Thursday, April 29, 2021

Singer Ataullah Khan: Cult following in India and the urban legend about shooting the girl, recording from prison

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi 

Ataullah Khan, the folk singer from Pakistan, once used to have a cult following in India.

For decades, there was an urban legend, youths in any city would say--that Ataullah Khan had shot the girl whom he loved and who had cheated him to marry elsewhere.

People confidently told story about his hanging or pardon or how he was in jail, recording songs from there

I remember, many 'dil jale' youngsters spent precious years of their lives, listening to his songs, each & every day. It was said that 'T series cassettes' had got special permission to go to Pakistan to record him from prison. Worse, then the movie 'Bewafa Sanam' was released.

'Achcha sila diya tune mere pyaar ka....' was one of those songs that were played at eateries, tea shops, pan kiosks. Youngsters played them on their tape recorders or two-in-ones. It was a different era. Not everyone had girl friend.

A youth who felt that a girl cast a glance or smiled at him, once. He would imagine that she was in love with him. It was not the era of cell phones or even telephones. They remained obsessive about the girl and if she later ignored the boy, he would consider her a 'dagha-baz'. 

There was no dearth of such youngsters, in those days. The mohalla friends would know that the boy was after the girl and she had broken his heart. Sad songs and the image of Ataullah Khan taking revenge for a betrayal, were the medicine for these one-sided lovers too. 

Now, an interesting conversation:

"Kaa baat kar rahi ho buwa? Ataullah mar chuka hai?" -- '...Jis ladki se ye pyar karta tha, woh kisi aur se shadi kar lihis, ye ek dam gussa ho gaya. Katta le gaya, donon ko goli maar di, surrender kar diya. adalat phaansi ki saza suna dihis, tabhi to itna dard hai uske gaane mein"

That's how writer, Ashutosh Chacha, recalled how he got teary-eyed when his aunt told him this story, with conviction. It's published in Lallantop.  After internet came, it was found that this was untrue. He'd sung thousands of songs, was very much alive. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Madhya Bharat: History of a forgotten state that was merged to form Madhya Pradesh

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Madhya Bharat was a state that existed for several years after independence. 

Madhya Bharat had Gwalior and Indore as capitals. The former ruler of princely state of Gwalior was the nominal head, Raj Pramukh i.e. Governor. 

While the ruler of Indore state, Holkar, was Up-Rajpramukh, Deputy Governor. The state lost its identity after it was merged into MP in 1956.

Actually, MP had already been created in 1950 from Central Provinces* and other regions with Nagpur as its capital. But in 1956, the regions that had Marathi speaking populace, were ceded to Bombay presidency. 

And, the remaining parts of MP were merged with Madhya Bharat, Vindhya and Bhopal, a part C state, to create Madhya Pradesh, the biggest state in the country. Sironj, which is located in Vidisha district, but was part of Tonk state, was also included. This greater MP existed for almost 44 years, till 2000.

Chhattisgarh was carved out, and now MP's geographical area is comparative quite less. In May 1948,  24 princely states of Malwa region in Western part of central India, were brought together to create the state.

The biggest were Indore and Gwalior, the two princely states that formed 77% of the area of Madhya Bharat. Gwalior was much bigger, twice the size of Indore. The first chief minister of the state was Liladhar Joshi.

Later, Mishrilal Gangwal Jain became chief minister. For a while, Gopikrishnan Vijayvargiya was CM. He was a Jain from Gwalior. Takhatmal Jain was CM of the state, too. He was also known as Takhatmal Jalori and belonged to Vidisha. Joshi was CM from January 1948 till May 1949. 

Gopi Krishan Vijayvargiya was CM from May 1949 to October 17, 1950. Then, Takhatmal Jalori alias Takhatmal Jain took over from October 18, 1950 till March 2, 1952. From March 3, 1952 till April 15, 1955, Mishrilal Gangwal Jain was CM. Once again, from April 16, 1955 to October 31, 1956, Takhatmal Jain remained CM. 

In 1956, Ravishankar Shukla took over as first CM of the newly formed Madhya Pradesh. Interestingly, Jain dominance in politics continued in MP to an extent, later too. Three Jain leaders, PC Sethi, Virendra Saklecha and Sunderlal Patwa, became chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh.

Another aspect of the politics in Madhya Bharat, from 1948 to 1956, is how many leaders were cabinet, at one point of time five senior positions occupied by Jain leaders. However, none of them used Jain surname, and hence their identities were either of caste [Bania] or region--Indore, Gwalior etc. 

As a result, there was no focus on how one group got over-representation. Digambar Jains on the other hand use Jain as surname and the practice has now become more common in recent years. However, even today leaders like Pawan Ghuwara, Manohar Untwal or even Jayant Malaiya in MP, are not seen as Jain leaders, rather their identities are more of region or caste.

Indore a city, ruled by Holkars, before independence had businessmen and industrialists like Sir Seth Hukum Chand Jain. The financial power and the clout, helped the section in politics too. It took a long time before power equations changed. 

*After re-organissation of state, MP had an area of 4,43,452 sq kms. However, when Chhattisgarh was carved out, MP remained a state spread over 3,08,252 sq kilometers. Now Rajasthan is the biggest state in terms of area, followed by MP and then Maharashtra.

*Digambara generally prefer using 'Jain' as surname, unlike Shwetambars who continue to use their original surnames ranging from 

*CP and Berar, formerly

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The rise of Buddhism in India: Growth of Buddhist population after Dr Ambedkar's conversion

For centuries, Buddhism was a major religion in India. However, a period in Indian history, saw its downfall.

In twentieth century, once again Buddhism emerged as an important faith in India.

This was solely due to Dr BR Ambedkar's decision to embrace the religion.

This is reflected in figures. For example, at district level, the old Census report tells how there were just 149 Buddhists in the 1951 Census in this district. However, the figure had gone up to 2,34,112. 

Such a huge increase, an unprecedented rise, that changed demography of the place, was possible only due to an extraordinary event--Dr BR Ambedkar's decision to embrace Buddhism. The year when he converted to Buddhism at Deeksha Bhumi was 1956. 

Hence, the difference in figures between 1951 and 1961 is so stark for the place. The Mahar community followed him. Not just one district, in the entire Vidarbha region and other parts of Maharashtra it happened. The affect was visible all over Central India, up to parts of Madhya Pradesh, also.

Not just major cities and districts but up to towns and villages. Buddhism spread fast in this region. Though, the conversion to Buddhism later slowed down, but it's impact was huge in Maharashtra. Some conversions took place in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and other states in North India. But Maharashtra was the epicentre of this movement.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Journalism in India: No fresh idea, why not do a cover story on 'Indian Muslims'


It's the age-old system in Indian journalism.

For magazines, periodicals and even Sunday papers that needed a special story.

If you don't have a fresh story or run out of all the ideas, just focus on 'Indian Muslims'.

Do a story on 'Indian Muslims', with different angles!

Either term them 'backward' or do a story on 'Muslim vote bank', so-called appeasement or write about the clergy and institutions, terming them regressive. 

This is the level of understanding and it has not changed in the last 70-odd years. 

The stereotypes that journalists carry even after getting a degree, the perception about Muslims and the beliefs about Muslims as monolith who need to be patronized and told about 'their issues', it just never ends.

So even if the community may be doing well against all odds, improving on indicators, the preaching continues. Forget data, statistics. And, why not write on issues concerning the majority. Do a story on 'Indian Hindus', now. It is time to focus.

The superstitions or bigotry among majority community, the radicalism or growth of hate among large sections is a big story. In fact, writers who belong to particular religion or caste, aren't aware about their own misconceptions, how they inherit the false notions and how they are regressive despite education and degrees.

Else, what is the reason that you don't write about your own superstitions, bigotry, privilege, radicalism, superstitions or growing fundamentalism among this huge section! Many people do have serious issues, strange phobias, join these Right-wing groups, Dals and Senas, many of them are involved in lynchings or hate crimes, yet suffer from fears of Muslim takeover, these are strange complexes. Aren't they a community that needs to be covered?