Disket Document: Stadium Roundtable 1
Cinematographer: Shaina Anand
Duration: 00:35:40; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 39.842; Saturation: 0.150; Lightness: 0.369; Volume: 0.360; Cuts per Minute: 10.568; Words per Minute: 65.677
Summary: A number of historians, journalists and activists are invited to Disket in the Nubra Valley, Ladakh to participate in National Integration Conference. However, it appears that the same has been misrepresented, on arrival they are told that the actual event is the celebration of "Buddh Mahotsav", the first in a series of Nation-wide Events (the next was to be in Arunachal Pradsh) master-minded and organised by the VHP. What were a bunch of left-liberal folks to do? They performed their speeches for the good citizens and children of Disket, and talked late into the night.
It turned out that this part of the "Buddh Mahotsav" was organised along with 'Operation Sadbhavana', an insidious army-led initiative that was only very recently introduced (mid 2001) by Maj. Gen. Arjun Ray. The cultural festival of Ladakhi dance and music was organised by the Army officers' wives. Our delegates found themselves co-opted into this farce as they addressed this vast crowd in Hindi, Urdu or English on the topic of National Integration, the speeched interspersed with various performances. This is part one of the 'Stadium Roundtable.'
(While their conference was completely hijacked by the VHP machinery, the colleagues did have many candid and sometimes intense discussions over meal times, etc. For more, search for 'Disket')
A group of people comprising of Indian journalists, activists and historians are invited to Disket in Nubra Valley
, Ladakh (close to Siachen Glacier) to participate in a 'National Integration' Seminar. Shaina Anand arrives by flight to Leh, and without getting the opportunity to acclimatise, travels by Khardung La, the highest motorable road to Ladakh. The next morning they wake up to find themselves being attended by a 'host' who welcomes them to the 'Buddh Maha Utsav' organised by the VHP. A large gathering awaits the commencement of the program. Two girls play with a dupatta
(a long scarf).
Buddha Maha Utsav
Nubra Valley, Ladakh
The crowd restlessly awaits the beginning of the program, and the
mountains loom on the horizon.
Buddha Maha Utsav
A man addresses the crowd in what seems to be Ladhaki
. Young monks sit in a line near the rostrum. The camera shows a shot of people sitting on the stage.
Buddha Maha Utsav
A group of police constables with lathis
(sticks) in their hands, try to make people in the crowd sit in an orderly fashion. A row of Buddhist Monks
dressed in their traditional red and yellow robes sit adjacent to the rostrum. The camera pans to the crowd, a police constable guides an elderly woman to her seat. There is a shot of the guest speakers sitting on the dais.
Brothers and sisters, we've gathered here today on the third day of the Buddha Mahaotsav for a vichar ghoshti
(seminar). In it we will throw some light on why we are celebrating the Mahotsav. What is it that we are trying to achieve by celebrating the Mahotsav? The guest speakers present here today will throw some light upon these topics. For your information the guests seated on the dais are Sri Sukumar Murari Narayan Ji
, chief of Bureau, Frontline; Sri Kamal Mitra Chenoy, associate professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University; Sri Irfan Engineer, Indian Council of Secularism; Sri Siddharth Varadarajan, senior assistant director, Times of India, Delhi; Madam Meena Menon, Trade Union activist, Mumbai; Dr. Subhadra Anand, Principal, National College, Mumbai; Maulana Akhtar Hussain Dehlvi, Delhi; ______, Central Institute of Buddhist Studies.
The speaker introduces the first guest speaker, Irfan Engineer, to the crowd.
They reached here last night from Delhi and Bombay. For your information they boarded a flight from Bombay yesterday and reached Leh, they were brought here overnight. They faced some problems in Khardung La, but they've made an adventurous journey to reach here and we are grateful for their presence. Irfan Engineer will now express his views on the reason behind this seminar, the meaning of the Mahotsav, and the reason behind celebrating it. And also the experiences that he will take back with himself to Mumbai. I request him to please come and take over the mike - Irfan Engineer Ji
IE: I'm extremely grateful to the Tourism Department of Jammu and Kashmir Government, the Indian Government Tourism department, and all the other people who've helped organise this Mahotsav. They've organised this seminar on a very important issue facing our country today.
Irfan Engineer addresses the crowd. He thanks the state and the central government for organising a seminar on "National Integration," an important topic contiguous with the socio-cultural and political scenario in India.
IE gives a speech on national integration.
IE: We came here last night. And today, when we saw this gathering, your interest in this important issue has affected me greatly. You have shown up in such great numbers. Children, elderly people, women and men; all of you have come to hear about this important issue. There are other speakers here today and I won't take too much of your time.
IE talks about how almost all the countries in the world have discounted the divisive factors that may be inherent in their history, geography and culture in favour of national integration.
IE: If we look at the world today, there isn't a single country where people who speak different languages, people who follow different religions, people from different cultures, don't live together. There were some countries in Europe where people from just one religion or language used to live. But if you look at the world today, all the countries have to follow multiplicity. Similarly in our country too, people who speak different languages, follow different religions and cultures, live together.
IE hints at the ideology of false homogeneity being popularised by right-wing Hindu nationalism.
IE: The important question that arises is 'how do we live with this multiplicity?' People who are living with this multiplicity are living with diverse cultures. Earlier, it was believed that one country should have just one culture, many political parties and people still believe this. They also believe that our country will remain united if people from only one culture reside in it. Many people with this mentality still live amongst us.
IE speaks of how the healthy intermingling of culture is being stopped by peoole who propagate a religious, cultural and ethnic homogeneity.
IE: _________________ that with time a confluence of all cultures will occur, and out of this confluence a new culture will emerge. If you look at the world today, you will find that this culture is changing. Some people are stopping this from happening. The are stopping culture and religion from evolving. They are not giving it the freedom to bloom.
He says that the intermingling of various cultures produces an interesting and vibrant blend, and cites India's cultural diversity as an example of this.
IE: Because of this attitude of intolerance, violence will increase. We have two models that we can choose from. The first is called a melting pot model, in which different cultures intermingle to create a new culture. But these concepts are slowly dying out, they are being pushed to the background. The other new concept that is being followed by all the countries in the world is the 'different dishes in a plate' model. When we eat good food in one plate, it has dishes of different colours and tastes. Everyone likes it, it's fun to eat a wide variety of foods. But if you keep eating the same dish everyday, you will get tired of it. With time the people of the world are accepting the model that exists in India. North India, South India, North East India they all have their own distinct unique cultures. And the diversity of all these cultures enriches and contributes to the the culture of India as a whole.
He says that if the diversity of India's culture is to be sustained, then caste, culture and religion-based discrimination should be abolished.
IE: This cultural diversity increases India's appeal in the world. If people from different cultures want to stay together in peace, it is important that the roots of democracy become stronger. And all cultures and languages should be given a chance to evolve. There should be no discrimination against anyone. No culture, caste or religion should be considered greater that the others. There should be no caste-based differentiation between people.
IE concludes his speech by stating that if people from different cultures are treated equally then an enriching cultural dialogue might commence.
There should be no gender discrimination. Everyone should be accorded the same respect. If we strengthen the roots of democracy and give people who believe in different religions, speak different languages and follow different cultures an opportunity to progress with the country, only then will we be able to establish peace. Further that, that we'll be able to start a conversation between different cultures. Through this we will get a chance to learn from our differences. By having dialogues about the cultures of each other. And these dialogues will give us an opportunity to learn a lot of new things. It will strengthen the roots of our nation and it's unity. I'll conclude with this as there are many other speakers waiting to address you. I'm very glad that I got an opportunity to address you all. Thank you.
Speaker: Now Madam Meena Menon who has come from Mumbai. I have already introduced her to you, she is a trade union activist. I would request her to please address us. I want to inform all those present here that we have some twelve speakers so we must keep a check on time, because at intervals we will also present some cultural programs. So that this seminar doesn't become boring, especially for children. I would request the speakers to please keep this in mind. Thank you. Madam Meena Menon.
The speaker introduces Meena Menon, a Political and Trade Union Activist (Vice President, Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti (Mill Workers' Action Committee) and Senior Associate, Focus on the Global South).
MM: The people of Ladhak who are present here, the people from the tourism department, and other people associated with organizing this program - we are grateful to you for being invited here. We've been given a chance to come here and meet you people. We did face some problems on the way. We reached Leh yesterday, we got a car from there and reached Khardung La, when we reached there we started puking. We are not accustomed to staying at such high altitudes. Our colleague Maulvi Sahab started experiencing a lot of discomfort. I puked thrice on the way. And I wondered about how the people who reside here go about with their taxing work including farming, construction, etc. And about how they might be going about with doing different kinds of agricultural activities, while facing the harsh climatic conditions that exist here.
Meena Menon opens her speech by describing the discomfort they experienced during the journey to Nubra, through Khardung La
up till Leh
, and marvels at the ability of the natives to whether the elements.
MM expresses her joy at being in Nubra and says that the people of the region are not isolated in their struggles with various issues. She says that the region needs unity and peace which is born of respect for the differences of others and not out of a forced homogeneity.
MM: We've read a lot about Buddhism, especially the form of Buddhism that is practised in this region. We had read about the culture here, and when we got a chance to come here we were overjoyed. We got a chance to see the things that we had previously seen in movies, in reality, and we are extremely happy about it. We won't give long speeches, and you also haven't come here to listen to us talk. We just want to say that it was a pleasure to see you all. As citizens of this country we believe that the questions and issues that you have, are ours too. And we want peace to reign in this area. If we would have asked Lord Buddha what should be done for the population that resides here, the answer to this question would have definitely been peace, unity. But along with unity, respect is also required. Unity should exist, but not in a way that it has been forced on people. As part of this unity, respect for the choices of others should also exist. This is the response Lord Buddha would have given to our question.
MM concludes her speech.
MM: The people of this country must unite of their own will. We have come here today to unite with you. And we are extremely happy to have met you. Thank you.
Speaker: I request Sri Siddharth Varadarajan, the senior assistant director of Times of India to share his thoughts with us. And after that we'll present a cultural program to you.
The speaker invites Siddharth Varadarajan, the former senior assistant director of Times of India, and current Strategic Affairs Editor at The Hindu.
Times of India
SV voices that want to destroy the cultural diversity of India by proclaiming that uniformity was the only way to keep the country united.
Speaker: Siddharth Varadarajan Ji
SV: Brothers and sisters from Nubra, I'm really happy that I've been given a chance to come to Ladakh amidst all of you. I've got the chance to look closely at your culture. I agree with the views the speakers who came before me have expressed, on national integration or national unity. I don't want to repeat those points, but here is one important point that I'd like to make. In the current scenario in Hindustan, there are many voices that are proclaiming that if our country is to remain united, we will have to distance ourselves from the different languages, cultures and religions in our country. And adopt one religion, one language and one culture.
SV states that the diversity of India contributes to its greatness.
SV: The people who are promoting this ideology are the ones who are weakening our country and unity. Hindustan is a great nation, and it's greatness depends on the fact that many different kind of people stay here and consider it their home. The functioning of our country depends on the hard work of different kinds of people. And if we really want to preserve the unity of this country, we will have to accord due respect to the different people and cultures that exist here. We shouldn't think that one language or religion is better than the others.
SV states that for the development of the people from Nubra the medium of education, communication and media should be the local language.
SV: Secondly, we have already witnessed in the world that the smallest of sects, with a population of 10 to 20 lakhs
(hundred thousand) are progressing at a fast rate. Because the medium of education is in their languages, books and newspapers are printed in their languages, television and radio programs are made in it. I think that for Hindustan's progress the different languages that are spoken in the country should be encouraged. The Ladakhi language should be granted a special status and it should be used as the medium of education for the children here. Even at higher college levels, the language of the people should be recognized. Similarly, the language and culture of people in other parts of the country should also be granted respect. I believe that this will strengthen our nation and help it move towards progress at a faster pace. Thank you.
A representative from the Army School of Pratap Pura talks about an army initiative, called Sadbhavna, to improve education in the Nubra region. He also introduces a dance performance which is to be presented by children from the Nubra Valley.
Now we will take some time out of this vichar goshthi
(seminar) for a program that has been organized for your entertainment. I hope you will like this program prepared by the children. I would like to remind you that during this seminar a lot of people have stressed that we need to pay a lot of attention towards education. The Indian army has started a project called sadbhavna
. Good education is being provided under this project, not just in Nubra but the entire region. Our school, the Army ____ School is located in Pratap Pura.
I'm also a resident of the plains but I've never seen _____ being encouraged in any college. But at a primary level school in Pratap Pura a well roudede education is provided to all the students. As far as education is concerned I think that in some time Nubra will become ... Everyone calls it Ladhak, but I think that Nubra and Ladhak should be called jannat
(heaven). And that's because the children here are very talented and we are trying to showcase that talent for you. The showcasing of this talent will give rise to a new culture. These children will grow up to strengthen our country, our great nation which has unity in diversity. And now we would like to present to you a performance by children from the Nubra Valley the performed it for________ and they stood first in that competition and their performance was greatly appreciated. Without further ado we would like to present a song about Nubra valley, performed by Mariam Khatun and her group.The song is about the beauty of Nubra Valley,about it's waterfalls, it's atmosphere and it's flowers.The song is based on the story of a group of boys who come to Nubra from Leh and get so enchanted by it's beauty that they don't want to return.
Speaker: What is the reason behind celebrating the Buddha Mahotsav? It is a new beginning.
The children march their way to a space on the ground that has been cleared for the performance. An army javan
(lower level soldier) helps them take their place. An old lady, dressed in traditional Tibetan clothes, walks across the space while the kids continue dancing. Shot of a man with a mike, singing the song the children are dancing to.The children finish their performance and walk away in two neat files.
A group of monks are laughing on the stage. A group of really young monks sit
in a file eating raw Maggi (instant noodles).
Buddha Maha Utsav
Speaker: Luckily I'm the member of the _________. This raised a question about the Buddhist community in our country, the followers of Lord Buddha. Due to certain conditions, the existence of the people who are called traditional Buddhists, who are spread across the Himalayan region, are distanced from the mainstream. It is very important to create a link between their culture and the national mainstream. Because the Buddhist community which is hidden from the rest, in mountains and valleys; the richness of their cultural heritage should be mixed with the mainstream culture. It is very important to create a cultural linkage so that the attempt of national integration in our country can be strengthened. The borders of India lie in the Himalayan region, and the sacrifices of the people living here need to be recognised. We created a chain of events by organizing a festival through which the mainstream culture of the country can be fused with ours. And the beauty of unity in diversity that exists in our country can be encouraged.
The speaker discusses the need to encourage such festivals as they recognise and draw attention to rich cultures and traditions that are isolated from the national mainstream.
He concludes by informing the people of a number of festivals being organised to encourage tourist interest in the culture and region of Ladakh.
Speaker: This is the first time this festival has been organized in Ladakh. And for your information in Ladakh, we now celebrate he tourism festival for fifteen days in September, and the Sindhu Darshan starts in June. So we thought that this should be celebrated in Siachen, which is located some 55 kilometres away from here. We started out from the nearby river that flows across from here. And very soon we will be organizing a festival in Himachal and Sikkim.