Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lest We Forget

Jagran Cityplus remembers Lance Naik Mohammed Firoz Khan a martyr who sacrificed his life fighting against Pakistani troops at LoC in Jammu & Kashmir October last year.

A soldier, miles away posted at LoC was packing up to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha with his family at Hyderabad. There was a smile on his face that he packed in his luggage with the toys for his little children. The luggage did reach his home, but the smile was smothered. Toys were shattered. Lance Naik Mohammad Firoz Khan was killed as Pakistani troops opened fire in Poonch district at Mendhar sub-sector. His last words, “Jai, Hind!” seemed to resonate again and again in the Nawab Sahab Kunta graveyard, old city Hyderabad, where he was buried with full military honours.  

Country roads

The 35 year old soldier, Firoz was a resident of Hyderabad old city, Nawab Sahab Kunta. His father Mohammad Jafar Khan, too, was in Indian Army and wanted his son to serve the country. “Even when we would play in the ground, my brother would always mention his dreams of joining the army. He would be our leader in any game,” reminisces his younger brother Mohammad Alauddin Khan with teary eyes. And a leader indeed he was. He was with 18 Madras Regiment for twelve years serving in the battalion 38 Rashtriya Rifles. His first posting was in Ooty. He was posted at Kargil from 2005-2007. “From the army posts he would call us regularly and talk to each member of the family,” adds Alauddin in a low voice.

His mother Razia Begum fondly touches the memento that her son received while he was sent on UN Mission of Congo from 2010-2011. She gives a crushed smile, “My son has made all of us proud. He would always say that he will make it big one day while serving the army.” Labour Minister Danam Nagender, Mayor Majid Hussain, YSR Congress party president Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy, BJP leaders G. Kishan Reddy and Bandaru Dattatreya and other political party leaders had come to pay their respects to the martyred soldier when his body was brought to Hyderabad on October 17, 2013 for the funeral.

The last moments

Firoz had visited his family on Eid-ul-Fitr the last year in August. He had been given leave for Eid-ul-Azha but as soon as he heard of the firings on Indian Army posts in Poonch, where he was posted, he did not care about his leaves and went ahead to join his compatriots saying, “I can celebrate Eid later, but have to teach the enemy a lesson!” He went to the firing spot and fired back gallantly at the Pakistani troops. He was hit by a mortar splinter. Before dying, the last words that he uttered were, “Jai, Hind!” His three children Afsheen aged 5, Ashraf aged 3 and 10 month old Naaz were waiting for him come and celebrate the festival with them. Little did they know that their father was a shaheed now. They looked on innocently as hundreds of people took part in the funeral procession of the martyr and gathered at the graveyard for the burial rites. His wife Nasreen Fatima is still in a state of shock, her hands still bearing very faint traces of henna. 

Highest honour for Firoz

The soldier’s house wears a sad gloomy look with his mementos kept amidst blue paper flowers. Soon they will be humbled to have Param Vir Chakra to be kept on the highest shelf of the showcase in the living room. “We have been informed by Army officials that Firoz bhai will be awarded Param Vir Chakra,” informs his brother Alauddin. The family will go to New Delhi on Independence Day to receive the highest military award for gallantry. Firoz is dead, but his deeds of martyrdom will live for an eternity.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hyderabad Urban Lab

How well do we know our city? Anant Maringanti, one of the founders of Hyderabad Urban Lab(HUL) speaks to Cityplus to let us know how we can find the answer to that question.

You must have come across chemistry labs, but have you ever heard of an urban lab? Meet Anant Maringanti, one of the founders of Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL). A lab with the aim to help urbanites understand their own world and bring a change to it. Anant is an economics geographer who, after his stay abroad, came back to his roots, his city and is letting others see it from a different perspective.

Right to know one’s own city

It was in the year 1956 that a French philosopher brought the concept of the right to know one’s own city. United Nations has also been closely involved with it over the years. The fundamental idea is to produce knowledge about the city in a local text and to understand how urbanization is shaping up internal and external lives of urbanites. Anant elaborates, “Cities are topographies that do not belong to a particular person. They are developed over ages undergoing many changes that eventually shape them up. They are entities. We are yet to find out how cities function as entities. Ours is an idea to explore this more.”

Bholakpur, for instance

Much like factories, cities too produce their own waste. And every city has its own places filtering the waste of a city much like kidneys do for a body. For Hyderabad, Bholakpur works as its kidneys. The 150 year old area is known as the leather tannery of the city amidst verdant crop fields. “People came from villages to settle down there and then around it, a city transformed. Now, at Bholakpur people live who deal with the scrap that the city produces – these people actually have made the city livable and clean. Areas like Bholakpur do not feature much in town planning. In 2009 when drinking water was mixed up with sewerage water, the area was labeled as the hub of maladies. Nobody bothered to find out whose fault it was and why it happened. It is an important area that puts commodities back to life post consumption; this is what needs to be recognized when cities are planned,” says Anant. Hyderabad Urban Lab began its research work on Bholakpur the last year to locate Bholakpur and places of the same sort on the global and political economy by giving its people a platform to tell their tales.

Meta Data

The data related to a city is rarely transparent. There is always a mismatch between two government bodies thanks to their own ‘risk and benefit’ factors. The accurate data can help save many a denizen during natural calamities or man-made disasters. Not only this, it will help people understand their city in a much better way. They can connect with one another as and when required. Anant signs off saying, “We are trying to accumulate accurate government public data. This will be very useful in the communication between public and government. We have begun to collect data and data samples from various sources. We teach students GIS and ask them to collect data for us.”