AYODHYA, India (Reuters) – Millions of voters went to the polls in Uttar Pradesh, the first stage of an election that tests support for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s troubled government ahead of a nationwide vote in two years.
The election in Uttar Pradesh, a state that would be the world’s fifth most populous nation if independent, could have a bearing on who next governs India. It is a closely fought four-way race pitting the scion of the elite Gandhi dynasty against a powerful low caste leader and two other parties.
By Adnan Abidi
“Ganges is Holy,” said my boatman as I pointed my camera to photograph devotees half submerged in the blackish brown waters of the sacred river, the second most polluted in India. It was my third day on a photography assignment on Bihar- a sprawling state on the Gangetic plains of eastern India. My brief was to cover the overall progress of Bihar, hence I planned to photograph a bridge under construction over this sacred river. After a couple of shots with my wide angle lens I shifted to telephoto and as I zoomed in I saw a crow, a crow savoring or maybe just sitting on a corpse.
The boatman wasn’t as shocked as I was. This was no extraordinary sight for him. He continued to praise the progress of the state, and its new efficient minister but said things will not change overnight. On seeing me still shocked about the corpse he revealed that as Hinduism describes Moksha as liberation from the cycle of life and death, freedom forever from earthly miseries and sufferings, the holy river Ganges is believed to be a pathway to attain Moksha. And Hindus believe that dying on the banks of this holy river enable a soul to attain Moksha. So at very short intervals, sometime just weeks, people here see corpses floating on the river, and its an accepted phenomenon. He said that’s the way of life here and still there was progress!
By Adnan Abidi
The joy of being born in a free country is a gift I received from those who sweat and bled in the struggle for Indian Independence. I accept the fact that I do very little to appreciate that gift. The most I do is fly a kite on August 15th, like many others. Quite a few of my fellow ‘post-independence born’ countrymen have little clue about the struggles our martyrs undertook to achieve what, today, we enjoy with much ingratitude. Freedom has been taken for granted.
The first struggle of Indian Independence was unknown to me, the second, as popular support named it, was the one I witnessed. It was when a 74-year-old Gandhinian, Anna, mobilized a crowd of over a million to crusade against corruption they say has infiltrated to the very roots of the Indian administration.
The digital revolution has its pros and cons; on one hand it has amplified the chance of getting a picture in a stampede-like situation and on the other, it has created the stampede-like situation. With the advent of digital technology, the number of publications and media houses has grown, in turn multiplying the number of cameramen and photographers present at an event. Yet it has also increased the number of picture possibilities which in the celluloid days were limited to 36 frames in a film roll. Good or bad there is no going back.
Ignoring my aching jaw, I scrolled through my images to see if I had got the picture, of India’s former telecommunications minister Andimuthu Raja, accused in the 2G spectrum scam. It must have been an elbow of one of the many cameramen or photographers present who were struggling to get the same picture that struck me. I didn’t mind the pain as even my elbow hurt a bit. I was sure I wasn’t the only one with a sore jaw, of late we photographers were accustomed to it.