2008 Malegaon blasts: NIA under fire from former prosecutor as it seeks to drop MCOCA charges

2008 Malegaon blasts: NIA under fire from former prosecutor as it seeks to drop MCOCA charges
Photo Credit: IANS
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“It is a political move,” former special counsel for National Investigation Agency, Rohini Salian said, when asked for a response to the NIA informing a special court that it intended to drop charges under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act against the 11 accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts.

The NIA requested the court on Tuesday that the framing of charges against the accused, including Lt Col Srikant Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, be deferred until it receives an opinion from the Attorney General whether charges under MCOCA could be dropped.

“How can they ask the Attorney General? How is he concerned with the case? The matter is sub judice (pending in court) and the case is at framing of charges. The court should decide the charges now. This is all politics. I have disassociated myself from the case now. They are cheating everyone (the society),” Salian said.

Salian, however, added that even if the stringent MCOCA charges were to be dropped, the case will not collapse and will stand on the basis of witnesses who have spoken of various conspiracy meetings.

Salian had charged last year that she had been under pressure from the NIA to go “soft” in the case since “the new government came to power” in May 2014.

‘Hindu terror group’

This was the first case where a “Hindu terror group” had been named. It pertains to a blast that took place in Bhiku Chowk, Malegaon, Maharashtra, on September 29, 2008, leaving four dead and injuring more than 70 people.

The case was first investigated by the Maharashtra Anti-terrorism Squad under the late Hemant Karkare. The trail led first to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur after a golden LML Freedom bike parked outside the blast site was found to have been allegedly registered under her name. Her arrest was followed by the arrest of Colonel Purohit, who was alleged to have provided the RDX for the blasts, and retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay.

The NIA took over the case on the direction of Home Ministry on April 13, 2011. Fourteen people were chargesheeted in the case including Pragya Singh Thakur, Major Ramesh Upadhyay, Lt Col Prasad Purohit, Sameer Kulkarni, Rakesh Dhawade, Sudhakar Dwivedi aka Dayanand Pandey, Sudhakar Chaturvedi, Pravin Takalki, Shivnarayan Kalsangra, Shyam Sahu, Ajay Rahirkar, Jagdish Mhatre. Two accused – Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange – are still absconding. The trial is yet to begin.

In April 2015, the Supreme Court said that the application of MCOCA for most of the accused, including Thakur and Purohit, in the case was “doubtful” as there was not enough evidence to show their involvement in the blasts, apart from the Malegaon one. The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad had applied MCOCA in the case on the basis of “continuing unlawful activity” of accused Rakesh Dhawade, a Pune-based antique arms collector, who was also arrested for two prior terror plots in Prabhani (bomb explosion in Mohmedia Masjid, Nanalpeth, Parbhani in 2003) and Jalna (bomb explosion in Kederia masjid in 2004).

The Supreme Court ordered the special judge to consider bail applications on the merits of the case and pass appropriate orders. While three accused – Shivnarayan Kalsangra, Shyam Sahu, Ajay Rahirkar, and Jagdish Mhatre – were given bail, the trial court refused bail to the main accused, including Purohit and Thakur.

Crucial witnesses

The NIA move puts a question mark on the confessions of three accused – Sudhakar Dwivedi aka Dayanand Pandey, Pravin Takalki, and Rakesh Dhanwade – recorded under MCOCA that support the case.

“We have judgements which say that now confessions can be used even in cases under Indian Penal Code. So I think we can use them still,” said Salian. But observers point to the legal troubles ahead as the case is based mostly on circumstantial evidence, with little direct evidence to implicate the accused.

To make matters worse, the alleged bombers in the case, Ramachandra Kalsangra and Pravin Dange, still remain at large. So, while the paper trail speaks of meetings for conspiracy, there is little information about the nuts and bolts of the case – the actual bombing.

“If MCOCA goes, the benefit of confessions go away,” rued special NIA counsel, Avinash Rasal. “Since I took over, we have disposed of 24 applications of bail or discharge,” he said. “Despite the Supreme Court judgement, we argued that MCOCA is applicable. And the court accepted it. We have given our 100%”.

The NIA’s legal cell, Rasal said, was not sure about the applicability of MCOCA. With the accused being acquitted from the Jalna blasts case in 2012, it becomes more difficult for the prosecution to argue about “continuing illegal activity”, on the basis of which MCOCA had been applied, he pointed out.

But Rasal hopes that the witnesses will support the case, unlike the 2007 Ajmer and Samjhauta Express blasts case, where many witnesses turned hostile. “The witnesses have to come and speak before the court,” he said. “We can lead the horse to the water, but you cannot make it drink.”

Defence lawyers point to the lack of evidence. “There is only evidence of the meetings which were all public meetings,” said Shrikant Shivade, who is representing Purohit. “None of them were closed door meetings. Besides, they were all unconnected with the blasts.”

Political move?

Naveen Chomal, the lawyer for many of the accused in the case, said that the arrested accused feel “cheated” by the right wing Bharatiya Janta Party government. In 2008, when the accused were arrested, some of them had written to LK Advani, one of the seniormost BJP leaders, about the injustice meted out to them. They had pointed out that the accused had been tortured and had been kept in illegal custody before arrest, Chomal said. “But, he (Advani) disappointed us. He mentioned our problems in one line before Parliament and let it go. He should have done something then,” Chomal said. “We do not want any favours from the government,” Chomal added. “We just want them to go by the law.”

Prashant Maggu, one of the other defence lawyers in the case, who appears for three accused in the case, said that it was in the interest of the Congress government to “bring out Hindu terror.” “This was a star case for the earlier government to bring out a pattern in the country. They tried to implicate Hindu accused in Samjhauta and Ajmer blasts cases,” Maggu said. “The government wanted some angle. They wanted all these cases to be interwoven, so that they can bring out Hindu terror. They started hammering all saffron clothed Sadhus and Sadhvis. The other side was pleased. But there was no factual material.”

The entire case, the defence counsel allege, was a political move. “The NIA is the same agency that withdrew the case against the 2006 Malegaon blasts case,” said Shivade. In 2011, after the NIA did not object to the bail applications of seven accused in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case, they were released on bail. The NIA had told the court that the confession of the 2007 Mecca Masjid bomb blast accused, Swami Aseemanand, had led them to review the evidence collected by the previous investigating agencies, namely the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad and the Central Bureau of Investigation.

“They follow different standards for different sets of accused,” said Sanjiv Punalekar, who appears for Sudhakar Dwivedi and Pravin Takalki. “They have been dishonest throughout. We are being used to politically please the government.”

Maggu agreed with Punalekar. “We term the witnesses hostile – like in the Ajmer and Samjhauta blasts cases. But, the statements themselves were recorded wrongly. Obviously, then they will turn hostile,” he added.

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Explainer: What is the EU emergency brake?

Explainer: What is the EU emergency brake?
Photo Credit: pixabay
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Negotiations about the UK’s place in the European Union now seem to hinge on one thing: applying an “emergency brake” to stop certain EU migrants claiming in-work benefitswhen they move to the UK. But what is this mysterious brake and could it really be used?

There are two types of emergency brake procedure in the EU. One relates to common foreign policy and security policy, the other to areas such as cooperation in criminal matters and (relevant to this case) on social security.

The deal currently under negotiation would make it possible for the UK to apply for a temporary exemption from certain pieces of EU legislation. The process of applying an emergency brake on benefits would involve appealing to the European Commission and the European Council for exemption for an agreed period of time.

In reality though, such suspensions are only allowed in relation to asylum of non-EU nationals and to the free movement of goods (that is, restrictions on imports and exports). There is no such thing as an emergency brake for inter-EU immigration or benefits. In essence, the UK and the EU are making this up as they go along.

Origins

The Treaty of Lisbon – signed in 2007 and in force since 2009 – handed the European Union greater power to develop legislation for all member states. The concept of the free movement of people – that is, the right to move to another EU country for the purpose of working – had until then remained unmodified almost since the creation of the European Community. But the treaty allowed for new legislation related to free movement to be more easily passed, without following the normal strict voting procedures.

To counterbalance these looser rules, it was decided that member states would be allowed to ask for specific measures to be subject to stricter voting if they were concerned that the new rules would cause extreme difficulties. To do this they would have to cite “vital and stated reasons of national policy” and appeal for the decision to be subject to more voting at the European Council. The idea is to delay implementation until it is clear that a large number of member states are on board. This is, effectively, the brake.

It’s important to note here that the brake clause was intended for use on new legislation – not on existing rules, as is happening in the UK’s case now. The goal was always to allow a member state to make sure any developing legislation would be widely supported before being approved.

EU regulations on coordinating social security systems (which apply not only to the EU, but also to EEA countries Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, as well as Switzerland) state that citizens from all these countries should have equal access to social benefits in every other country in the deal. The UK and Ireland asked the European Court of Justice to exempt them from offering equal access to citizens from EEA countries and Switzerland but their request was denied.

May need oiling

I’ve searched for examples of the emergency brake procedure being applied to challenge social security legislation but have found none. No major reform has been proposed in this area since the Lisbon Treaty came into force, so no-one has ever felt the need to apply one.

So if the UK was going to be allowed to use a brake in this area, the terms would need to be agreed anew. Fresh legislation would be needed and that legislation would have to be applicable to all member states, the EEA and Switzerland.

The real problem, though, is what comes after the brake has been applied. The implementation is likely to be incredibly complex. The only way that the UK could reject applications for benefits from non-UK citizens is by verifying the identity of everyone applying for benefits – including British citizens.

The current deal on the table suggests that EU migrants should be allowed staggered access to benefits over a period four years, which sounds even harder to implement. Then of course there is the question of how and when the UK would revert to the previous system.

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Mumbai weekend cultural calendar: King of Drag at La Ruche, the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, and more

Mumbai weekend cultural calendar: King of Drag at La Ruche, the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, and more
Photo Credit: The Daily Pao
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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5
ART Thinking Tantra at Jhaveri Contemporary
A group show of works that refer to the Hindu practice of tantra by 16 Indian and international artists such as Prabhakar Barwe, Biren De, Alexander Gorlizki, Prafulla Mohanti, Jean-Luc Moulene and Jagdish Swaminathan.
When: Until Saturday, March 5. Open Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 am to 6 pm; Sunday and Monday, closed.
Where: Jhaveri Contemporary, 2, Krishna Niwas, 58A Walkeshwar Road. Tel: 022 2369 3639.

TALKS Meera Subramanian and Darryl D’Monte at Mumbai Press Club
Meera Subramanian, US-based journalist and author of Elemental India: The Natural World at a Time of Crisis and Opportunity, will be in conversation with Darryl D’Monte, chair of the Forum of Environmental Journalists of India.
When: Friday, February 5 at 4 pm.
Where: Mumbai Press Club, Mahapalika Marg, Azad Maidan, Fort. Tel: 022 2261 6463.

PERFORMANCE Tape: King of Drag at La Ruche
In this energetic show, theatre actors Sheena Khalid and Puja Sarup play a couple of drag kings, that is, women who dress and act as men. See here for our review. [email protected] to book tickets, which are priced at Rs 400 per head, and will also be sold at the venue.
When: Friday, February 5 at 6.30 pm and 9.30 pm.
Where: La Ruche, Third Floor, Link Corner Mall, junction of 33rd Road and 24th Road, near KFC, off Linking Road, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 3395 6099.

MUSIC Keli Classical Music Festival at the YB Chavan Centre Auditorium, Sahitya Mandir Sabhagruh and NBKS Hall
This year’s edition of the annual festival organised by city-based cultural organisation Keli will comprise three Carnatic classical music performances that will pay tribute to vocalist and composer M. Balamuralikrishna. Vocalist K. Krishnakumar, who has trained with Balamuralikrishna, will perform at the Y. B. Chavan Centre Auditorium on Friday, February 5 at 6.45 pm. Singer and teacher Cherthala K. N. Ranganatha Sharma will present a concert on the musical approach of Balamuralikrishna at the Sahitya Mandir Sabhagruh in Vashi on Saturday, February 6 at 6.30 pm. Cheppad AE Vamanan Namboothiri will give a recital highlighting the aesthetics of the music of Balamuralikrishna at the NBKS Hall in Nerul on Sunday, February 7, at 6.30 pm. Entry is free, passes can be collected from the Y. B. Chavan Centre, Rhythm House in Kala Ghoda, Maharashtra Watch Co. in Dadar (West) and Giri Trading Agency in Matunga (East).
When: Friday, February 5 at 6.45 pm, Saturday, February 6 at 6.30 pm and Sunday, February 7 at 6.30 pm.
Where: Y. B. Chavan Centre Auditorium, General Jagannath Bhosale Marg, opposite Mantralaya, Nariman Point, near Sachivalaya Gymkhana. Tel: 022 2204 7252. Sahitya Mandir Sabhagruh, Sector 6, near MGM Hospital, Sion-Panvel Expressway, opposite the Navi Mumbai Sports Association, Vashi. Tel: 022 2782 1551. New Bombay Keraleeya Samaj Hall, near Reliance Fresh, Sector 5, Nerul. Tel: 022 2770 1137.

DANCE Mahabharata Reinterpreted at the NCPA Tata Theatre
This Indian classical dance performance, conceptualised and choreographed by kathak exponent Shama Bhate, will reinterpret the epic through different stylistics forms performed by mohiniattam dancer Gopika Verma, Odissi dancer Ramli Ibrahim, bharatanatyam dancer Vaibhav Arekar and kuchipudi dancer Vyjayanthi Kashi. Tickets priced at Rs 300 and Rs 400 per head are being sold on Bookmyshow.com.
When: Friday, February 5 at 7 pm.
Where: Tata Theatre, National Centre for the Performing Arts, NCPA Marg, Nariman Point. Tel: 022 2282 4567.

MUSIC Kumail at Bonobo
The city-based electronic music DJ and producer, whose last name in Hamid and who specialises in ambient and downtempo sounds, will launch and play tracks from his debut album Links. There is no entry fee. See the Facebook event page for more information.
When: Friday, February 5 at 9 pm.
Where: Bonobo, Second Floor, Kenilworth Mall, Phase 2, off Linking Road, behind KFC, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 2605 5050.

MUSIC Pig and Dan at Kitty Su
The London techno and tech-house duo of Pig aka Igor Tchkotoua and Dan, whose last name is Duncan, will play the Andheri nightclub. Tickets, priced at Rs 1,500 (only entry fee) or Rs 3,000 (full cover charge) per couple; at Rs 2,000 (only entry fee) or Rs 3,500 (full cover charge) per head for single men; and at Rs 1,000 (full cover charge) per head for single women, are being sold on Kittysu.com.
When: Friday, February 5 at 10 pm.
Where: Kitty Su, The Lalit, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Road, Andheri (East). Tel: 022 6104 3145.

MUSIC Sphere featuring Shpongle at Blue Frog
English electronic music producer Hallucinogen aka Simon Posford aka one-half of psychedelic trance act Shpongle will play a DJ set, as part of Lower Parel venue Blue Frog’s Sphere series of gigs. There is an entry fee of Rs 1,500 per head. See here for more information.
When: Friday, February 5 at 10 pm.
Where: Blue Frog, Mathuradas Mills Compound, Tulsi Pipe Road, Lower Parel. Tel: 022 6158 6158.

COMEDY Weirdass Pajama Festival at Canvas Laugh Club, Sophia Bhabha Hall and Taj Lands End
Weirdass Comedy, the company helmed by stand-up comic Vir Das, will present five shows this weekend for the Mumbai leg of its multi-city Weirdass Pajama Festival. The line-up ofThe Secret Pajama Show, which will be staged at the Canvas Laugh Club on Friday, February 5 at 10.30 pm, will be revealed at the event. Tickets priced at Rs 600 per head are being sold on Bookmyshow.com.
On the Pot With Vir Das, which will take place at Sophia Bhabha Hall on Saturday, February 6 at 6 pm and is based on Das’s video series Potcast, will feature a panel discussion with Das and fellow comics Aditi Mittal, Amogh Ranadive, Anu Menon, Ashwin Mushran, Jose Covaco, Kavi Shashtri and Suresh Menon during which they will comment on current affairs. Tickets, priced at Rs 1,000, Rs 1,500, Rs 2,000 and Rs 2,500 per head are being sold on Bookmyshow.com. In Funnypedia, at Sophia Bhabha Hall on Saturday, February 6 at 8 pm, comedians Aditi Mittal, Amit Tandon, Amogh Ranadive, Anu Menon, Ashwin Mushran, Daniel Fernandes, Jeeveshu Ahluwalia, Kavi Shastri, Vir Das and magician Max Mystel will perform multiple forms of comedy from improv and insult comedy to magical comedy and sketches. Tickets, priced at Rs 1,000, Rs 1,500, Rs 2,000 and Rs 2,500 per head are being sold on Bookmyshow.com.
Kings, Rajas and Ranis, at the Taj Lands End on Sunday, February 7 at 6 pm, will feature sets by both English and Hindi stand-up comedy stars such as India’s Vir Das, Raju Srivastav and Sunil Pal, Australia’s Jonathan Atherton and the UK’s Dana Alexander, Imran Yusuf and Mandy Knight. Tickets, the prices of which start at Rs 1,020 per head for students and Rs 1,200 per head for non-students, are being sold on Bookmyshow.com. During Planet Pajama, at the Taj Lands End hotel on Sunday, February 7 at 8 pm, stand-up comics from across the world such as Aditi Mittal and Jeeveshu Ahluwalia from India, Jonathan Atherton from Australia, Rizal van Geyzel from Malaysia, Rishi Budhrani from Singapore, Imran Yusuf from the UK, and Brad Williams, Butch Bradley and Raj Sharma from the US, will share “intimate details” from their travels. Tickets, the prices of which start at Rs 1,105 per head for students and Rs 1,300 per head for non-students, are being sold onBookmyshow.com.
When: Friday, February 5 at 10.30 pm, Saturday, February 6 at 6 pm and 8 pm and Sunday, February 7 at 6 pm and 8 pm.
Where: Canvas Laugh Club, Third Floor, Palladium Mall, High Street Phoenix, Tulsi Pipe Road, Lower Parel. Tel: 022 4348 5000. Sophia Bhabha Hall, Sophia College, Bhulabhai Desai Road. Tel: 022 2353 8550. Taj Lands End Lawns, Mount Mary, Byramji Jeejeebhoy Road, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 6668 1234.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6
CULTURE FOOD & DRINK SHOPPING & STYLE Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
The seventeenth edition of the city’s most prominent cultural festival will begin this weekend. The highlights of the first two days include a walking tour of Fort’s banking district; the launches of the books Kala Ghoda Celebrating Mumbai’s Arts District andFlavours of Kala Ghoda and panel discussions based on them; and a Hindustani classical music recital by sarod player Amjad Ali Khan and his sons Amaan and Ayaan. The events are free; entry is on a first come, first served basis. See here for the complete schedule andhere for our picks of events taking place on the opening weekend.
When: From Saturday, February 6 to Sunday, February 14, from 10.30 am.
Where: Multiple venues across Kala Ghoda, Churchgate and Fort.

CULTURE Ballard Estate Festival
The south Mumbai business district of Ballard Estate will turn into an entertainment zone with food and shopping stalls and cultural shows every Saturday and Sunday until the end of May during this four month-long neighbourhood festival organised by the Mumbai Port Trust. This weekend, the events will include music gigs by a pair of female singer-songwriters: Gowri Jayakumar will perform on Saturday, February 6 at 7.45 pm and Vasuda Sharma on Sunday, February 7 at 7.30 pm. Tickets priced at Rs 150 per head per day and at Rs 300 per head for both days are being sold on Insider.in. See the festival’s Facebook page for more information.
When: Saturday, February 6, from 2 pm and Sunday, February 7, from noon.
Where: N Morarji Road, Ballard Estate, Fort.

MUSIC TRAVEL SulaFest at Sula Vineyards, Nashik
Australian genre-blending group The Cat Empire, Israeli-American world music group Balkan Beat Box, city-based Sufi fusion rock band Kailasa and French reggae ensemble Dub Inc will be among the acts performing at the ninth edition of the annual music festival organised by wine label Sula at its Nashik vineyard. Tickets priced at Rs 2,200 per head per day and at Rs 3,300 per head for both days are being sold on Bookmyshow.com. See herefor the complete line-up, schedule and more information.
When: Saturday, February 6 and Sunday, February 7, from 2 pm to 10 pm; gates open at 12.30 pm.
Where: Sula Vineyards, Gangapur-Savargaon Road, Nashik.

MUSIC TALKS Sandhya Sanjana at MCubed Library
The singer will discuss experimenting with fusing Hindustani classical and western music styles. The talk, which is part of arts organisation Junoon’s Mumbai Local series of events, is free.
When: Saturday, February 6 at 5 pm.
Where: MCubed Library (Maharashtra Mitra Mandal Library), Princess Building, near Bandra Gymkhana, D’Monte Park Road, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 2641 1497.

ART TALKS Dilnavaz Mehta at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum
Dilnavaz Mehta, who runs Rare Finds, a company that sells antiquarian prints and books, will give a talk titled “Early Prints of India: Cultural and Historical Curiosities”. There is no entry fee.
When: Saturday, February 6 at 6 pm.
Where: Education Centre, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Rani Baug, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Road, Byculla. Tel: 022 2373 1234.

MUSIC Uday Bhawalkar at NRB Building
The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre Staff Club and Cultural Centre of the Department of Atomic Energy Sports and Cultural Council will host a concert by Hindustani classical music vocalist Uday Bhawalkar who specialises in the dhrupad style of singing. Entry is free and requires photo ID.
When: Saturday, February 6 at 6.30 pm.
Where: Open Lawn, NRB Building, near Homi Bhabha National Institute, Anushakti Nagar.

THEATRE 7/7/07 at the NCPA Experimental Theatre
Directed by Faezeh Jalali, this performance is based on the letters of Rayhaneh Jabbari, an Iranian woman convicted of killing a man who allegedly attempted to rape her. Jabbari was hanged in 2014. Tickets priced at Rs 300 and Rs 400 per head are being sold onBookmyshow.com.
When: Saturday, February 6 at 7 pm.
Where: Experimental Theatre, National Centre for the Performing Arts, Nariman Point. Tel: 022 2282 4567.

MUSIC Marnik at Kitty Su
Italian progressive house pair Marnik, made up of DJs and producers Alessandro Martello and Emanuele Longo, will perform the Mumbai leg of their ongoing tour of India. Tickets, priced at Rs 1,500 (only entry fee) or Rs 3,000 (full cover charge) per couple; at Rs 2,000 (only entry fee) or Rs 3,500 (full cover charge) per head for single men; and at Rs 500 (only entry fee) or Rs 1,000 (full cover charge) per head for single women, are being sold onKittysu.com.
When: Saturday, February 6 at 10 pm.
Where: Kitty Su, The Lalit, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Road, Andheri (East). Tel: 022 6104 3145.

CULTURE FOOD & DRINK Cool Japan Festival at High Street Phoenix
At the fifth edition of this annual celebration of Japanese food and culture, there will be food stalls where you can snack on sushi, donburi and dorayaki (red bean paste pancakes) and shop for Nissin cup noodles, Yakult fermented milk beverages and Kirin soft drinks. There will also be a cosplay competition and performances by taiko drum players and kendo martial arts practitioners. See the Facebook event page for more information.
When: Saturday, February 6 and Sunday, February 7, from 11 am to 10 pm.
Where: High Street Phoenix, Courtyard, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel.

LGBTIQ MARCH Queer Azadi Mumbai Pride Walk at August Kranti Maidan
This three-hour march for equal rights for LGBITQ individuals will start at August Kranti Maidan, proceed to Opera House and Kennedy Bridge and return to the maidan. A post-Pride party will be held at Karma – the Liquid Lounge from 7 pm and for which there will be a cover charge of Rs900 per head. See the Facebook event page for more information.
When: Saturday, February 6, from 3 pm.
Where: The meeting point is August Kranti Maidan, Tardeo.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 7
SHOPPING & STYLE Diagon Alley at Bungalow 9
The inaugural edition of Diagon Alley, a shopping exhibition curated by The Petite Project, a collective that will organise fashion and lifestyle pop-up events across the city, will feature costume jewellery by The AnaRae Store, Te Maya and The Bohemian; western wear by Chola The Label; festive clutches, potlis and jholas by The Pink Potli; backpacks by Mad Rabbit Kicking Tiger; casual wear by State of Play and Bias; furniture by Salva Terra Home; ethnic wear by Brahma Karma; and menswear by Preetham Jukalkar. 2Sensitive, the electronica DJ duo of Norcotiq aka Abhi Meer and SpaceJams aka Yohann Jamsandekar, will play the pop-up from 7 pm onwards. There is an entry fee of Rs 150 per head. See theFacebook event page for more information.
When: Sunday, February 7, from 11.30 am to 1.30 am.
Where: Bungalow 9, St. John Baptist Road, near Salt Water Cafe, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 6117 9999.

TREASURE HUNT The CuriousCity Challenge in Bandra
Mumbai-based travel company Some Place Else will conduct a treasure hunt across Bandra West. Participants, who will be grouped into teams, given a set of clues about the suburb’s history, architecture, food and culture and a number of tasks to complete. The registration fee is Rs 385 per head and can be paid on Insider.in.
When: Sunday, February 7 at 4 pm.
Where: Bandra West; the meeting point will be shared with those who register.

THEATRE Internal Affairs at the NCPA Experimental Theatre
In this Akvarious Productions play directed by Adhaar Khurana, Sid has a one-night stand with a colleague soon after he takes up a new job. They start seeing each other but neither is thrilled about the development. Tickets priced at Rs 250 and Rs 300 per head are being sold on Bookmyshow.com.
When: Sunday, February 7 at 5 pm.
Where: Experimental Theatre, National Centre for the Performing Arts, Nariman Point. Tel: 022 2282 4567.

THEATRE August – Osage County at Sophia Bhabha Hall
Three sisters and their families converge at their family home in Goa when their father goes missing in this play directed by Lillete Dubey and based on a drama of the same name by American playwright Tracy Letts. As they wait for news, they drive each other up the wall as deep-seated resentments surface and blow into arguments. Tickets priced at Rs 300, Rs 400, Rs 500, Rs 750 and Rs 1,000 per head are being sold on Bookmyshow.com.
When: Sunday, February 7 at 7 pm.
Where: Sophia Bhabha Hall, Sophia College, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Breach Candy. Tel: 022 2353 8550.

THEATRE Hindi Medium at the NCPA Godrej Dance Theatre
A suite of performances in Hindi on topics that range from dentists to film festivals by writers Hussain Dalal, Raghav Dutt, Akarsh Khurana, Vijay Tendulkar, Pawan Uttam and Sumeet Vyas. Tickets priced at Rs 250 per head are being sold on Bookmyshow.com.
When: Sunday, February 7 at 7 pm.
Where: Godrej Dance Theatre, National Centre for the Performing Arts, Nariman Point. Tel: 022 2282 4567.

ONGOING
ART After Midnight: Indian Modernism to Contemporary India, 1947/1997 at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum
Curated by gallerist Arshiya Lokhandwala, the exhibition features works of art produced after 1997, the fiftieth anniversary of Indian independence. Tickets for Indians are priced at Rs 10 per head for adults and Rs 5 per head for children below the age of 13, and tickets for foreigners are priced at Rs 100 per head for adults and Rs 50 per head for children below the age of 13.
When: Until Sunday, March 6. Open Thursday to Tuesday, from 10 am to 5.30 pm; Wednesday, closed.
Where: Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Rani Baug, Dr BR Ambedkar Road, Byculla. Tel: 022 2373 1234.

ART Jitish Kallat at Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation
Artist Jitish Kallat’s show, Covering Letter, which is on display concurrently with Sightings, his show at Chemould Prescott Road, is a set of works based on a letter Gandhi wrote to Hitler in 1939 requesting him to rethink his violent campaign.
When: Until Sunday, February 28. Open daily, from 10.15 am to 6 pm.
Where: Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, MG Road, Kala Ghoda. Tel: 022 2284 4484.

MUSEUM EXHIBITION Tabiyat at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya
Organised by the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, the British Council and the Wellcome Collection UK, this exhibition of artworks and objects related to medical practice and health in the subcontinent is capsule of Indian medical history. Most of the exhibits are from the Wellcome Collection, a museum in London run by the medical research charity Wellcome Trust. See here for details. Tickets are priced at Rs 70 per head for visitors above the age of 12, Rs 20 per head for children between the ages of five and 12 and Rs 300 per head for foreign nationals above the age of 12.
When: Until Monday, March 28. Open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10.15 am to 6 pm; Monday, closed.
Where: Premchand Roychand Gallery, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kala Ghoda. Tel: 022 2284 4484.

ART Jitish Kallat at Chemould Prescott Road
Sightings, the artist’s second solo show currently on display, is a series of drawings, video installations, sculpture and photographic works that deal with “themes of time, sustenance, sleep, along with an interplay of scales and proximities, and evocations of the celestial”.
When: Until Thursday, February 25. Open Monday to Saturday, from 11 am to 7 pm; Sunday, closed.
Where: Chemould Prescott Road, Queens Mansion, Third Floor, G Talwatkar Marg, near Cathedral School, Fort. Tel: 022 2200 0211.

ART Prajakta Potnis at Project 88
When the wind blows, Prajakta Potnis’s solo show, is a series of photographs and drawings in which kitchen appliances such as freezers, mixers and chopping boards are represented as components of fantastic landscapes.
When: Until Saturday, February 27. Open Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 am to 7 pm; Sunday and Monday, closed.
Where: Project 88, BMP Building, Narayan A. Sawant Marg, near Colaba Fire Station, Colaba. Tel: 022 2281 0066.

ART Sahej Rahal at Chatterjee & Lal
Photographs and drawings of performance artist Sahej Rahaj enacting made-up Jedi-like characters in places such as Vasai Fort, the rock garden in Chandigarh, Rome and Sodoshima Island in Japan make up his new solo show Adversary.
When: Until Saturday, February 20. Open Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 am to 7 pm; Sunday and Monday, closed.
Where: Chatterjee & Lal, 01/18 Kamal Mansion, First Floor, Arthur Bunder Road, Colaba. Tel: 022 2202 3787.

MUSEUM EXHIBITION The State of Architecture at the National Gallery of Modern Art
Curated by architect Rahul Mehrotra, art curator Ranjit Hoskote and writer and lecturer Kaiwan Mehta and organised by the Urban Design Research Institute, this exhibition explores contemporary Indian architecture as well as the history of architectural practice in the country. See here for details. The show is supplemented by a series of talks as well as satellite shows at various venues. For the complete schedule, visit Stateofarchitecture.in. Tickets priced at Rs 20 per head for Indians and Rs 500 per head for foreign nationals. There is no entry fee for kids studying in school up to class 12.
When: Until Sunday, March 20. Open Tuesday to Sunday, from 11 am to 6 pm; Monday, closed.
Where: National Gallery of Modern Art, Madame Cama Road, Kala Ghoda. Tel: 022 2288 1969.

PHOTOGRAPHY Pablo Bartholomew at Sakshi Gallery
Photographer Pablo Bartholomew’s new exhibition 60/60 comprises portraits of artists, writers, filmmakers and poets he shot in the 1970s and ‘80s. For more details, see here.
When: Until Saturday, February 20. Open Monday to Saturday, from 11 am to 6 pm; Sunday, closed.
Where: Sakshi Gallery, 6/19, Second Floor, Grants Building, Arthur Bunder Road, Colaba. Tel: 022 6610 3424.

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Through the artist’s eyes: Life after devastation and the politics of identity in Nepal

Through the artist’s eyes: Life after devastation and the politics of identity in Nepal
Photo Credit: manishhorizon.com
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Last year was a difficult one for Nepal. An earthquake in April killed over 8,000 people and caused widespread devastation. A few months later, the decision of Nepal’s top political parties to push through a Constitution after years of wrangling led to massive protests by marginalised groups like Madhesis and Janajatis who believe that the new charter discriminates against them.

This was, of course, rich material for the country’s artists to engage with and to create visual commentaries about. Among them are Manish Harijan and Hitman Gurung, whose work was on display at the eighth edition of the India Art Fair, which ended on Sunday.

Manish Harijan stands next to his installation Auspicious Suspicious. (Picture courtesy: Facebook.com/nepalartcouncilktm)
Manish Harijan stands next to his installation Auspicious Suspicious. (Picture courtesy: Facebook.com/nepalartcouncilktm)

Circle of life

From afar, Harijan’s installation titled Auspicious Suspicious looked pretty straightforward – luminous golden skulls mounted on golden plates on wooden blocks. But a closer look revealed the skulls had maggoty brains. An ever closer look showed that the brains were actually made of rice, lentils and corn.

Harijan said that the installation explored the notion of binary oppositions – the skull representing death offset by food grains symbolising life and regeneration.

“Through this installation I’m trying to represent the binaries that exist within our society – positive and negative, good and bad, the devil and the saint,” he said. “I’ve used the grain and the wood to symbolise life, positiveness and the strength to survive.”

Identity and politics

Auspicious Suspicious is also a testament to the circle of life, a theme that particularly resonates in Nepal after the death and destruction wrought by the April earthquake. “We believe in life after death,” said Harijan. “So in this work too there is life after devastation.”

Hitman Gurung's 'This Is My Home, My Land And My Country' (Picture courtesy: Facebook.com/nepalartcouncilktm)
Hitman Gurung’s ‘This Is My Home, My Land And My Country’ (Picture courtesy: Facebook.com/nepalartcouncilktm)

Gurung’s exhibit, This Is My Home, My Land and My Country, tackled the question of identity and the turmoil that followed Nepal’s adoption of a new Constitution last year. Groups that felt discriminated against forced a blockade at checkpoints on the Nepal-India border. This has caused a shortage of gas, medicines and other essentials in the land-locked country.

Gurung interviewed his fellow citizens during the blockade, and his exhibit is the result of his efforts to understand the psychology of ordinary people caught in a crisis not of their making.

Protest in art

This Is My Home, My Land and My Country comprised three large photographs on the wall that showed women holding up their identity cards while hiding their faces in layers of gauze. The women belong to the Tharu community from the border areas of Nepal that has been protesting against the delineation of six new states as proposed in the new Constitution. “They feel that this Constitution has not taken into consideration their political representation,” said Gurung.

Miniature bronze gas cylinders placed next to the photographs symbolised the hardships brought on by the blockade and underscored how several people in Nepal could not access amenities others take for granted. “I went and met the people affected by the blockade,” said Gurung. “It has affected their daily lives. They are cooking food on wood fires, and the inscriptions written in Nepali on both sides of the gas cylinders here are statements by these people about the fuel crisis.”

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