Creative License vs Historical Records: Spotting the Saffron in ‘Kesari’

Creative License vs Historical Records: Spotting the Saffron in ‘Kesari’

There is a growing tendency, both in academic literature as well as in popular culture, to distort history and alter or add historical facts to serve political and often communal ends. More often than not, such distortions are made to demonise the Muslim community or to undermine their contribution to history and to the exercise of nation-building.

The latest in this long line of distortions of history is the film Kesari, which claims to be a historical account but irresponsibly and deliberately adds facts and a narrative that spread Islamophobia while borrowing characters and events from history.

There is no doubt or dispute that the last stand of 21 soldiers of the 36th Sikh regiment at Saragarhi in 1897 was an admirable act of valour. 21 men knowingly embraced death in the line of duty, fighting against formidable odds. The purpose of this article is not to undermine their sacrifice, merely to get some facts straight.

The “uprising in the North-West frontier”, as British historians call it, was a war by Indian people against British colonial rule. Saragarhi, the scene of battle in Kesari, is located in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) in what is today Pakistan and was, at the time the battle took place, very much a part of undivided India.

The Orakzai and Afridi Pathans who attacked Saragarhi were inhabitants of Tirah Valley in the NWFP. They were as much Indian freedom fighters as Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (better known as ‘Sarhadi Gandhi’) who adopted peaceful means to fight the British rule in the same NWFP region starting a mere 14 years after the Battle of Saragarhi. The two-nation theory that resulted in the formation of Pakistan did not find place in mainstream political discourse for another 35 years after the Afghan uprising of 1897.

In 1891, six years before this battle, the British carried out the Miranzai expedition where they occupied the Samana range in the Tirah region of the NWFP to bring the Pathan tribes under their control. As part of this expedition, they occupied the Pathan village of Saragarh and destroyed the village to build a fort, finding it a strategic position commanding a view of the landscape around it.

The British also destroyed neighbouring villages and hamlets to make Saragarhi and neighbouring forts more secure. Local recruits could not be used to attack and destroy these villages, since Pathan soldiers hired by the British were found to hold kinship above loyalty to the Crown. So, the British imported Sikh soldiers to the NWFP as they were seen as the other ‘martial race’ that could combat the dauntless Pathan warriors.

Why Sikhs were selected

British historical accounts of the period indicate that Sikhs were selected for this purpose because of the unfailing loyalty they had displayed during the mutiny of 1857, when other native soldiers rebelled against the Crown. The 36th Sikh regiment that was engaged in the Battle of Saragarhi was in fact formed after the lesson learnt during 1857 – that Sikhs were fearless soldiers who remained unfailingly loyal to the Crown.

Historian after British historian writes how Punjab became the recruiting ground for the British Indian Army after 1857 because it remained untouched by the mutiny and Sikh soldiers remained loyal to the East India Company while other native soldiers waged the ‘First War of Indian Independence’, as we now call it.

For those interested, one of the British soldiers to have written about the shrewd policy to utilise Sikhs to combat Pathan warriors was a young officer named Second Lieutenant Winston Churchill. In Churchill’s words:

The Sikh…was originally invented to combat the Pathan. His religion was designed to be diametrically opposed to Mahommedanism. It was a shrewd act of policy. Fanaticism was met by fanaticism. Religious abhorrence was added to racial hatred.

This was how soldiers of the 36th Sikh found themselves stationed at Saragarhi Fort.

Soldiers of the Sikh regiment. Credit: Public domain

Distortions in the film

In 1897, the Pathans of the Orakzai and Afridi tribes joined forces to chase the British out of their homelands. This is how the battle of Saragarhi came about, as much a freedom struggle by Indians against British Rule as the Revolt of 1857 itself.

Kesari adds a fictional sequence in the beginning of the film, where Havaldar Ishar Singh (Akshay Kumar) rescues an Afghan girl from a Mullah who wants to behead her for violating the supposed duties of a wife to her husband supposedly mandated by shariat. The film shows that the Pathan attack on Saragarhi was a reprisal against this interference by Ishar Singh in the Pathan tribe’s internal affairs.

In fact, in the film, the battle begins with the said Mullah, now riding ahead of the Pathan Lashkar, dragging the same girl to the Fort of Saragarhi and beheading her in front of Ishar Singh’s eyes to show him what he and his men are being punished for. Both scenes have the Mullah reciting Surah-e-Fatiha, the first verse of the Quran which is recited five times a day by practicing Muslims as part of namaz, to associate this barbarism with Quranic injunction. The verse, an uncontroversial one, which seeks guidance of Allah and prays to Him to show us the way, is as misplaced in the scene as the Gurbani would be in a slaughterhouse, but is added anyhow on the (I must admit well-founded) premise that the audience would not know better.

Contrary to any historical record, Ishar Singh then lies to the garrison stationed at Fort Saragarhi and tells them that the British commanding officer has asked them to abandon the fort and retreat. He later tells a jawan that he did this so that the soldiers choose to stay to fight to the death not on account of orders of a colonial master, but as free men.

Not content with depriving the Pathans of their rightful status as freedom fighters, words and phrases such as azaadiapni mitti and qaum are sprinkled liberally in the dialogues of the Sikh soldiers from here on, so that the narrative is actually reversed with the British colonial army adopting the language of freedom as they fight native warriors while irony dies a thousand deaths.

The bare boned facts of the actual battle sans jingoism were these – outnumbering the enemy, the Pathans repeatedly offered safe passage to the besieged Sikh soldiers of the British Army manning the fort, but the proud Sikhs bravely chose to fight to the finish. The Pathans, armed with jezails(handmade gunpowder based rifles) and swords threw themselves at the fort against the superior fire power of the enemy.

The soldiers of the 36th Sikh regiment, with the advantage of altitude and the safety offered by the fort walls, fired relentlessly at them with their Martini-Henry breech loading rifles, among the most modern guns of that time, capable of firing 20 rounds per minute.

Around 180-200 Pathans lost their lives and yet, more surged forward. Two Pathans, braving enemy fire, managed to reach the fort walls and dug down to the foundation of the wall with their bare hands till the wall, foundation removed, collapsed under its own weight. The fort breached, the Pathans stormed the fort and slaughtered the Sikh soldiers who had claimed so many of their kinsmen. The 21 gallant Sikh soldiers died fighting to the last.

Saragarhi memorial gurudwara, built in 1904. Credit: By RameshSharma1 CC BY 2.0

Creative liberty and historical records

Dead men tell no tales and since none of the Sikh soldiers survived, it’s only natural that creative liberty will have to be taken to fill in details of how the battle occurred. However, the film goes contrary even to records that do exist, such as the diary maintained by Lt Colonel John Haughton, the commanding officer of the 36th Sikh, which was reproduced in his memoir written by Major A.C. Yates in 1900.

Facts are altered to glorify the narrative, falsifying it further in the process. For instance, the offer of safe passage by the Pathans to the Sikhs is shown as a ruse to get two Pathans to the fort walls, which is contrary to the record. Then there is no record of use of dynamite by the Pathans as the film depicts; the wall of the Saragarhi Fort was in fact breached by the two Pathans digging under the wall with their bare hands. These diggers were clearly visible from Fort Gulistan, which tried to signal to Saragarhi, but in vain, and this fact finds mention in Haughton’s diary.

The last survivor, Gurmukh Singh, after valiantly shooting down to his last round from the signalling tower, is reported to have shot himself. In the film, a burning Gurmukh emerges from the tower, grabs Gul Badshah, the leader of the Orakzais, and sets fire to his gunpowder reserve, killing him. Gul Badshah was in fact, not killed in the battle. Nor was Mullah Hadda, the cleric who, according to historical record, is supposed to have given the call for jehad against the British in the Tirah valley. In the film, he is stabbed to death by Akshay Kumar’s character.

Which brings us to jehad, that forbidden word of our age. The word is slipped in neatly in the opening introduction, spouted by the evil, woman-beheading Mullah. In a moment of rather unusual candour, he admits to the jirga or tribal council that a call to jehad is his weapon, a tool employed by him for his own purposes. The rhetoric of Islamophobia is now complete.

Lest we forget, the revolt of 1857 was led by Muslim ulema (clerics) who gave a call for jehad against the British rule, and paid for it with their blood. It is said that there was not a single tree on the Grand Trunk Road from Delhi to Calcutta on which an alim‘s (singular of ulema) body was not found hanging after the revolt was quelled.

We must bear in mind that every army fought in the name of their god, which was reflected in their war cries such as “Har har Mahadev” and “Jai Bhawani” of the Marathas and “Bole so nihal, sat Sri Akal” of the Sikhs. To this day, regiments of the Indian army go into battle with these and other religious war cries. I suppose it helps a soldier facing death to believe that a better life awaits him in another world as reward for his sacrifice.

Why is this film a concern?

So why is this film a cause for concern? It is after all, just a film. Films are meant to entertain, nothing more. It is an exercise by the makers of the film of their fundamental right to freedom of expression.

The film is worrisome because it spreads Islamophobia. It creates a false context to a historical battle to tell a story in which the Muslim is the ‘other’. It creates a narrative that further alienates Muslims and incites ill will against Islam. Since inciting ill will against a community is an offence under the Indian Penal Code, this would fall under the restriction to the freedom of expression on the grounds of ‘public order’.

I would argue that such a narrative that alienates one community also undermines the integrity of India, another ground for restriction on free speech. It is also a violation of the rights of the Muslim people to equality, as it adds to communal hatred which then results in discrimination against them.

And lastly, when a film purports to depict history, there is an obligation to report correct facts, so far as known from historical record. Kesari is supposed to have made close to Rs 200 crore in revenue. That means that nearly one crore citizens have watched this film in theatres, and crores will watch it still for years on TV. Films touch a larger number of people and leave a more lasting impression than any history book. From here on, in popular imagination, this will be the history of the Battle of Saragarhi. The freedom struggle of the Pathans will be lost forever and they will be seen as treacherous barbarians fighting to uphold bigotry and misogyny, supposedly inspired by Islam.

I think the time has come for our courts to carve out a right against distortions of history from the right to information and the right to education, particularly of future generations, who will grow up believing these canards to be historical facts.

It cannot be that Akbar wins or loses the Battle of Haldi Ghati depending on who wins the elections, 450 years after the battle. The Central Board of Film Certification (or “Censor Board”, as it is popularly known) must be charged with a responsibility to ensure that films claiming to be based on historical events or employing historical characters must remain true to historical accounts and must not give the story a political or communal colour while filling in the details.

Even if facts are not proactively distorted, as in the case of Kesari, history changes depending on the perspective from which it is told. What perspective we choose reveals our politics. Why is it that there is no Indian film in which the Revolt of 1857 aka First War of Indian Independence is shown from the British perspective?

Here’s what it would sound like:

The revolt of 1857 was a treacherous act of mutiny by ingrate native soldiers who bit that hand that fed them, literally stabbing their rightful colonial masters in the back in the name of jehad, gau rakhsha and other such superstitious beliefs. For days, mayhem reigned. British officers were brutally killed, their women raped and their children murdered. Finally, an army of brave Englishmen aided by loyal native soldiers of the Empire fought off the mutineers and restored the rule of Her Majesty, Queen of England and Empress of Hindoostan. God save the Queen.

If we do not sponsor such narratives, then we must ask ourselves why we readily subscribe to the Islamophobic narrative of films like Kesari, why in fact we flock to watch such films in droves. In the answer lies the key to understanding the hate crimes and bigotry plaguing our country today.

[“source=thewire”]

Honda Grazia Vs Suzuki Access 125: Comparison Review

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Highlights

  • The Honda Grazia has more youthful design
  • The Suzuki Access has better top-end performance
  • The Honda Grazia is slightly more expensive than the Suzuki Access

There’s something about scooters, they are everywhere, and scooters have become the favourite mode of commute for a lot of people these days. The Honda Activa is perhaps the most well-known name in the world of scooters, easily surpassing all other brands in terms of sales volumes. Most of these are the bread and butter 110 cc scooters, but things are changing quickly as more and more consumers are warming up towards scooters with slightly more power and better dynamics. And there’s now renewed interest in the 125 cc scooter space with the Suzuki Access leading the pack.

Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) already has a very capable 125 cc scooter in the Honda Activa 125, but there’s been an equally capable, and one of the largest selling 125 cc scooters to contend with – the Suzuki Access. So, enter the new 125 cc scooter from HMSI – the Honda Grazia! It shares the same engine and cycle parts with the Honda Activa 125, but it gets a complete revamp in styling and features. And it’s now the Honda Grazia which will try to repeat the success of its smaller sibling, in the 125 cc scooter segment. So, a comparison with the Suzuki Access is inevitable.

Also Read: Honda Grazia First Ride Review

honda grazia vs suzuki access comparison review

The Honda Grazia has a more youthful and trendy design than the Suzuki Access

A matter of style

Without doubt, the new Honda Grazia is one of the most striking looking scooters in the market right now. That’s not to say that the Suzuki Access lacks in the looks department in any way. But both scooters follow completely different design philosophies and look entirely different from each other. The Honda Grazia offers a trendy, youthful design, which will certainly appeal to young riders looking for a sharp, new-age, and contemporary scooter. It’s got an attractive front apron, with full-LED headlights, with sharp creases on the body and a sleek rear end with a split grab rail and smart taillight unit.

honda grazia vs suzuki access comparison review

The Suzuki Access has understated looks, but has the universally acceptable design

The new Suzuki Access has been around for a couple of years now, and its design is more conventional, a little understated even, but it’s a handsome scooter nevertheless. The chromed headlight, round rear view mirrors and simple design of the Access gives it a retro touch, but build quality, fit and finish is definitely good. The rear end of the Access is also not much to talk about, it’s not bad looking in any way, but the Access has a more sober, understated look overall. In a way it’s the more universally acceptable design, and will cater to a diverse range of customers with different aesthetic sensibilities. The Grazia on the other hand, is the flashier, trendier and more stylish of the two scooters.

honda grazia vs suzuki access comparison review

The Honda Grazia is loaded with features and makes the Access look retro

Features and more

The Honda Grazia gets an all-digital instrument panel which definitely adds to the premium-ness of the scooter and suitably complements its somewhat avant-garde design. It offers a lot more information, including a tachometer, speedometer, fuel gauge and even a clock. The Access on the other hand, has a somewhat plain-Jane clock, with a retro-looking analog speedometer and just a small digital screen below with the odometer and fuel gauge.

The Grazia also offers a nice ‘flip-open’ cubbyhole at the front to carry a mobile phone or other knick knacks, but the Access offers an open storage space. Both scooters have remote switches to flip up the seat. The Grazia has a switch-activated rear hatch opener, while the Access has a handier switch integrated into the ignition. Both scooters have generous underseat storage, the Grazia offers 18 litres of underseat storage, while the Access gets some more room with 21 litres. But both don’t offer enough storage for a full-sized helmet under the seat.

honda grazia vs suzuki access comparison review

The Honda Grazia has a smooth and refined 125 cc engine

Engines and Performance

Both scooters have similarly-specced engines, offering near comparable power and torque figures, at least on paper. The Honda Grazia’s single-cylinder, air-cooled, 124.9 cc engine makes 8.52 bhp at 6,500 rpm and maximum torque of 10.54 Nm at 5,000 rpm. The Suzuki Access is powered by a 124 cc single-cylinder, air-cooled engine which makes marginally more power – 8.58 bhp at 7,000 rpm, but slightly less peak torque of 10.2 Nm at 5,000 rpm. On paper, both scooters are evenly matched, and on the road too, there’s not much of a difference in the way they perform.

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The Suzuki Access is 5 kg lighter than the Honda Grazia

But the Honda Grazia at 107 kg kerb weight, weighs a full 5 kg more than the Suzuki Access, which weighs 102 kg. The engines of both scooters are refined and offer smooth acceleration, but it’s the Access which feels more eager to move, and feels peppier from the get-go. It’s quicker than the Grazia and also feels more eager to move at higher speeds. That’s not to say that the Grazia’s performance is lacking in any way; it’s got a refined engine too, and has a strong mid-range, but if it’s high speed cruising you’re looking at, and overall acceleration, it’s the Suzuki Access which comes out tops.

Also Read: 2016 Suzuki Access 125 Review

honda grazia vs suzuki access comparison review

The Suzuki Access feels more spirited and has better top end performance

Ride and Handling

Both scooters offer decent ride quality and are almost evenly matched in terms of handling. Both the Grazia and the Access have telescopic front suspension, and ride on 12-inch front wheels and 10-inch rear wheels. But the ride quality is ever so different. The Grazia feels slightly stiff compared to the Access, and it’s the Access which cushions bad roads better than the Grazia. The Access also has a slightly broader and longer seat and that makes it feel slightly plusher and more comfortable than the Grazia. In terms of riding position too, it’s the Access which offers an easier riding position than the Grazia, especially when negotiating a curve or flicking the scooter around a corner.

honda grazia vs suzuki access comparison review

The Honda Grazia gets combined braking system (CBS) which the Suzuki Access does not have

That said, both scooters offer near similar handling, but again, it’s the Access which offers more confidence to flick it around a corner or two. Both scooters offer optional front disc brakes, and the Grazia offers the combined-braking system, which essentially activates both brakes simultaneously with just one brake lever, so that really helps in emergency braking manoeuvres. But the Access offers slightly better bite and progression on the lever, and as long as you’re pulling both levers together, the Access offers sure-shot braking power as well.

The last word

The Honda Grazia certainly ups the ante in the 125 cc scooter segment with its flashy design, and features like the all-digital speedometer and LED headlights. It looks youthful, upmarket, and will certainly appeal to someone looking for a trendy and features-loaded scooter with a smooth and refined engine. The Suzuki Access is more the understated gent, but in terms of pure performance and ride quality, we can’t really ignore the qualities it possesses. From a purely enthusiast point of view too, it’s the Suzuki Access, which offer more smiles every time you wring open the throttle and negotiate the urban jungle. Besides, with its understated, yet handsome looks, the Access is more universally acceptable to a wide range of riders, ranging from lady riders to the young executive and even slightly more mature riders. At ₹ 57,744 (ex-showroom) for the disc-brake variant, it’s the Suzuki Access which offers the better value for money option. And even the Access 125 Special Edition, the one we are testing in this comparison, costs less than ₹ 60,000, at ₹ 59,319 (ex-showroom Delhi).

honda grazia vs suzuki access comparison review

The Honda Grazia is more expensive than the Suzuki Access

At ₹ 62,505 (ex-showroom Delhi) for the disc brake variant, the Honda Grazia is the more expensive scooter, but it offers a whole lot more in terms of the overall package. And to top it off, Honda also offers a far superior sales and service network than Suzuki, and that makes the Grazia inch ahead of the Access in the eventual comparison. But if you’re in the market for a 125 cc scooter, do take a very close look and a test ride of both these scooters, back to back. Each of these two scooters has their own strengths, and eventually it will really come down to personal choice, and a real close calculation of what “value for money” means, to choose one over the other.

[“Source-ndtv”]

Quick twin test Audi Q5 vs Mercedes GLC

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Indeed, and this is the one Middle England has been waiting for: the MkII Audi Q5 in sporty S line trim with the sensible 189bhp, 2.0-litre diesel, automatic gearbox and quattro all-wheel-drive. Samey recipe, samey looks.

Just as the Q5 is an A4 Avant on tiptoes, the Mercedes-Benz GLC jacks up a C-Class estate powertrain, interior and tech. This is the most powerful four-cylinder version, with 201bhp (plus 369lb ft of torque) and nine gears.

Which is more practical?

Plenty of rear legroom and headroom in the Q5, but the sculpted rear seats mean three across the back is going to be more uncomfortable than in the Benz. Smaller rear doors impede access, too.

The GLC wins points for slightly longer rear doors, a flatter rear seat and flat loading sill where the Audi has a ledge in the boot. Both cars offer 550 litres seats-up. The Audi is better for all-round visibility.

I’m doing big distance: Audi or Mercedes?

Proper split decision, this. The Audi is unbelievably quiet for a four-pot diesel – the cold start is so smooth you’ll wonder if it’s petrol-powered, and there’s a mite less wind noise than the Merc. But, beyond the initial getaway, the Q5 is a bit more sluggish and the high-speed ride is choppy. No SQ5 dynamic sharpness has been transplanted.

Things are different in the Mercedes. Air suspension, so you can pump the ride height and have comfy or sporty modes, is a £1,495. Like all Airmatic Mercs, it makes the body control lollopy, pitching around at speed with body roll at odds with the fast steering… but it is comfier over big bumps than this Q5. Ageing 2.1-litre engine is a proper rattlebox; bring on the new 2.0-litre from the latest E-Class.

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Can the Q5 be beaten inside?

Not material-wise. The bits you touch are simply more tactile and the infotainment is friendlier. However, it’s a much more austere place to be, where the Mercedes feels rich and welcoming.

The Merc wins on baroque design but feels plasticky in places. There’s more stowage space up front thanks to the gear lever cleverly migrating to behind the steering wheel, though.

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What’s the verdict?

Audi: Ace refinement and top-notch cabin undone by unsettled ride. The Mercedes? A good cruiser. Pleasant to sit in. But that diesely rattle needs sorting. Exceptionally close, but the Mercedes clinches it.

[Source:-.topgear]

IRS Ups Deduction vs. Depreciation to $2,500 for Computers, Phones

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The Internal Revenue Service has increased the amount small businesses can expense versus depreciate on their taxes each year. It’s a change that should simplify record keeping and increase the amount of a capital investment you can write off in a year.

Specifically, the federal agency has boosted the so-called “IRS safe harbor” limit businesses can deduct on a capital investment within a single year from $500 to $2,500.

A capital investment is one used by a business to acquire, produce, or improve tangible property. It might range from investment in a new building to investment in a new piece of equipment or other new technology.

The IRS says the change is the result of feedback on a request put out to businesses asking for ways to make paperwork easier. The agency says it received more than 150 letters from businesses pointing out that a $500 threshold didn’t cover the cost of many expensed items such as tablet computers and machinery.

For example, purchasing tablets for $2,000 would have to be amortized for four years at $500 each year. Raising the IRS safe harbor threshold for capitalization from $500 to $2,500 would allow for the deduction to come in one year.

Safe Harbor is a term for an amount that the IRS won’t question. As a part of this new rule, the IRS has said it won’t question $2,500 deductions in years previous to the official 2016 start.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says in an agency announcement, “We received many thoughtful comments from taxpayers, their representatives and the professional tax community. This important step simplifies taxes for small businesses, easing the record keeping and paperwork burden on small business owners and their tax preparers.”

Capitalization has traditionally taken place over years as a deduction on the depreciation of property that’s intended to last years. But now businesses can deduct a larger expense for technology in a single year leaving depreciation for much bigger ticket items. The IRS safe harbor change affects businesses that do not maintain an applicable financial statement (audited financial statement).

And, as always, deductions can be taken on repair and maintenance costs which are not counted under the $2,500 limit. For taxpayers with an applicable financial statement, the small-dollar threshold remains $5,000.

Deduction Definition Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]