Restoring Delhi’s Central Ridge – Dilli hai jiska naam I: Pradip Krishen

We thought of a series on Delhi that does not talk only of the narrow lanes of Shahjahanabad, the Mughalia, aka Mughlai delights and the lip-smacking Chaats of Chandni Chowk or the grand ruins of the seven Delhis and the wide open spaces and broad roads, but a series that also looks at the way Delhi has evolved. We wanted to explore the logic of the city and of the forces that have shaped the idea of the city itself.  It was this idea that made us approach people who have engaged with the city with love and care for decades, and we requested them to write for Kafila. 

This series is titled, Dilli Hai Jiska Naam, and here is the first piece, by PRADIP KRISHEN

Restoring Delhi’s Central Ridge:  Pradip Krishen

(All images by Pradip Krishen)

Delhi’s Central Ridge is big — a little more than 850 hectares. That’s 8 and a half square kilometres of semi-wild forest in the heart of a totteringly large metropolis.

The Central Ridge is mostly open thorn forest but it can be quite dense in pockets. An evergreen climber called ‘heens’ (Capparis sepiaria) adds to the impression of density

It’s true the Ridge is degraded and filled with invasive trees from South America, its potholed roads are used as a rubbish dump and there are all sorts of other problems inside, but it’s still remarkable that the Central Ridge exists at all. And that it hasn’t been taken over to make multi-storeyed flats for civil servants. Or worse.

The President’s Bodyguard leases a polo ground inside the Central Ridge and does some damage by scattering rubbish from its Polo clubhouse indiscriminately on the Ridge.

I can’t say I know all of the Central Ridge. But it’s now been nearly 50 years since I first started going in there, and there’s a portion — it could be as much as 90 or 100 hectares or so — that I can claim to know really well because I walk there every day. I’m writing a journal-style book about the C Ridge — only about this parcel I’m most familiar with — and I hope to give you a sense of what it is about the C Ridge that I find not just fascinating but important from the angle of how this city is evolving and growing. Continue reading Restoring Delhi’s Central Ridge – Dilli hai jiska naam I: Pradip Krishen

Who is afraid of anuradha bhasin ?

Attacks on the media have become more “sophisticated”, such as stopping advertisements, which adds to the threat of violence.

Anuradha bhasin

In the first week of October came news from Jammu that the government-allotted apartment where Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of Kashmir Times has lived for twenty years, had been ransacked. The act was allegedly perpetrated by the relative of a former member of the Legislative Council. The intruders tried not to be photographed in the act by Bhasin, but later she published them and wrote on social media about how her “jewellery, silverware and other valuables” were taken by them in “connivance with the [Jammu and Kashmir] Estates Deptt and some police personnel”. Bhasin had not been served a show-cause notice to vacate the flat.

Soon after the office of her newspaper, located in the Press Enclave area in Srinagar, was also sealed, again without giving its legal owner or editor any reason. “Today, Estates Deptt locked our office without any due process of cancellation & eviction, same way as I was evicted from a flat in Jammu, where my belongings including valuables were handed over to ‘new allottee’,” Bhasin wrote.

One is suddenly reminded of the various storms the oldest and most-circulated newspaper published from Jammu and Kashmir has faced all these years. In 1983, some 200 Hindu right-wing lumpen, armed with batons and sharp weapons, barged into the offices of Kashmir Times in Jammu and attacked the editor at the time, Ved Bhasin. This attack followed a news report published by the then forty-year-old newspaper, which had apparently “hurt” their sentiments. The grand old man of English journalism, as Ved Bhasin was known in Jammu and Kashmir, survived the attack and continued his work with renewed vigour.

(Read the full article here)

Post Covid world and Bahujan: Pramod Ranjan

Guest Post by PRAMOD RANJAN

Translated from the original Hindi by Ekta News and Features

It is said that had the spread of the Novel Coronavirus not been contained by imposing lockdowns, by now, it would have consumed a substantial chunk of the human residents of the earth. But this claim requires closer examination.

Lockdown killed lakhs of persons the world over and its after-effects have ruined the economies of scores of low- and middle-income countries like India. Crores of persons have been condemned to a life of poverty and misery.

What is going to change
Offices and educational institutions were a gift of modern age. By bringing human minds together, the places of work and the centres of education not only scripted a new chapter in the development of the human race but also brought diverse communities on common platforms. It is almost certain that in the post-Covid world, schools and offices would not exist as we know them today.[1] A new law for bringing about changes in educational institutions has come into force in India.[2] Labour laws have been almost abolished and companies have been given the licence to exploit the workers.[3] Not only manual labourers but white-collar workers, too, would be caught in this web of exploitation and mental turmoil[4]. The rights of journalists and media employees, related to their service conditions and salary and allowances, have been withdrawn through changes in the law.[5]

There is also a real danger that globalization (the spurt in commercial and business activities at the global level around the 1990s) would be reversed. This will spell disaster for the economies of the developing countries. In India and many other countries, the poor could join the middle-income group only due to globalization[6]Continue reading Post Covid world and Bahujan: Pramod Ranjan

We Urgently Need a Rainbow Left – One Hundred Years of Indian Communism

 

 

Bolivia’s Movement for Socialism, image courtesy The Nation

The world today desperately awaits the emergence of a new, rainbow Left that is liberated from the disastrous hold of the twentieth century. Indeed, attempts to find or forge such platforms are visible in different parts of the world. Falteringly and with setbacks to be sure, but there is no doubt that serious attempts are underway. And many of these attempts are powered by a different kind of imagination that is unencumbered, to a large extent, by the suffocatiing grip of the last century.

One hundred years ago, on 17 October 1920, the emigre Communist Party of India was formed in Tashkent with MN Roy as its chief initiator. This date of the party’s formation is, of course, contested by the current CPI, which dates its formation from 26 December 1925, when the first ‘Indian Communist Conference’ was held in Kanpur. The date became a matter of contention, especially after the split  in the CPI and the formation of the CPI(M) in 1964 – and at the core of that contention were two related issues. One opinion at the time of the Kanpur Conference had argued for a home-bred and ‘nationalist’ ‘Indian Communism’, in opposition to which the other section saw itself as a contingent or  a chapter of an international movement. The second question became more of an issue in the later years, after Stalin’s death and the revaluation of his role and the manner in which the Comintern came to play a subordinate role to Soviet foreign policy. In between these two lies the phase of the ‘Bolshevization’ of all socialist and communist parties across the world, which ensured that the CPI too, no longer remain an independent party in the sense in which some were arguing at the time of its formation.

Continue reading We Urgently Need a Rainbow Left – One Hundred Years of Indian Communism

India is Hungry: Who is Listening?

Hunger is a matter of structural anomalies. It cannot just be explained away by who holds the reins of power.

Starvation Deaths Continue to Occur in UP

Image Courtesy: Sabrang India

The “good news” is that India now stands at the 94th position on the Global Hunger Report 2020’s ranking of 107 countries. India has improved several notches over its 102nd rank last year, but is still firmly in the category of countries with a “serious” hunger problem. Only a handful of countries are doing worse than India, such as Rwanda (ranked 97), Afghanistan (99), Mozambique (103) and Chad (107).

The “good news” cannot hide the fact that that with an overall score of 27.2 India has performed worse than its neighbours, Pakistan (ranked 88), Bangladesh (75), Nepal (73) and Indonesia (70).

Seen any way, India has spent yet another year failing to tackle its massive chronic hunger problem. According to official figures, more than 14% of the population is undernourished and the child stunting rate is over 37.4%. One supposes this fits in with the strong belief in some quarters that India is a Vishwa Guru—teacher to the world—and can boldly claim to be a superpower in future.

The situation is such that news of starvation deaths is not uncommon despite excess of food grains stored in the godowns of the Food Corporation of India. Thousands of tonnes of these food grains go waste every year for a number of equally unjustifiable reasons.

(Read the full article here)

Petition to Ban Toxic News Channels

The following petition initiated by Prof Apoorvanand ; Bhasha Singh, Journalist/Activist ; Jitendra Kumar, Senior Journalist ;  Mahendra Mishra, Editor, Janchowk and Subhash Gatade appeals to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DICCI) and The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) to boycott toxic new channels.  The petition can be signed here :

It is a welcome sign that two prominent business houses, namely Bajaj Auto and Parle have taken the WELCOME DECISION to not advertise on TV channels spreading hatred. We urge all the advertisers to BOYCOTT HATE MONGERS, because the history is witness that the hate ruins the whole society and does not spare anyone, however rich and high and mighty a person may be. Let us remind ourselves the unforgettable words of Pastor Martin Niemoller that he spoke on emerging from the Nazi prison: “… When they came for me, there was none left to protest”. Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

These corporates need to recall that not long ago when Black Lives Matter movement was at its peak in the West, more than 1,000 companies had decided to boycott a section of social media platforms for their dubious stand on race.

We are aware of the background: The qualitative changes – for the worse – that have taken place in the Indian media, especially the electronic variant during last few years. The ownership of the large media houses has become limited to a few big players. And these big corporates are not concerned with the concerns of the common people, and use the media for their own and their political masters’ vested interests by focusing on non-issues and indulgence in sensationalism, false propaganda and hatred – thereby actively participating in the destruction of social unity in diversity among Indians that has existed despite any and every difference of class, caste, gender, region, religion, language, ideology or any other.

Without going back to the times when the lynching became the new political weapon – with the accused being welcomed by the ruling party leaders and even minister – during the last few months, we saw that in order to deflect attention from the catastrophe that had befallen on the people in general but migrant labour in particular because of the COVID-19 pandemic and to advance the agenda of demonizing Muslims – a la Jews in Nazi Germany – how ‘Tablighi Jamat’ was willfully portrayed falsely as the ‘corona jehadi’ and what not. Then, we witnessed the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput being transformed into an endless ‘issue’, and the less said about the latest Hathras gang-rape, the better – the bizarre brazenness of hate-speech and hate-driven crime is unmistakably on the rise!

HIGH TIME THAT BOYCOTT OF HATE MONGERS BECOMES A COLLECTIVE PRACTICE!

A history of conservative strike on books

Even in a future in which books are outlawed, ideas cannot be vanquished.

Nazi's Boook burning

“You may burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe, but the ideas those books contain have passed through millions of channels and will go on,” wrote Helen Keller, in An Open Letter to German Students in 1933. Keller’s How I Became a Socialist was on the list of books to be burned. “History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas. Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them,” she wrote.

Today you cannot perhaps have campaigns like Nazi’s book burnings, nor can books disappear off the shelves as they did in the United States during the McCarthy era. Yet the powers that be have thought of ingenious ways to stop people from reading books.

A recent order by the department of education in Britain needs to be seen in this context. It has ordered schools in England to stop accepting funds from groups or organisations which have expressed the desire to end capitalism. Anti-capitalism is seen by the department as an “extreme political stance”, similar to opposing freedom of speech, anti-Semitism and endorsing illegal activities.

( Read the full text here)

Hathras and Beyond: the Upper Caste Counter-Revolution

If the post-Mandal Dalit Bahujan upsurge was an expression of the democratic revolution, the advent of Adityanath’s BJP government constituted the beginning of a counter-revolution that is on the way to consolidating itself in Uttar Pradesh.

Police at the Delhi-UP order, image courtesy The Print

The facts of the case are well known, even though the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh is trying, ever so hard, to produce a different narrative by resorting to the usual Hindutva tactic of assigning it to an international conspiracy. It is typical of the utterly farcical and shoddy nature of the Indian police (and maybe indicates the regime’s over-confidence) that it in the name  of collecting evidence of the conspiracy, it has done a cut-and-paste job from an American site, even forgetting to delete references to ‘NYPD’ and ‘white supremacism’! Incidents of gang-rape and murder have since also happened elsewhere in the state, notably in Balrampur and Bulandshahr. We are witnessing the heinous episode of the Hathras gang rape and murder when the memory of the Unnao rape case in which then BJP leader Kuldeep Sengar was accused, is still fresh in our minds. The victim’s father died in police custody, having already been very badly beaten by Sengar’s brother and their goons, a video of which was proudly circulated on social media. Some other members of the family were killed in an  accident when a truck with a blackened number plate hit their car. In a second rape case, in the very same Unnao, two years later, a 23-year old woman who had been raped and was on the way to a hearing of the rape case, was caught and set ablaze by five men and died soon after that. In the first case, the rape-accused was a ‘popular’ figure – a Rajput leader – in whose support demonstrations were organized after he was arrested. In the second case, the girl was a Lohar (a blacksmith jati) while those who brutalized and killed her were Brahmins.

Are these really coincidences? That the rapist in these ‘paradigmatic’ cases is always an upper caste (Rajput or Brahmin) and the woman always lower caste, or at any rate powerless in class terms? And are these really about sex? The answer to the second question has of course been provided to us by long years of meticulous and painstaking research by feminists the world over: rape is always about power. It is about caste, community, race and gender based power – gender is certainly not unimportant in this particular kind of display of power but sex is not the issue here.

It is the first question that merits closer attention here. The fact that in these type of cases the rapist is almost always an upper caste man is doubly interesting. We already know, in a very generic and commonsense way, that this is how the caste power of the upper-castes and powerful landed interests is asserted over the Dalit Bahujan castes. I am reminded of  some short stories by Mohandas Naimishray, where he talks of this mode of asserting power as a regular practice.  In’ Apna Gaon’, ‘Saali chamari, thakur se zuban ladati hai!’ (you Chamar bitch, you dare to talk back to a Thakur!) is how the Thakur curses the hapless Dalit woman before five Thakur men pounce upon her in a description that is not unlike what we read ever so often in accounts of gang rapes in newspapers. In another story, ‘Reet’ (custom), he describes the age old practice of newly wed Dalit women being forcibly taken away to the Thakur’s place on the  very first night, where they would be raped. In this story, Bulaki’s wife too is taken away by the Thakurs on the first night. 

‘The landlord did what he liked with her, tormenting her body and bruising it. After all, who did he have to fear! In the morning, she was thrown out like joothan [left over food] for her family members.’

The Democratic Revolution

I recount these literary narratives from some of the most poignant fiction that emerged from Dalit literature in Uttar Pradesh in the 1990s, simply in order to underline that naked, untramelled power over the lower castes, is what the Thakurs and other upper castes lost with the democratic revolution of the 1990s. And it was the democratic revolution of the post-Mandal 1990s that made possible the emergence of writings such as Naimishray’s or Om Prakash Valmiki’s widely-acclaimed autobiography, Joothan (1997). It is literature that is not really fictional but in some sense, docu-fiction. Look at this world that Dalit literature of that period presents before us – and then look at what is happening in Yogi Adityanath’s UP today and you will immediately get what is going on there.

For the intervening period in the state saw a major reversal of power relations, especially with the rise of the Bahujan Samaj Party  (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP). The rise of the Dalit Bahujans and of the BSP and SP, especially Mayawati’s stints in power, actually saw the reversal of the power dynamic in the rural areas as well. So powerful was the immediate impact of that upsurge that within a year of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the BJP lost power in the state, and only won state elections in 2017, three years after coming to power at the centre, in 2014, when the counter-revolution really began. The Congress too wilted in the face of the Dalit Bahujan upsurge and had all but disappeared for almost three decades.

I should perhaps state here, in parenthesis, that the term ‘democratic revolution’ here should not be understood in the Marxist sense of a ‘bourgeois-democratic revolution’ – for there is nothing democratic about the bourgeoisie, nor anything essentially bourgeois about democracy. That was but a specific and momentary historical conjunction of the two in nineteenth century Europe, whereafter democracy was quickly yoked into the service of liberalism that was the ideology of capitalism par excellence. The democratic revolution, rather, is to be understood as the process whereby the demand for and claims to equality are made and rapidly extended to different arenas of social life, leading to ‘the end of a society of a hierarchic and inegalitarian type, ruled by a theological-political logic’. (Laclau and Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy). 

In a very important sense, the democratic revolution of the 1990s reconfigured power equations, even if the demand for equality was not specifically raised and theorized in the context of that upsurge. The very ferocity of the upper caste counter-attack, in the form of the anti-Mandal agitation, ensured that the question of power was foregrounded. However, neither ‘self respect’ of yore, nor ‘social justice’ of this period are really demands for equality. Nonetheless, it is true that the demand for reservations in education and employment was no longer made in the language of ‘safeguards’ as Ambedkar had been forced to do, but was being raised in conjunction with Ram Manohar Lohia’s ‘picchda maange sau mein saath‘ (backwards demand 60 percent in employment – that is to say, in proportion to their percentage in the population). To the extent that it did pose a serious challenge to the deeply hierarchic and inegalitarian society, sanctioned by Hindu dharmashastras, it was a profoundly democratic revolution.

The Revolution Derailed

In retrospect, it does seem that the democratic revolution seemed destined to be derailed partly because it could not seize, head-on, the full meaning of its own claims. For a large part, the movement remained fixated on the superficial semiotics of power in purely caste terms. The giant statues built by Mayawati, often derided by critics, are emblematic of this fixation. A more radical claim of equality, in contrast, would have proceeded to the next stage of breaking the economic power of the landlords, Thakurs in particular, simultaneously finding ways of strengthening Dalit economic power.  The call for the formation of a Dalit bourgeoisie, despite the power of its innovativeness, seemed to have remained so trapped within the logic of neoliberalism, that any idea of redistribution was beyond its horizon of vision. The hostility of its chief enunciator, Chandra Bhan Prasad, to Marxism, ensured that it remains simply at the level of a ‘get rich quickly’ mantra for those who are in a position to do so. However, this is not just about Chandra Bhan Prasad but of the entire range of parties that were vehicles of the democratic revolution. All of them remained trapped within the larger world of neoliberal thinking and had practically no economic vision of their own. Having arisen in the era of the collapse of socialism and the larger disenchantment with Marxism and the sense that neoliberalism was the only game in town, all these parties totally shunned the economic question.

There was another reason for the derailment of the revolution that had started becoming apparent soon after the victory of the SP-BSP alliance in UP in 1993. As the panchayat polls drew nearer, it became clear, as Naimishray himself had explained to me once, that the pact between  the two parties was merely political; at the social level there wasn’t any real connection, and the social conflicts had started playing out as soon as the question of local power came up on the agenda. The unfortunate and difficult realization for those who believed in Kanshi Ram’s agenda of Bahujan unity was that it was the powerful among the OBCs who were the immediate and proximate oppressors of the Dalits. This was evident not just in UP but across different states. It was in this context that Mayawati embarked upon her programme of wooing the powerful Brahmins and even Rajputs (the ‘sarvajan’ slogan) – rather than say, the  utterly powerless non-Jatav Dalits and the non-Yadav, non-Kurmi OBCs. The lure of power was also beginning to become its own justification.

The Counter-Revolution

In a sense, the Unnao rape accused, Kuldeep Sengar provides quite a telling illustration of what happens all too often to revolutions. His being a Rajput did not prevent him from retaining his local power by aligning himself, now with the BSP and now the SP, getting elected and serving as MLA of both these parties respectively. Had he turned over a new leaf? Certainly not. If I had the space, I could show how the character of the CPI(M) and the Left Front changed rapidly after accession to power in 1977, as erstwhile enemies joined the new arrangements of power. Sengar was not doing either BSP or SP a favour. He knew that his remaining MLA would be the key to his power in a context when both the BJP and the Congress has ceased to be claimants of power.

That was the interregnum when the erstwhile powerful groups were being forced to negotiate with the parties of the revolution – and these parties mistook it as their strength. They thought they had broken  the back of the powerful upper castes, whereas the latter were simply biding their time and waiting for the right opportunity to present itself before them.

That opportunity came in 2014. Both the SP and BSP had already revealed their feet of clay and in any case, election studies figures show, they had already started losing votes and supporters even among their own social base. All this happened quite sometime before the 2014 election that then became the occasion, with Narendra Modi at the helm, for the upper castes in UP to hit back. Now confident that these parties would not even be able to mop up their own base, the BJP moved rapidly to become the party of counter-revolution. The party’s unprecedented and breathtaking performance in UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections set the stage for the recapture of the state in 2017. The decision to make Yogi Adityanath – not a BJP insider – the chief minister was a shocker for many, even among many of those sympathetic to the party. But in retrospect, both the 2014 and 2017 victories were not simply BJP victories; they were part of this upper caste, especially Thakur bid to recapture the state.

What is happening in the state should not therefore be read simply in party terms. Any party in control of the situation, especially one with a Hindutva platform, should have been keen and able to show to the whole world that it acts in favour of the most poor and oppressed Dalits. That would win lasting support from these sections and forever doom the prospects of Dalit parties and organizations. But the BJP under Yogi Adityanath is clearly not going to go that way, for the simple reason that this is the time for the counter-revolution to consolidate itself.

The moral of the story is this: Social and political spaces never lie in a limbo or a state of ‘equilibrium’ of any sort and the minute you relax your guard, the adversary takes the upper hand. Especially if age-old power configurations are disturbed. And leaving battles half-fought can lead to the most disastrous consequences, as we are seeing in UP today.

Over 10,000 Feminist groups and individuals condemn gangrape and murder of dalit woman in hathras

Received via SAHELI WOMEN’S RESOURCE CENTRE

We condemn the horrific rape and murder of a young Dalit woman from Hathras, UP.

We stand with the family in their sorrow. Extend support, solidarity and rage.

We demand immediate action against the state officials responsible for mishandling the case, destroying key evidence, and further traumatising the family and community.

SHAME ON THE STATE THAT STANDS WITH THE GUILTY.
SHAME ON THE STATE THAT INCREASES THE IMPUNITY WITH WHICH UPPER CASTE FORCES COMMIT VIOLENCE AND HATE CRIMES.

Today, over 10,000 people from all walks of life, cutting across caste, religion, gender, occupation and community came together from almost every state in India and more than a dozen countries across the world such US, UK, Canada, Australia, UAE, Hong Kong, Japan, Nepal, Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia etc to demand justice for the heinous rape, brutalising attack and murder of a young Dalit woman from Hathras.

In a sharp statement condemning the incident, they got together to say thatdespite a continuing saga of countless other cases of brutal sexual assault and murders especially of young Dalit women the conscience of this nation does not seem to be shaken enough to do anything serious to stop the systematic targeting of women, Dalits and the poor.

While there is a historicity to these incidents, but under CM Yogi’s rule, Uttar Pradesh has only gone from bad to worse. Crimes against women and Dalits have increased, and police have been given unlimited powers without any accountability. Today UP tops the charts for atrocities against Dalits, it also tops the charts for crimes against women.

Continue reading Over 10,000 Feminist groups and individuals condemn gangrape and murder of dalit woman in hathras

बेटी बचाओ का नारा देने वाले बलात्कारियों को बचाने में लगे हैं – यौन हिंसा और राजकीय दमन के खिलाफ महिलाएँ

Statement by WOMEN AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND STATE REPRESSION on Hathras and other cases in UP

यौन हिंसा और राजकीय दमन के खिलाफ महिलाएँ (WSS)  उत्तर प्रदेश में महिलाओं पर बढ़ रही यौन हिंसा पर चिंता व्यक्त करती है। पिछले दिनों हाथरस और बलरामपुर में दलित लड़कियों के साथ हुए बलात्कार और हाथरस के पूरे मामले में उत्तर प्रदेश पुलिस और प्रशासन की लापरवाही और बलात्कारियों को फायदा पहुंचाने वाली कार्यवाही, जिसमें रातों रात पीड़िता के शव को जलाना भी शामिल है, की कड़े शब्दों में निंदा करते करते हैं। 

हाथरस के जघन्य बलात्कार और हत्या की घटना पर रोष व्यक्त करते हुए WSS का कहना है कि उत्तर प्रदेश में महिलाओं और उसमे भी दलित समुदाय की महिला की कोई सुनवाई नहीं है।

Continue reading बेटी बचाओ का नारा देने वाले बलात्कारियों को बचाने में लगे हैं – यौन हिंसा और राजकीय दमन के खिलाफ महिलाएँ

Unpacking Religious Nationalism

Review of ‘Religious Nationalism – Social Perceptions and Violence : Sectarianism on Political Chessboard‘- Ram Puniyani (Media House 2020)

“Blatant dictatorship – in the form of fascism, communism, or military rule – has disappeared across much of the world. Military coups and other violent seizures of power are rare. Most countries hold regular elections. Democracies still die, but by different means.

Since the end of the Cold War, most democratic breakdowns have been caused not by generals and soldiers but by elected governments themselves.”

(How Democracies Die, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt)

The contrast had never been so sharper.

Continue reading Unpacking Religious Nationalism

How to see in the dark? An open letter to the women in cinema collective

Dear friends in the WCC

I am writing to you at a time so dark that unless we hold hands and feel the warmth of each others’ palms, we may even lose our sense of reality. This is my way of holding your hand and gaining strength from your presence.

Continue reading How to see in the dark? An open letter to the women in cinema collective

AIDMAM & NDMJ Condemn Rising Atrocities Against Dalit Women and Minor Girls in UP

Joint Press Statement issued by All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM)  and National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ)

On 29th September 2020 India has once again failed Dalit Women and Girls in upholding their rights and safety; we have lost another young life to the savage brutal gangrape and murder. This brutal incident occurred on 14th September in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh and once again exposes the harsh realities of caste based sexual assault faced by Dalit women and girls in this country. Victim was dragged with the dupatta around her neck into the field where she was gang raped; suffered severe spinal cord injury, severely beaten up and also got deep cut in her tongue as she fought back the rapist. She was not in a situation to give her statement till 23rd September 2020 due to the severe injuries that paralyzed her condition.
The level of brutality and inhumanity continues even after the demise of the victim, as the UP police forcibly cremated the body in the early morning around 3 AM on 30th September. Victim’s body was burnt by the police against the will of the family members and not letting them take her home one final time. Beside this, the police locked family members and locals inside the house as per the statement of family members of the deceased.

Rising Atrocities
Such ghastly incidents of violence are perpetrated everyday against women and minors and especially during the Pandemic and the Lockdown. The state of Uttar Pradesh has witnessed several cases of atrocities against Dalit women; with Lakhimpur Kheri leading in the graph of violence. In the past 60 days more than six atrocities were reported in the district against Dalit women and minor girls. Similarly in Saharanpur district, six cases of abduction and rape have been reported where NDMJ has intervened. These gruesome incidents of sexual violence reflect the real picture of Indian society constructed on violent casteist patriarchal structure.
It should be noted that the crime rate against Dalits in Uttar Pradesh has been rising exponentially in the last few years. As per the NCRB report of 2018, Uttar Pradesh tops the list of number of crimes committed against Dalits including Dalit women in 2018. Also, Uttar Pradesh has recorded the maximum number of cases of rape (526), attempt to rape (48), incidences of kidnap and abduction of Dalit women (381) and incidences of assault (711) in the year of 2018 under the SC/ST (PoA) Act. As per the compiled data of the NCRB reports of 2014-18, Uttar Pradesh has witnessed the maximum number of atrocities against Dalit women in India and an increase of 15% in the number or rape cases against Dalit women from 2015-18. 7,920 number of atrocities against Dalit women have been registered under the SC/ST (PoA) Amendment Act in Uttar Pradesh from 2014-18. A big majority of this figure has been for the cases of assault (3,421) and rape (2,410) of Dalit women. Attempt to rape (219) and kidnap and abduction (1,870) also form a major form of violence committed against Dalit women in Uttar Pradesh from 2014-18. Continue reading AIDMAM & NDMJ Condemn Rising Atrocities Against Dalit Women and Minor Girls in UP

Yogi Adityanath Must Immediately Resign for his Govt. has failed to protect SC/ST women in UP: Joint Statement

The following joint statement was issues 11 organizations including the Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch and the NAPM, in Delhi today.

In the past few years the number of new cases of rape of young women have increased fourfold in Uttar Pradesh. The Yogi Adityanath’s government should take the accountability of deteriorating law and order in Uttar Pradesh which has failed to protect young girls and has not been able to provide any security to them in Uttar Pradesh. Many media houses have been questioned for mentioning the caste of the girl but one cannot not mention that it is a result of a very brutal caste based violence. Dalit women are often subjected to the most brutal violence in this country so much so that the mainstream media also does not cover it because it is not relevant for them to cover these issues. When it comes to caste based violence in India Dalit women are the most vulnerable because the violence against them are culturally and politically motivated. It is a revenge against the entire spectrum of why a woman has raised her voice, these therefore are tools to suppress her voice all together. The upper caste men often wants to teach the Dalit woman a lesson which is deterrent in nature so that other Dalit women do not challenge their authority. This is why according to reports 4 Dalit women are raped every day. In Uttar Pradesh itself that data shows that the Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of atrocities), Act, 1989 has become a tool to appease the vote banks and it so far is remembered during the time of caste baste conflicts that is why the SC/ST Commission in Uttar Pradesh has been without any head for more than 8 moths while the pending application of atrocities have been piling up at the centre of a state which is home to 22 per cent of Dalits in India. In the wake of this case suddenly the Yogi government is now concerned for the SC/ST entrepreneurs, churning out new policies for them from their bag over last week. We demand that Yogi Adityanath, the CM of Uttar Pradesh should immediately resign as his government has failed to take strict actions to protect SC/ST women in his state severely.

On behalf of :  Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM); National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM-Delhi); Institute for Democracy and Sustainability Delhi; Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG); People’s Resource Centre (PRC); Shaheri Mahila kamgaar Union; National Domestic Workers Union; Rehabilitation Research Initiative (RRI); Lok Theatre India (LTI); Community for Social Change & Development (CSCD); Sewerage or Sambandh Karmchari Manch (SSKM)

Contact: 7065721374; 9958797409; 7503189053

 

जेपी से अण्णा : आख़िर भ्रष्टाचार विरोधी आंदोलन किस तरह दक्षिणपंथ का रास्ता सुगम करता आया है

हम बारीकी से विश्लेषण करें तो हम पाते हैं कि वर्ष 2014 के बाद भारत में लिबरल जनतंत्र के बरअक्स हिन्दुत्व की जो बहुसंख्यकवादी सियासत हावी होती गयी, उसके कई तत्व इसी आंदोलन /सरगर्मी में मजबूती पाते गए हैं।

अण्णा
वर्ष 2011 के जनलोकपाल आंदोलन के दौरान अण्णा हजारे (फाइल फोटो)। साभार : गूगल

ग्रीक पुराणों में मिनर्वा को ज्ञान, विवेक या कला की देवी समझा जाता है, जिसका वाहन है उल्लू।

उन्नीसवीं सदी के महान आदर्शवादी दार्शनिक हेगेल का ‘फिलॉसाफी आफ राइट’ नामक किताब का चर्चित कथन है, ‘‘मिनर्वा का उल्लू तभी अपने पंख फैलाता है, जब शाम होने को होती है’’; (Only when the dusk starts to fall does the owl of Minerva spread its wings and fly.) – कहने का तात्पर्य दर्शन किसी ऐतिहासिक परिस्थिति को तभी समझ पाने के काबिल होता है, जब वह गुजर गयी होती है।]

अपनी अतीत की ग़लतियों की तहे दिल से आलोचना करना, साफ़गोई के साथ बात करना, यह ऐसा गुण है, जो सियासत में ही नहीं बल्कि सामाजिक जीवन में भी इन दिनों दुर्लभ होता जा रहा है। इसलिए अग्रणी वकील एवं नागरिक अधिकार कार्यकर्ता जनाब प्रशांत भूषण ने अपनी अतीत की ग़लतियों के लिए जब पश्चताप प्रगट किया तो लगा कुछ अपवाद भी मौजूद हैं।

दरअसल इंडिया टुडे से एक साक्षात्कार में उन्होंने ‘इंडिया अगेन्स्ट करप्शन’ आंदोलन जिसका चेहरा बन कर अण्णा हजारे उभरे थे – जिसकी नेतृत्वकारी टीम में खुद प्रशांत शामिल थे – को लेकर एक अनपेक्षित सा बयान दिया। उनका कहना था कि यह आंदोलन ‘संघ-भाजपा’ द्वारा संचालित था। ईमानदारी के साथ उन्होंने यह भी जोड़ा कि उन्हें अगर इस बात का एहसास होता तो वह तुरंत अण्णा आंदोलन से तौबा करते, दूर हट जाते।

विडम्बना ही है इतने बड़े खुलासे के बावजूद छिटपुट प्रतिक्रियाओं के अलावा इसके बारे में मौन ही तारी है या बहुत कमजोर सी सफाई पेश की गयी है।

( Read the full article here)

And Now, Pathetic patriarchy

Finally. Decades have passed in which we slumbered on eased by the magic mantra that women’s empowerment will emerge like a butterfly from the cocoon of women’s self-help groups, whispered in our ears by the state in Kerala. In the meantime, what we saw was often the opposite. Indeed, the more women became central to family sustenance and public care-giving in society, the deeper the misogyny penetrated, the wider it spread.

Continue reading And Now, Pathetic patriarchy

Capitalism, Development and Western Hegemony – Looking Beyond to the Pluriverse

 

 

Many words are walked in the world. Many worlds are made. Many worlds make us. There are words and worlds that are lies and injustices. There are words and worlds that are truthful and true. In the world of the powerful there is room only for the big and their helpers. In the world we want, everybody fits. The world we want is a world in which many worlds fit…Our words, our song and our cry is so that the dead will no longer die. We fight so that they may live. We sing so that they may love. – Fourth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (1996), Zapatista National Liberation Army. Cited as epigraph in Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary.

The New Grave-Diggers of Capital?

‘The world we want is a world in which many worlds fit’. This neatly sums up the idea of the ‘pluriverse’. Reading it, I was reminded of an interview of ‘Subcommandante Marcos’, ‘leader’ of the Zapatistas, some years ago. In that interview, Subcommandante Marcos (then anonymous) recounted that he and his colleagues at the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico, who joined him in the Chiapas mountains in 1984, were Marxists and had basically gone there to organize the indigenous people. And for Marxists that bascially meant to ‘raise their awareness’ about capitalism and exploitation.

Editors: Ashish Kothari, Ariel Salleh, Arturo Escobar, Federico Demaria, Alberto Acosta

Continue reading Capitalism, Development and Western Hegemony – Looking Beyond to the Pluriverse

Sifting Evidence – A review of “Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story”: Karwan-e-Mohabbat, Anhad and Muslim Women’s Forum

This review has been prepared by a  voluntary  citizens’  collective of academics and activists, anchored by Karwan-e-Mohabbat, Anhad and Muslim Women’s Forum.

The review is based on a PDF of the  ‘book’,  Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story by Monika Arora, Sonali Chitalkar and Prerna Malhotra, which went viral after the original publishers (Bloomsbury India) withdrew.  The PDF was widely circulated on social media by the book’s supporters, who believed its message must be spread far and wide. At the virtual book launch, BJP leader and Chief Guest, Kapil Mishra, tweeted “The book is public now”.

The review, titled Sifting Evidence, given below, is largely in tabular form, which makes for a quick read.

The book Delhi Riots 2020 was originally a fact-finding report by a group called GIA (Group of Intellectuals and Academicians), which was submitted to the Home Ministry on March 11th, 2020.  A version of it was accepted for publication by Bloomsbury India.  BJP leader Kapil Mishra, whose hate speeches allegedly triggered the riots in February 2020, was a guest of honour at the book launch event held on August 22, 2020. On the day of the launch, Bloomsbury India decided to withdraw publication.

The authors claimed their freedom of expression was violated. But the facts are clear – there was no call to ban the Delhi Riots 2020 book. Established and reputable publishers get their reputation because they fact-check, and stay away from publishing material that may amount to libel. Other publishers may not care, and therefore do not achieve that reputation. Continue reading Sifting Evidence – A review of “Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story”: Karwan-e-Mohabbat, Anhad and Muslim Women’s Forum

State of the judiciary and reforms required : Prashant Bhushan

Democracy Dialogues Lecture Series Organised by New Socialist Initiative – 3 rd Lecture

Topic: State of the Judiciary and Reforms Required
Speaker: Prashant Bhushan, eminent Supreme Court lawyer and civil rights activist
Date and Time: Sunday, September 20, 2020 at 6 PM IST

Zoom and Facebook Live details in the poster below.

Image may contain: one or more people, text that says 'Democracy Dialogues 3rd Lecture State of the Judiciary and Reforms Required Time: 20 Sep 2020 06:00 PM India Join us on Zoom!! Meeting ID: 848 2963 1643 Passcode: 799603 f fb.com/newsocialistinitiative.nsi Live link: Prashant Bhushan Public Interest Lawyer and Civil Liberty Activist New Socialist Initiative A World for the Workers! A Future for the World'

[New Socialist Initiative Presents Democracy Dialogues – Lecture Series

The idea behind this series – which we call ‘Democracy Dialogues’ – is basically to initiate as well as join in the on-going conversation around this theme in academic as well as activist circles.

The inaugural lecture in the series was delivered by Prof Suhas Palshikar on 12 th July 2020. The theme of Prof Palshikar’s presentation was  TRAJECTORY OF INDIA’S DEMOCRACY AND CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES, Professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta delivered the second lecture on THE STRUCTURAL CONTRADICTIONS OF INDIAN DEMOCRACY AND THE RISE OF THE BJP on 16 th August 2020 ]

Jadavpur alumni in solidarity with Dr. Maroona Murmu in face of casteist/racist violence in Indian academia

Statement of solidarity from JU alumni

As alumni of Jadavpur University (JU), we condemn the casteist abuses hurled against a renowned professor of History at Jadavpur University, Dr. Maroona Murmu, because of her identity as an Adivasi.

The remarks were made in response to Dr. Murmu’s comment that an academic year was not more important than a student’s life and that in-person examination during the ongoing deadly coronavirus pandemic was not a good idea. This was admittedly a reasonable stand in face of the government’s decision to hold exams during the Covid-19 outbreak. In response, she received casteist abuses from an undergraduate student who called her out on social media as a “worthless, undeserving idiot” (“jogyotaheen opodartho” in Bengali). It questioned both her scholarly credibility and her right to speak out on any aspect of academic life (the security and well-being of students during a contagious disease outbreak, for instance). The student then went on to “remind” Dr. Murmu of her identity as an Adivasi Santhal and her inferior position in the caste hierarchy that made her unworthy of any consideration. This was followed by over 1800 trolls and rebukes. It is continuing. Continue reading Jadavpur alumni in solidarity with Dr. Maroona Murmu in face of casteist/racist violence in Indian academia

DISSENT, DEBATE, CREATE