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CULTURE-HERITAGE

1947 War: Time for Accountability

By suddenly inviting debate on the interlocutors report on Jammu and Kashmir, especially its startling suggestion to restore the State’s pre-1953 status, the Congress Party has virtually disowned the actions of its longest serving Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, thus diminishing the legitimacy and stature of the political dynasty descended from him. Some experts have added fuel to the fire by urging implementation of the report even though Parliament, political parties, and the nation have not yet studied it in depth.

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By suddenly inviting debate on the interlocutors report on Jammu and Kashmir, especially its startling suggestion to restore the State’s pre-1953 status, the Congress Party has virtually disowned the actions of its longest serving Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, thus diminishing the legitimacy and stature of the political dynasty descended from him. Some experts have added fuel to the fire by urging implementation of the report even though Parliament, political parties, and the nation have not yet studied it in depth.

Restoration of the pre-1953 status means a return to the stressful relationship between New Delhi and Srinagar that culminated in the arrest of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah on charges of conspiracy against the Indian State in August 1953. Since the J&K constitution came into effect only on 26 January 1957, pre-’53 status would return the State to a lawless limbo in which its ‘prime minister’ can choose freedom from Article 1 of the Indian Constitution which names the States and territories that shall be part of the First Schedule.

Sheikh Abdullah’s slipperiness in committing to the Indian Union after endorsing the Accession by Maharaja Hari Singh and persistent flirtation with the idea of an independent nation, forced the Centre to replace him with Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad. But Mr. Nehru failed to take the logical step of fully integrating the State with the Indian Union; his many grave blunders remain his lasting national legacy.

Mr. Nehru’s successors and protégés have long scuttled attempts at public scrutiny of these mistakes. But time has eroded their power and many facts are entering the public domain. Dr. S.P. Bakshi, Chief Education Officer of the State armed forces and a member of the Maharaja’s Durbar, published his reminiscences of the 1947-48 war before he passed away some weeks ago, just short of his 99th birthday.

Though brief, The Inside Story of Jammu & Kashmir State (Knowledge World, Delhi, 2012) is a fascinating narrative of that troubled time. Dr Bakshi for the first time brings on record the fact that a Rasputin-like sadhu known as ‘Mahantji’ played a crucial role in delaying the accession to India by giving the Maharaja delusions of grandeur, telling him of his visions of the State flag flying from Lahore fort and beyond, thus causing immense suffering to the people.

Dr Bakshi’s most sensational disclosure concerns New Delhi’s cavalier disregard of Major Onkar Singh Kalkat’s direct warning about the impending attack, an episode that deserves detailed exposure, with the guilty named. As part of its plans, Pakistan suddenly imposed an economic blockade upon J&K, causing grave hardship to the people. This should have rung alarm bells in Delhi as all supplies of arms and ammunitions to the State were also cut off as all ordnance depots were in Pakistan.

The overall action seems to have been supervised by Gen. Frank Messervy, the British chief of the Pakistan Army, though the main planning was by Maj.-Gen. Akbar Khan who recruited 60,000 soldiers demobilized from Punch area after WWII, ex-INA soldiers, and tribals lured with the promise of loot and plunder. Orders were issued through DO Letters marked Personal/Top Secret and signed by the British C-in-C of the Pakistan Army within days of the creation of Pakistan. In other words, it was a Raj conspiracy!

At that time, Major Onkar Singh Kalkat was serving as Brigade Major at Bannu Frontier Brigade Group under Brig C.P. Murray, who was away at Mural outpost on 20 August 1947. On his behalf, Major Kalkat received and opened an envelope marked Personal/Top Secret and found within a detailed plan of Operation Gulmarg. He hastily called Brig Murray, who told him not to breathe a word to anyone or he (Kalkat) would not be allowed to leave Pakistan alive. Perhaps the Brigadier alerted the Pakistani authorities anyway, for Kalkat was placed under house arrest. He made a daring escape and reached Ambala on 18 October 1947 and took a goods train to Delhi.

The next day, he met senior officers of the Indian Army and told them of the Pakistan plan to launch Operation Gulmarg. But they dismissed his claims, for reasons that deserve to be made public, as also the identities of the officers concerned. It is inconceivable that this news would not have been made known to Governor General Louis Mountbatten, Prime Minister Nehru, and the then Defence and Home Ministers. Nothing is known of their reactions then, or later.

Yet, in this context, we must question the unwarranted delay in sending troops to relieve the besieged Sate once the invasion began, on the pretext of first getting the Instrument of Accession signed by the Maharaja and Governor General. Why did Lord Mountbatten insist on the loss of a valuable day? Why were Jawaharlal Nehru and even Vallabhbhai Patel so much in thrall of Mountbatten that they couldn’t challenge his evil advice that cost the nation so dearly? At least Patel realised that going to the UN Security Council would be ruinous to India.

The UN helped to deprive India of the northern territory of Gilgit, necessary for the British to oversee Russia. Britain had leased Gilgit from the Maharaja and built an all-weather airfield and roads between Gilgit Agency and the North West Frontier Province. Indeed, Gilgit was integrated with NWFP and run from Peshawar. When Gilgit was returned in August 1947, Rao Bahadur Brig. Gansara Singh, General Staff Officer of J&K State Forces, was appointed Governor. On midnight, 31 October 1947, Major Brown of the Gilgit Scouts surrounded the Governor house and arrested Gansara Singh; the Gilgit Government was handed over to Pakistan a few days later.

Dr Bakshi speaks eloquently of the personal valour of Brig. Rajinder Singh, Chief of Staff of the J&K State Forces, who gave up his life to save Srinagar valley by blowing up the vital Uri bridge and delaying the raiders by a crucial 48 hours. His posthumous award of a Mahavir Chakra is still perceived by many as niggardly. Through vivid snapshots, Bakshi unveils the enormous sacrifices made by the officers and men of the J&K State Forces, which made them the only force from a Princely State to be absorbed en bloc into the Indian Army as a separate unit, the Regiment of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles.

A major triumph of this war was Maj.-Gen. Timmy Thimaya’s audacious feat of scaling the inhospitable Zojila Pass with Stuart tanks, the highest recorded use of tanks in battle anywhere in the world –11000 ft.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this writing are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of League of India, its Editorial Board or the business and socio-political interests that they might represent.
This article was first published on Vijayvaani website here
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CULTURE-HERITAGE

Varanasi to Hold a Two Day ‘Sanskriti Mahotsav’

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To celebrate the creative and cultural industries in Varanasi and to focus attention on the need for Swachhta by using cultural forms, a Sanskriti Mahotsav “Swachhagrah – Bapu ko Kaaryaanjali” is being organized on February 21-22 at the Man Mandir Ghat and Assi Ghat in Varanasi.

The Mahotsav will integrate the tangible and intangible heritage along the river-belt and will see the engagement of the academia, artists, artisans, writers, poets, environmental and cultural forums on the use of cultural expressions for conservation and protection of the river and the ancient city.

The Swachhtadrive will be steered by school-children affiliated to Ministry of Culture, Government of India’s Interpretation Centres through exhibitions, songs, puppetry, nukkad nataks and folk dances.

The 2-day event would focus on performances on the theme of ‘Swachhagraha’ presented under the rubric of ‘Swachhagraha: Bapu ko Karyanjali’.

The Mahotsav will cover a profusion of art forms from classical, folk music, dance and visual arts and would offer the chance to experience the best in established and emerging virtuosity. An exhibition on Varanasi curated by the National Archives will be showcased at the Man Mandir ghat to the creation of Virtual Museum.

The National Gallery of Modern Art in partnership with the Fine Arts School of BHU will conduct painting and terracotta-sculpture workshops for students of Cultural Interpretation Centres set up in several schools by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.

Installations and large canvases drawn by children on the theme of Swachhta will be exhibited at prominent places and ghats of the city. Buses, Boats provided by the District Administration and prominent walls will be covered with graffiti art and with multicoloured murals and tags celebrating the theme of ‘Swachhagraha: Bapu ko Kaaryaanjali’.

During the Swachhagraha Music and Dance Festival, the classical arts of Varanasi will be celebrated at a stage created at the Man Mandir ghat. On 21st February, the program will start with a tabla recital by five-year-old Avantika Mishra, granddaughter of Padma Vibhushan Pandit Kishan Maharaj.

The LIVE coverage of Ras Banaras Mahotsav can be seen on the Youtube channel of Sanskriti.goi from 6 PM on February 21 and February 22.

Children from the Interpretation Centres will perform Swachhta Geet. The duo of Pandit Narendra Mishra and Pandit Pooran Maharaj will perform on Sitar and Tabla respectively while Sanjeev and Ashwini Shankar will perform on Shahnai. In the dance segment, Saurav and Gaurav (from the Benaras Gharana) will perform Kathak dance.

A melange of colourful and traditional handicraft and textiles from Varanasi and other parts of the country will form part of a Crafts Bazaar at Assi Ghat. Art connoisseurs will get a chance to interact with artisans and watch their work in progress.

The bazaar will include folk performances by folk singers and dancers from different states with a special focus on Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, the states paired with Uttar Pradesh under the Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat matrix. A small food corner will also bring out the aroma of Varanasi and tribal cuisine from Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.

On the second day of the Mahotsav, the evening will open with the Swachhta Geet by children, followed by Malini Awasthi’s vocal rendition. She will be followed by Kathak dancer, Vishal Krishna. The event will end with Shruti Sadolikar’s classical rendition. Ravindra Jaiswal, MLA, Varanasi North, Dr Neelkanth Tiwari, MLA, Varanasi South, Saurabh Srivastav, MLA, Varanasi Cantt., Surendra Narayan Singh, MLA, Rohaniyan and Neel Ratan Singh Patel, MLA, Sevapuri will also grace the occasion.

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Global Theatre Olympics Arrives in India for the First Time

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The 8th Global Theatre Olympics will be inaugurated at the Red Fort in New Delhi on February 17, 2018, by Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu. This Global Theatre Festival is being held in India for the first time.

Addressing media persons at the National School of Drama in New Delhi today, the Minister of State for Culture (I/C) and Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Dr Mahesh Sharma said that it is for the first time in the history of independent India that a theatre festival of such a large magnitude is being organized.

The 51-day-long event will travel to 17 Indian cities with 450 shows, 600 ambience performances and 250 power packed youth forum shows. 25000 artists from across the globe will participate in the festival which will conclude on April 08, 2018 with a grand ceremony at the iconic Gateway of India in Mumbai.

Speaking on the occasion, the Acting Chairman of National School of Drama Society, Dr Arjun Deo Charan said, “We are extremely proud to bring the world’s largest theatre festival to India. During this 51-day long nationwide celebration of the 8th Theatre Olympics, we attempt to bridge the borders across countries through the call of theatre and engage in creating a global village”.

Prof. Waman Kendre, Director, National School of Drama said “We should be proud of our theatre legacy that is more than 2500 years old. This illustrious event provides a unique opportunity for cultural exchange through the medium of theatrical art. With this international event, we wish to express our theatre practices, its variations, philosophies and the sheer strength of our texts, narratives and ways of presentation in front of a global audience. In return we extend our arms to welcome the practices, ideologies and philosophies of visiting performers. The objective is to create a platform for conversation between voices of Indian and global artists with an intent to enrich our collective understanding and expression of art,”.

The theatrical extravaganza is being hosted in India by the National School of Drama under the aegis of Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The theme of the 8th Theatre Olympics is “Flag of Friendship” that aims to bridge borders and bring people of different cultures, beliefs and ideologies together through the medium of theatrical art.

The 8th Theatre Olympics is being organized with a budget of Rs.51.81 Crore and the performances will be held in 30 Indian languages, 15 foreign languages as well as non-verbal languages.

Participants from 30 countries including Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Mauritius, Nepal, Poland, Russia, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, U.K and U.S.A would showcase their acumen in theatre. The foreign invitees are Theodoros Terzopoulos (Chairman of International Committee of Theatre Olympics, Greece), Tadashi Suzuki (Japan), Robert Wilson (U.S.A), Liu Libin (China), Jaroslaw Fret (Poland), SahikaTekand (Turkey), Eugenio Barba (Denmark), Romeo Castellucci (Italy), Heiner Goebbels (Germany), PippoDelbono (Italy), Jan Fabre (Belgium). Among the Indian theatre maestros are RatanThiyam, AlyquePadamsee, Rudra Prasad Sengupta, M.K Raina, Raj Bisaria, Bansi Kaul, Prof.Tripurari Sharma, Maya Rao and Soumitra Chatterjee.

Numerous allied activities like exhibitions, symposia, ‘Interface’ and workshops with well-known academicians, authors, actors, designers and directors are scheduled to take place across 17 cities.

The allied programs would boast of 60 ‘Living Legends’ series and 50 ‘Master Classes’. The 8th Theatre Olympics would also include 2 international seminars in Delhi and Mumbai with 6 national seminars in Bhopal, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Kolkata and Varanasi.

Theatre and film veterans of the likes of Shabana Azmi, Paresh Rawal, Manoj Joshi, Himani Shivpuri, Seema Biswas and Saurabh Shukla will also take part during this grand theatrical treat.

The foreign invitees are Theodoros Terzopoulos (Chairman of International Committee of Theatre Olympics, Greece), Tadashi Suzuki (Japan), Robert Wilson (U.S.A), Liu Libin (China), Jaroslaw Fret (Poland), SahikaTekand (Turkey), Eugenio Barba (Denmark), Romeo Castellucci (Italy), Heiner Goebbels (Germany), PippoDelbono (Italy), Jan Fabre (Belgium). Among the Indian theatre maestros are RatanThiyam, AlyquePadamsee, Rudra Prasad Sengupta, M.K Raina, Raj Bisaria, Bansi Kaul, Prof.Tripurari Sharma, Maya Rao and Soumitra Chatterjee.

During the festival, plays will be held in Agartala, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Guwahati, Imphal, Jaipur, Jammu, Kolkata, Mumbai, Patna, Thiruvananthapuram and Varanasi.

About Theatre Olympics

The Theatre Olympics was established in 1993 at Delphi, Greece. Being an international theatre festival, the Theatre Olympics presents some of the greatest theatre practitioners from around the world. It is a platform for theatrical exchange, a gathering place for students and masters, where a dialogue despite ideological, culture and language differences is encouraged.

Since 1993, the Theatre Olympics has been held seven times in the following countries: Japan (1999), Russia (2001), Turkey (2006), South Korea (2010), China (2014), Poland (2016). The theme of the latest edition of Theatre Olympics being held in India is “Flag of Friendship”. This most awaited event of world theatre in India attempts to bring all the creative minds from across the globe to this ‘NatyaMahakumbh’.

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CULTURE-HERITAGE

Veteran Ottanthullal Artist Geethanandan Passes Away During Performance

Acclaimed Ottanthullal artiste Kalamandalam Geethanandan passed away while delivering a performance on Sunday at Avittathur, Kerala.

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Acclaimed Ottanthullal artiste Kalamandalam Geethanandan passed away while delivering a performance on Sunday at Avittathur, Kerala.

The 58-year-old theatre artiste and film actor collapsed on stage in the middle of the act. He was given first aid and rushed to the hospital. However, he could not be saved.

Geethanandan had given more than 5,000 stage shows since the age of nine. He became the teacher of Ottanthullal at Kerala Kalalamandalam in 1983 and remained the head of the department for over 25 years. His contribution to Kerala’s classical theatre art form is immense.

He was also the first Ottanthullal artiste to perform in France in 1984, according to media reports.

Geethanandan had also worked in the Malayalam film industry. He made his big screen acting debut with Kamaladalam, which had Mohanlal in the lead role, in 1992. He also acted in films like Thooval Kottaram, Manasinakkare, Narendran Magan Jayakanthan Vaga, among others.

Malayalam actor Kavya Madhavan learnt Ottanthullal under Geethanandan’s guidance. Celebrities and high-profile people from different walks of life expressed their condolences on Twitter.

“The legendary Ottanthullal artiste Shri Kalamandalam Geethanandan passes away on stage, right in the middle of his performance in Avitatthur temple in Kerala! What a dream death for any performing artiste! Prayers and condolences! Atma Shanti!,” tweeted author and art critic Veejay Sai.

Ottanthulal is a classical dance form from Kerala, performed by very few artists now. Thullal, a solo performance, based on poetry combines dance and recitations, is one of the oldest art forms of Kerala. It finds its origins in the Natya Shastra, belonging to the 2nd century B.C. Verses of the renowned 18th century poet Kunchan Nambiar are often used for Ottanthulal performances.

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