors, say experts — the ever-expanding city has low police vigil and an ever growing migrant population. “The city is being stretched from every corner. It is not possible to set up police stations near every new colony,” says a senior Delhi police official.

The porous borders that the city shares with states such as Haryana and Uttar Pradesh also make it unsafe. “Many crimes are committed by migrant drivers coming from neighbouring states who get drunk and harass women,” says the police official.

But the blame cannot be blindly put on migrant workers because the city’s rich have a criminal record too. “A group of neo-rich has come up in the city. They have money but little education. Often, being intimidated by the English-speaking crowd, they pick up fights in pubs and nightclubs and vent their frustration by sexually assaulting women,” says the officer. And there are enough cases of rapes being committed by the powerful and affluent.

The city — with its vast fleet of vehicles (7.2 million, exceeding the combined vehicle population of Chennai, Calcutta, Lucknow and Mumbai) — is difficult to manage. Rapes are often conducted in moving vehicles.  In 2005, a student from Mizoram was gang-raped in a moving car in Dhaula Kuan and also in 2010, a 30-year old BPO employee from the north-east.was also gang-raped in a moving car. “But it is not always possible to keep a check on every vehicle,” says Dharmendra Kumar, commissioner, Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order).

 Home to over 1.67 crore people, the city has also come up over the years as the workplace of diverse communities. In that sense, it’s unlike other cities which invoke a sense of regional pride. “There are many cities living together in Delhi without integrating with one another,” says social commentator Santosh Desai. “There is no sense of belonging. It is a users’ city where people come only for work opportunities with a strong sense of detachment,” feels Desai.

This detachment is often reflected on the streets, says criminal psychiatrist Rajat Mitra. “Women fight a lonely battle against harassment because Delhiites are mostly mute spectators,” he says.

The city has long stretches of lonely roads where the security cover is not adequate. One policeman is in charge of the security of 400 citizens and one public call response (PCR) van handles law and order over a 10-kilometre stretch.

“Further, the body language of policemen doesn’t generate confidence in women. The police also often refuse to lodge complaints of sexual assault,” says National Commission for Women chairperson Mamata Sharma.

There are others who believe the issue goes beyond the police. They say, the problem lies with the people of the city.

“The problem is with the patriarchal mindset of the people of north India. Also, traditionally, they lack sense of civility. They need to change their attitude towards women,” feels former additional commissioner of police Gautam Kaul.

Even though Kaul says that he is not stereotyping men of north India but he adds, “North Indian men don’t want women to be on par with them.Also, they cannot take rejection from women.”

In fact, in the recent rape case too, the accused driver Ram Singh raped the girl to teach her a lesson because she protested when Singh taunted her for being out so late with her male friend.

“Some men think that women are their property. They think they are entitled to sex and thereby control female sexuality at their will,” adds Supreme Court advocate Aarthi Rajan.

Some say that north Indian men are habituated to see docile women at home and therefore they expect similar behaviour from women on roads. “Women in north Indian households traditionally don’t protest. So men get aggressive and revengeful when a woman protests,” thinks Calcutta-based psychiatrist Dr Jai Ranjan Ram. He adds, “This is not a situation in a city like Calcutta or Mumbai.”

But the cops also say that these incidents get media coverage because they are occurring in the country’s capital. “Incidents like these happen in every city,” says the senior police official.

Kumar adds that Delhi’s track record is better than that of other cities. “The incidence of rape per lakh population is 52.8 in London and 10.6 in New York whereas it is 4.07 in Delhi.” Others, however, point out that rape has a wider definition in the West, where cases are also reported more often and taken more seriously.

But Kaul stresses that such incidents can be curbed if the law and order is improved. “Our past experience says that those who go scot free by doing petty crimes often get involved in ghastly acts like rape. The accused in this case too had a criminal background,” says Kaul.

Delhi is a city where people from across the country converge. But with increasing lack of security, not many would repeat the words made memorable by the 19th century poet Zauq: “Who could bear to leave behind the alleys of Delhi.” Who, a 21st century poet would write, would want to walk down dark alleys?