Tag Archives: Ghazipur

Tikaits can correct Course with Farmers Unity Vaccine aginast BJP virus

Mahendra Tikait once ruled over Western UP and in fact all of North Indian Agrarian Politics! Head of strong Baliyan Khap- one of the strongest and largest communities within closely knit Jats, he also had the base for that!

Rakesh Tikait breaks into tears after UP govt's order to vacate Ghazipur  Border

I still remember his Boat Club rally that brought Rajiv Gandhi government to its knees (Boat Club was made a restricted zone only after that rally).


I remember how even my Congressi father who loved Gandhi family till the end had immense respect for him! “Akhir me ham bhi kisan hi hain na beta” he would say when I would read “Maya ” the famous political magazine of the times and ask about Tikait!


He ruled over farmers politics because he was dead honest- and secular to core. For him politics was for the farmers, by the farmers on agrarian issues.


He would defend the minorities’ rights with gusto. In a very famous case he led a struggle against a Muslim girl’s abduction until she was found. His Mahapanchayats would invite Muslims farmers as well with good numbers. He never let anyone turn the villages in the area into a communal warzone despite repeated riots in some of the cities- Meerut in particular. He would lead peace marches without fear- would ask Jats and almost order Baliyan Khap to protect minorities in their villages.


I also remember his several rallies in Lucknow in early 1990s- forcing the governments to accede to his demands every single time.


Then the political landscape of India started changing. One mistake of Rajiv Gandhi- the Shah Bano verdict followed by another Ram Mandir Shilanyas changed it all- and forever, par ahora!


Though his influence had started weaning by the end of 90s  thanks to both- Kamandal and Mandal with Hindutva politics weakening farmers unity and demands of reservation for Jats adding to the growing divide- he stayed powerful and secular till the end in 2011!


That gave an even bigger space to BJP to expand in the Jat Belt as it is called!


Tikait brothers could have stopped it- perhaps- had they stayed true to their fathers’ vision. Unfortunately, their silence, almost I mean, on increasing communalization of the area began the end! Suddenly- Muslims who used to be an equal part of their support base started ditching them, and rightly so. Rakesh Tikait’s participation in the infamous 2013 MahaPanchayat that led to Muzaffarnagar riots killing Muslims and Hindus both, almost finished them as leaders of all Jats! Muslims, too, had no reason to stay with them anymore.


This also led to decreasing influence of Jat Politics in the region- and BJP did make a show of it by making a non-Jat chief minister of Haryana after it swept the state. This followed by the electoral loss of Ajit Singh and rout of the Rashtriya Lok Dal and things had come a full circle.


Tikait Brothers did have a go at revival during Jat Quota Stir in February 2016 when BJP betrayed Jats on its poll promise of reservation for them- and brutally cracked upon the movement against that- killing 30 Jats in police firing! Yet, they failed to galvanize on that and bring the Jats and agrarian issues to the centre of the politics. There were rather whispers against them of colluding with BJP later and tacitly supporting them in 2019 elections!


Emboldened by recapturing Haryana even if by a brink despite non Jat CM and Feb 2016 repression, perhaps, BJP took them as done and dusted with. It’s sweep of Jat Lands in 2019 Lok Sabha polls made it delude into having finished Jat politics altogether!


It had forgotten, though, that Tikait brothers still had a lot of support and goodwill. Being head of Baliyan Khap had kept at least those numbers intact. All they needed was an entry point again. BJP gave them that with ill though Farm Bills intended to rob farmers to pay their masters.


Stunned with massive resistance it had never thought of, it miscalculated again and attacked them even more! Terming farmers, mostly Jats and Sikhs anti national, calling them terrorists was way too much to chew.


Then came the threats of brutal repression- and the defiant tears!


Rakesh Tikait roared through his tears: We will not court arrest. They may kill us. They may shoot us. I won’t leave. Those who want to leave can leave.


This was the first time in my memory of Indian Politics when protests have been reduced to “Court Arrest Drama” followed by victory calls, a few hours in some Police Stations and back home!


The tables were turned. Almost 10,000 troops in riot gear sent to evacuate Ghazipur protest site got swept off by those tears! Farmers across UP and Haryana were stirred by the tears too: they started for Delhi in the night itself! 30,000 of them have already reached!


BJP governments- both at centre and in UP along with Godi Media flexing muscles till then were suddenly stunned, not knowing what to do of this! They did what cowards do- they ran away!


UP government came true on its promise of evacuating Ghazipur Protest Site. Just that in reverse: It evacuated the site of its troops! Farmers are still pitched there! 


This is a historic moment for the Tikait Brothers- of correcting their mistakes and bringing agrarian issues back to the mainstream  politics. They can do this only by going their father’s way- uniting farmers using the Agri issues as vaccine against BJP virus by uniting all farmers, specially Muslims!

Would they be able to do it? Only time will tell!


Ghazipur to Guangzhou: The opium trail

Magnificent Canton Tower in Guangzhou, briefly the tallest building of the world, stood in front of me. Inquiring, it seems, why I looked so familiar. 

It wasn’t because I came from Hong Kong, just 129 kms away, I told him. Yet, I had to look familiar as the real, left behind home of the boy from Babhnan is a mere 190 kms away from Ghazipur. A small sleepy town the boy knew so well. A Kasba he has been to many times for things big and small- from family weddings to a pit stop on the way to Varanasi- a major pilgrim centre. 

This is the Canton Tower, briefly the tallest building in the world.
Canton Tower

This is where this story started. A story that would change the world. It wasn’t one of those beautiful stories of the travellers and knowledge seekers who went from China to India- their Buddha’s home. 

This was not a story of great scholars like Faxian or Xuanzang. It was a story of the Opium and the Raj. A story of wars and blood. Of Colonials and the Natives. Of victors and the vanquished for centuries to come.

Yeah, the story formally began in Ghazipur, still one of the single biggest opium producers in the world. It began with ith the Ghazipur Opium Factory, established as Benaras Opium Agency, an East India Company entity in 1820. The idea of exporting opium to China was that of Warren Hastings, the first governor general of British India, in 1780. Yet, the first few shipments, hardly found any takers. Ten years down the line, the scene had completely changed with scores of Chinese already addicted. The Qing dynasty was already cracking down threatening death sentences to smugglers, including the foreign merchants. 

This was an almost unbelievable sequence in the Chimelong International Circus! My heart skipped a beat many a times!
An almost unbelievable stunt from the Chimelong International Circus

The British opposed this in the name of Free Trade and parity of the nations (sounds familiar, no?), and continued engaging in the illegal trade. 

By the early 1820s, opium processed in Ghazipur would be sent to Calcutta (now Kolkata) for auction, then smuggled to the south China coast via the port of Canton (now Guangzhou). Canton was the only port through which the Chinese empire allowed, and regulated, foreign trade for centuries. Macau was the only exception with a small concession for a Portugese post in 1557, but not allowed to trade in China. 

The skirmishes over opium escalated. The Qings sent Lin Zexu, from Fuzhou (aah, the world is so small) as Viceroy in 1839 to crack down on the illegal trade. He would appeal to the conscience of the Queen Victoria to stop the trade in a letter that would never reach her. He would try to forfeit opium offering tea in exchange, the British won’t listen to him. He would then use force: and a war would break out- the First Opium War- with the Qing’s defeat in 1842. The Qings would sign the Treaty of Nanking granting indemnity and extraterritoriality to the foreigners in China, would open 5 more ports and cede Hong Kong, my home now, to the British in perpetuity. 

All I could get was this horrible photo despite trying a `100 times! Those were the days!
I tried so hard to get this! Beat if you can! That’s Pearl River…

Oh Ghazipur and Gwanjhou, you changed the history of the world. And also personal history of the small boy from Babhnan. Had you both not played your role, Hong Kong would not become a British colony and would be one of the most unlikely places he could call home! This even as Charles Cornwallis, then Governor General of India sleeps in his grave overlooking the graceful Ganges in Ghazipur! Talk of the journies! 

Anyways, back to Guangzhou, with a history of over 2200 years. Though the Canton part is perhaps the most fascinating part of its life, it is not the only one. Neither is the modern megapolis- one of the biggest foreign trade centres in China again! Sitting in the heart of Pearl River Delta, Guangzhou too has been one of the earliest cradles of the civilisation, with all its bounties.

Once in the city, start with a stroll by the river. Then go up in the sky, in the Canton Tower, and watch it flow down with grace. 

Miss the old Circus days? You are at the right place, provided you could make that morally difficult decision- and vouch for yourself if animals, and humans are treated well. Once done, head to Chimelong International Circus, and/or Safari and/or resort. Want to imagine what Canton looked like? Head to Shamian Island- a major abode for the foreigners- a European oasis in the orient! 

Don’t miss the over 2000 year old Mausoleum of Nanyue King Zhao Mo, discovered only in 1983! Nanyue, incidentally was an ancient kingdom encompassing parts of southern China and northern Vietnam And is considered to be a Chinese one by them, and a Vietnamese one by them.

This was after watching a circus performance in decades!
After watching a circus after decades!

Squeeze in some time for Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall as well and pay tributes to the city that played a major role in changing  the history of China, and the world, yet another time with strings of revolutions against the Monarchy followed by the establishment of first, Republic of China and then, Peoples’ Republic of China.