Intimations of a Bahujan Counter-Tradition and the Hindu Right

 

 

This post should be read as a sequel to my earlier post of 16 July, which had discussed the discourse of “Hindu Unity” and questions  before the struggle against the Right. That post had ended with the claim that the struggle against the Hindu Right is not so much about what we understand as “secularism” as it is about the reconstruction of a larger  Bahujan counter-tradition, the search for which was  already on.

Cover of book Mahishasur – Mithak va Paramaprayen [Myths and Traditions],ed. Pramod Ranjan
I should begin with a caveat, or more correctly, an amendment to a position I adopted in the earlier post. In that piece, I had used the terms “anti-majoritarian” discourse and “anti-majoritarianism” to refer to the the larger discursive formation against the Hindu Right. I used that expression largely because I went along part of the way with Abhay Dubey who uses it in his book, to which that piece was a response. However, that expression assumes that there is only one “majority”  or only one way of imagining majority in this country. More importantly, it concedes a certain “natural pre-givenness” to the project of Hindu unity as though that were a self-evident fact. The only thing that makes the project of Hindu unity appear so “natural”, it needs to be underlined, is that it is backed by “tradition” and “religion” in a way that say a class notion of majority is not. If we assume that the dominant tradition is the sole tradition, then this term could make sense but as the  stirrings of a renewed search for a Bahujan counter-tradition, especially in North India, come into view, it gives us a sense of another possible way of imagining “majority”.  It should be underlined here that this renewed search today does not emerge out of the blue from nowhere but draws on the work of earlier medieval thinkers and social/ religious reformers not just in the North (for instance Kabir, Ravi Das and Nanak) but also from Phule, Ayyankali, Sri Narayana Guru, Periyar, Iyothee Thass and many others in the South in more recent times. There is one difference however: rather than use the negative descriptor “Non-Brahmin”, the present search is more explicitly about the production of a Bahujan identity. Ambedkar of course, remains a continuous reference point in this discourse.

Before we proceed, it might be interesting to see these two short clips. In the first, Dalit activist Bhanwar Meghwanshi who joined the RSS and the Ramjanmabhoomi movement at the age of 13, talks now after the bhoomi pujan for the Ram temple at Ayodhya, about his complete disinterest in the issue.

Meghwanshi, whose autobiographical account is now available in English as well (I Could Not Be Hindu, Navayana, 2020), responds to the bhoomi pujan and why Dalits in general are likely to be uninterested in it. His book is worth reading, for it shows that it is not just a question of what RSS might strategically want to do by drawing dalit-bahujan masses into the fold but also that deep-seated prejudices in Hindu society also structure the behaviour of the organization’s own people. In the clip, he talks of how Dalits who are never allowed entry even into the temples in their own villages, are unlikely to be hugely thrilled by the building of another “grand” temple for Ram. What does bhoomi pujan mean, what can it mean, he asks, to people who have no bhoomi (land) even to live? In the book, Meghwanshi talks of the great excitement with which he as a young RSS recruit went to to Ayodhya to do kar seva in 1990 all ready to die and kill for the glory of Rama and there certainly must be many young dalits in that place today where he was at that time. All this simply underlines that there is nothing “essentially Hindu” or “essentially anti Hindu” about being Dalit, though assimilation within the fold comes at great cost – that of continuing subordination as Meghwanshi realized later on.

The second clip is of Laxman Yadav, a powerful voice of the emerging OBC intelligentsia, who teaches in Delhi University, speaking after the same bhoomi pujan ceremony.

In this scathing critique – not only of the Hindu Right but of OBC politics and leadership as well – Laxman Yadav speaks without any illusions. He is unrelenting in his criticism of the OBCs becoming Hindutva’s foot soldiers (along with dalits and adivasis) during the Gujarat carnage or demolition of the Babri Masjid, being short- changed continuously by the RSS/ Hindutva leaders when it came to sharing resources and power. In his tirade against caste oppression, he invokes names of Lalai Yadav, Jagdev Babu or Ram Swarup Varma – names yet unheard of outside the circles of the new Bahujan intelligentsia – to say that it is time for the OBCs to claim 90 percent of share in “dhan, dharti aur rajpaath” (wealth, land and rule/power). In both Meghwanshi and Yadav, there is a clear recognition that all this preoccupation with Hindutva, temples and spirituality has only kept the bahujan masses away from demanding their fair share in land, wealth and power. In a sharply self-critical mode, Yadav underlines the difference of the OBCs with the Dalits who have fashioned an independent discourse and have Ambedkar and the Constitution as their banner, while the majority of OBCs remain in the thrall of Hindutva.

It should be stated at this point that this struggle is not about secularism. It never was. All the figures listed in the begining were fighting the battles for their own emancipation and these were struggles internal to the constitution of Hindu society where some modern secular ideas were put to good use but that is about all. Likewise both Meghwanshi and Yadav are fighting their battles against the Hindu Right’s politics but we need to be clear that these are not battles that can or should be assimilated into the “secular/ communal” binary. Doing so not only misreads the actual significance of the struggles but also raises all kinds of questions as to the intention of secularists, with apprehensions of appropriation of these struggles for their purposes.

The quest for reconstruction of Bahujan counter-traditions however, becomes clearer in other domains – far away from the world of immediate politics.

The Mahishasura Tradition

Indeed, as the cover of the book (Mahishasura: Mithak va Parmparayen [Myths and Traditions], edited by Pramod Ranjan) , indicates, a large part of it is about the search within the world of myth and counter-tradition. The cover image is of a “Bhainsasur Smarak Mandir” (Buffalo-Demon Memorial Temple) in Mahoba in Uttar Pradesh, which is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. This particular book is a collection of articles, mainly by Bahujan intellectuals, that takes the myths around the figure of Mahishasura – the “Buffalo demon” – as its point of departure for an exploration of a suppressed counter-tradition.

Many readers might remember that when the regime turned its attention on JNU in early 2016 leading to a wholesale attack on “anti-national” activities in the university, one of the key things mentioned repeatedly, first by the RSS mouthpiece Organizer (November 2015), then by the Delhi Police in its FIR and finally by the Education minister Smriti Irani in parliament, was that Mahishasur was venerated and worshipped in JNU. Much of the churning around this issue, brought up the larger question of what the “asuric” traditon so repeatedly invoked in the Puranas really was: Who were the asuras – the demons? Why was the mythical figure of Mahishasur considered so dangerous by the Hindu Right?

So, far away from the hurly burly of electoral politics there began a serious exploration that in turn drew from the work of careful archiving and documentation by bahujan intellectuals – dalit-OBC-adivasi intellectuals – working entirely in the vernacular languages and not in spaces recognized as “scholarly”. Among those who this book openly acknowledges its debt to is the name of Moti Ravan Kangali and his wife Chandralekha Kangali who devoted their lives to excavate the Gondi and other traditions, their thought and their culture and published many books around these themes. What this search has revealed is that the Mahishasura tradition was not simply a feature of Bengal, where Durga Puja is celebrated with great fervour (Durga being the goddess who slayed the demon king) but extended beyond to the adivasis of Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar who identified with the buffalo asura king. Indeed, even more strikingly, it revealed that the tradition actually extended from the Gond adivasis of Chhattisgarh to large parts of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka – Mysuru itself being supposedly named after Mahishasura. It is fascinating that there are populations who still identify themselves as “asura” today.

Interestingly, some of the essays, especially the one by Sanajy Jothe on the “philosophy” of the Gonds,  connect the evidence thus collected with the work of Marxist scholars like D.D. Kosambi, D.P. Chattopadhyay and Gail Omvedt to draw some larger conclusions about the prevalence of counter-traditions that seem to tie up well with  their own research. Jothe in fact makes claims about the  “materialist” nature of Gondi “philosophy”, its “Lokayatik” features, its matrilineal history and far greater role of women in these communities. Some of the propositions may be quite speculative but they are certainly no more so than the fictiveness and speculativeness of Hindutva claims. The search for this counter-tradition leads to another interesting dimension that goes straight to the heart of the Puranic retellings and reappropriations of the asuric – where from vighnakarta [creator of obstacles] Ganapati (and ganapatis)are appropriated into the pantheon as vighnaharttas [remover of obstacles] (ref DP Chattopadhyaya). Whatever be the case, the confrontation with myth and the Puranic becomes central in a very significant sense. Thus, in Jothe, in Pramod Ranjan’s introductory essay and in Anil Kumar’s contribution, the nature of speculations always remains close to certain protocols of evidence and never acquires the dimension of the fantastic that Hindutva narratives produce on a regular basis.

A New Moment

This is not the place to summarize the arguments of the book or of the larger body of work, only some of which I am aware of. The point of this discussion of the Mahishasura issue is to underline that this moment inaugurates a new phase in Bahujan discourse which picks up the challenge from where the early twentieth century thinkers had left it.

As is well known, the rising tide of nationalism actually ended up suppressing all the voices of internal social reform during the anticolonial struggle, central to which were the questions of caste and gender. The caste question remained marginally active at the regional level in some Southern states but was completely eclipsed in the North by the overpowering force of upper-caste – and Hindu Mahasabha – dominated nationalism. Even where it remained, both in the South and in Maharashtra during phases like the Dalit Panther movement, it was still a voice of cultural protest and critique; it never became a counter-discourse of power. And unfortunatelly, when it did, in the aftermath of the Mandal Commission in the North, it remained purely at the electoral-political level with virtually no programme or alternative vision of its own. It can be argued that that was precisely because it had not developed a sense of Bahujan counter-tradition and could do little beyond building Mayawati’s statues. In its stead, both the BSP and the SP now want to compete with Hindutva by building Parashuram’s statue, which only goes to show that the hegemony of upper caste Hinduism/ Hindutva was never quite challenged within.

One of the essays in the Mahishasura volume (Anil Kumar) actually poses this theoretical question of consent and hegemony via Antonio Gramsci but certainly now a whole new body of work has to emerge which alone will open possibilities of the narratives of counter-tradition. One of the key issues to tackle will indeed have to be that of this all-important question of hegemony and the “ideological apparatuses” through which hegemony is actualized not just as  “ideas” but as material practices. Clearly, that is the  whole burden of Laxman Yadav’s intervention in the clip above, where he confronts the masses of OBCs who act as Hindus rather than demand their share in wealth, land and power. Clearly, this lining  up of the bahujan masses behind Hindutva is what makes it possible for critics to argue that “anti-majoritarian discourse” under-estimates the power of RSS mobilization.

In conclusion, I want to underline that the struggle for cultural transformation is a long and arduous one, especially for social groups that do not belong to hitherto powerful or dominant sections of society. Its success or failure cannot simply be read off election results in one or two elections. It is something  that takes shape over the long term by producing alternative narratives and fashioning a new common sense.

Agha Ashraf Ali – The Flamboyant Kashmiri Story-teller: Jamal Kidwai

Guest post by JAMAL KIDWAI

Agha Sahab ( Agha Ashraf Ali), passed away at the age of 94 on the 7th of  August, 2020.

Agha Ashraf Ali

I was lucky to know Agha Sahab closely because of his intimate connection with Jamia Millia Islamia and our long standing family friendship. He would come down to Delhi in the winter and spend a lot of time at my parents home, drinking tea in the winter sun. But I got to know him as a friend when I started visiting Srinagar from 1999 onwards, for programmes being conducted being by the  NGO I worked with . My trips would remain incomplete if I did not visit him.

Continue reading Agha Ashraf Ali – The Flamboyant Kashmiri Story-teller: Jamal Kidwai

The Structural Contradictions of Indian Democracy and the Rise of the BJP : Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta

[Democracy Dialogues Lecture Series ( Webinar)
Organised by New Socialist Initiative]

Date and Time: Sunday, August 16, 2020, at 6 PM IST (8.30 AM EST in the US)

Join us Facebook Live at: https://www.facebook.com/newsocialistinitiative.nsi

Topic: The Structural Contradictions of Indian Democracy and the rise of the BJP

Abstract:

This talk explores the deep social transformations that have made the dominance of the BJP possible. It will take a longer view of the trajectory of Indian democracy and explore the profound changes in social and economic identities underway that have prepared a propitious ground for the rise of the BJP.

The Speaker: Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta

Internationally renowned scholar and political scientist Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta taught at Harvard, at New York University and at JNU. He was the Vice Chancellor of the Ashoka University till recently and served as the President of the premier think tank, Centre for Policy Research. Educated at Oxford and a Ph.D. from Princeton University, Prof Mehta is a columnist at Indian Express, a leading public intellectual and a bold and thoughtful voice for reason and justice. Among many honours and prizes to his credit, he is recipient of the Infosys Prize, the Adisheshiah Prize and the Amartya Sen Prize.

[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.

We feel that the very idea of democracy which has taken deep roots across the world, has come under scanner for various reasons. At the same time we have been witness to the ascendance of right-wing forces and fascistic demagogues via the same democratic route. There is this apparently anomalous situation in which the spread and deepening of democracy have often led to generating mass support for these reactionary and fascistic forces.

Coming to India, there have been valid concerns about the rise of authoritarian streak among Indians and how it has helped strengthen BJP’s hard right turn. The strong support for democracy here is accompanied by increasing fascination towards majoritarian-authoritarian politics. In fact, we would like to state that a vigorous electoral democracy here has become a vehicle for hindutva-ite counterrevolution.

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]

 

एक अनोखी रात: मुरीद बरघूती/अनुवाद: आयेशा किदवई

You can see the English translation by Radwa Ashour of the original poem in Arabic by the Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti , after this translation into Hindustani by AYESHA KIDWAI

एक अनोखी रात

उसकी उंगली दरवाज़े की घंटी को बस छूनेवाली है

दरवाज़ा, बहुत ही आहिस्ता आहिस्ता,

खुलता है.

वो अंदर आता है.

अपने कमरे में जाता है.

है तो, यहां:

उसकी तस्वीर, उसके नन्हे से पलंग के बराबर

उसका स्कूल का बस्ता, अँधेरे में,

जागता हुआ.

अपने आप को सोते हुए देखता है

दो ख़्वाबों के दरमियाँ, दो झंडों के.

वो सभी दरवाज़ों को खटखटाता है

— खटखटाने वाला था. पर नहीं.

सब उठ जाते हैं:

“लौट आया!”

“ख़ुदा कसम, लौट आया!,” चिल्लाते हैं

पर उनके शोर से कोई आवाज़ नहीं मचती.

बाहें फैलाते हैं मोहम्मद को समेटने के लिए

पर उनके हाथ उसके कन्धों तक पहुंचते नहीं. Continue reading एक अनोखी रात: मुरीद बरघूती/अनुवाद: आयेशा किदवई

केन्द्रीय विश्वविद्यालय: वर्चस्वशाली जातियों के नए ठिकाने ?

अगर हम प्रोफेसरों के पदों की बात करें तो यूजीसी के मुताबिक अनुसूचित जाति से आने वाले प्रत्याशियों के लिए आरक्षित 82.82 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजाति तबके से आने वाले तबकों के लिए आरक्षित 93.98 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 99.95 फीसदी पद आज भी खाली पड़े हैं। असोसिएट प्रोफेसर के पदों की बात करें तो स्थिति उतनी ही खराब दिखती है: अनुसूचित जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 76.57 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजातियों के लिए आरक्षित 89.01 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 94.30 फीसदी पद खाली पड़े हैं।

क्या हम कभी जान सकेंगे कि मुल्क के चालीस केन्द्रीय विश्वविद्यालयों में नियुक्त उपकुलपतियों के श्रेणीबद्ध वितरण- अर्थात वह किन सामाजिक श्रेणियों से ताल्लुक रखते हैं- के बारे में ?

शायद कभी नहीं !

विश्वविद्यालय अनुदान आयोग के केन्द्रीय विश्वविद्यालय ब्युरो में ऐसे कोई रेकॉर्ड रखे नहीं जाते।

किसी बाहरी व्यक्ति के लिए इन सूचनाओं का अभाव बेहद मामूली लग सकता है अलबत्ता अगर हम अधिक गहरे में जाकर पड़ताल करें तो हम पूछ सकते हैं कि सर्वोच्च पदों की यह कथित ‘जातिविहीनता’ का सम्बन्ध क्या इसी तथ्य से जोड़ा जा सकता है कि इन चालीस विश्वविद्यालयों में- सामाजिक और शारीरिक तौर पर हाशिये पर रहने वाले तबकों से आने वाले अध्यापकों की मौजूदगी नगण्य है। फिर वह चाहे अनुसूचित जाति, जनजाति हो या अन्य पिछड़ी जातियां हो या विकलांग तबके से आने वाले लोग हों। इन तबकों की इन पदों से साद्रश्यता के अभाव का अन्दाज़ा इस बात से लगाया जा सकता है कि इन श्रेणियों से आने वाले तबकों के लिए आरक्षित प्रोफेसरों के 99 फीसदी पद आज भी खाली पड़े हैं।

दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय के एक कालेज में, एडहॉक/तदर्थ अध्यापक के तौर पर कार्यरत लक्ष्मण यादव द्वारा विश्वविद्यालय अनुदान आयोग को सूचना अधिकार के तहत जो याचिका दायर की गयी थी, उसी के औपचारिक जवाब के तौर पर ऐसे कई सारे अचम्भित करने वाले तथ्य सामने आए हैं। अगर हम प्रोफेसरों के पदों की बात करें तो यूजीसी के मुताबिक अनुसूचित जाति से आने वाले प्रत्याशियों के लिए आरक्षित 82.82 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजाति तबके से आने वाले तबकों के लिए आरक्षित 93.98 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 99.95 फीसदी पद आज भी खाली पड़े हैं। अगर हम असोसिएट प्रोफेसर के पदों की बात करें तो स्थिति उतनी ही खराब दिखती है: अनुसूचित जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 76.57 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजातियों के लिए आरक्षित 89.01 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 94.30 फीसदी पद खाली पड़े हैं। असिस्टेंण्ट प्रोफेसर पद के लिए आरक्षित पदों के आंकड़े उतने खराब नहीं हैं जिसमें अनुसूचित जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 29.92 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजातियों के लिए आरक्षित 33.47 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 41.82 फीसदी पद खाली पड़े हैं। (देखें- मीडिया विजिल की रिपोर्ट)

Continue reading केन्द्रीय विश्वविद्यालय: वर्चस्वशाली जातियों के नए ठिकाने ?

Nationwide condemnation of Delhi Police regarding their interrogation of Prof. Apoorvanand

We stand firmly with Apoorvanand, our friend and fellow member of the Kafila collective, as we do with all those being interrogated and framed by Delhi Police for the violence in Delhi. We also stand with all political prisoners of this  fascist regime. 

Before you read the statement below, endorsed by over a thousand people from different parts of India, take a look at this detailed expose of how the Delhi Police is trying desperately to cook up a conspiracy theory  that will leave the actual planners and executors of the anti Muslim pogrom in Delhi in January, to roam free, while arresting and intimidating hundreds of people who peacefully and non-violently protested the unconstitutional CAA.  Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta carefully dissects the anti CAA Whatsapp groups out of which the Delhi Police is trying to concoct a bizarre narrative, in The Wire.

Apoorvanand, Image courtesy Times of India

STATEMENT

On August 3, 2020 the Special Branch of the Delhi Police called in Prof. Apoorvanand, well-known writer, public speaker and Professor of Hindi at Delhi University, where he spent 5 hours, for an interrogation in connection with the Northeast Delhi riots. The police have seized his phone. This comes close on the heels of the interrogation of many other intellectuals and activists.

A day when authorities feel free to haul in the nation’s leading public voices to police stations, merely because they speak against the policies and ideology of the ruling government, is a day we must all be deeply concerned. Also, a day when we must overcome all fear, to stand up for each individual’s right to disagree, dissent, and thereby deepen our democracy. For this democracy today faces its most serious crisis since independence, far more critical than Indira Gandhi’s Emergency 45 years ago. As concerned citizens who love and value our democracy, and our country, we must speak out before it is too late and all voices of freedom are silenced forever.

Continue reading Nationwide condemnation of Delhi Police regarding their interrogation of Prof. Apoorvanand

Writing about Kalpana, writing about the times: Ranjana Padhi & Laxmi Murthy

Guest Post by RANJANA PADHI & LAXMI MURTHY

There is no cure for mortality, yet there is a lingering sadness and a sense of loss at the passing away of a fellow-traveler, a saheli and a comrade. Any reflection of such lives becomes a reflection of the times. The times when we as women, and as feminist collectives, dared to go against the grain.  The early years of the women’s movement were vastly different from the present reality where much is taken for granted and often celebrated ahistorically as individual achievement. The struggles of the 1980s made strident inroads into challenging the bastions of patriarchy in the form of collective resistance.  Making that vital link in what is a virtually unknown history for an entire generation of young women might help to make sense of the present. Because Kalpana was active to the end, commenting – and raving – even about recent events, through the lens of a sharp feminist politics. 

Kalpana Mehta, 67, a feminist activist of the autonomous women’s movement in India, breathed her last on May 27, 2020 at her residence in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.  Kalpana was diagnosed of the neuron disease called Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in mid 2017.  She gradually lost speech as well as mobility. Even then, she was tuned in to all events through the daily newspaper and communicated her thoughts and ideas through the application Tobii with friends who visited her during this time. Remaining engaged with news and sharing her political concerns and reflections helped her bravely cope with the symptoms of ALS. Also, her characteristic humor and witty rebukes directed at the powers that be were intact to her last breath.  Continue reading Writing about Kalpana, writing about the times: Ranjana Padhi & Laxmi Murthy

Are Central Universities Modern-Day Agraharams?

A caste-based society will overcome legal codes that make equality the norm unless people actively bring change.

Are Central Universities

Will we ever know the category-wise distribution of vice chancellors of the forty central universities located across the country? Thanks to the rules governing these universities, and those of the University Grants Commission, there is no such record.

This form of “castelessness” at the top is coupled with marginal representation of teachers from socially and physically marginalised sections. Be it the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes the Other Backward Classes or persons with disabilities, they are hardly ever appointed to teaching posts in central universities. A marker of the invisibilisation of these social groups is the fact that up to 96.65% of the posts of professor meant for candidates from these categories were unfilled on 1 January 2020.

This was discovered by a Delhi University teacher, who sought the information from the UGC under the Right to Information Act. More than 82% posts of professors meant for Scheduled Caste candidates, 93.98% posts meant for Scheduled Tribes and 96.65% posts meant for OBCs still remain vacant. The situation for associate professors is equally dismal, though there are fewer vacant posts of assistant professors for OBCs.

Any news can go viral these days but this explosive disclosure, which raises questions about recruitment procedures and their inherent biases was barely noticed. An explanation is that such news has lost its novelty. Perhaps everybody is aware of the metamorphosis of central universities into a new kind of Agraharam or abode of elite castes.

( Read the full article here)

“There is no god in that temple”: Rabindranath Tagore/Translated by Banojyotsna Lahiri

Banojyotsna Lahiri shared her translation of some excerpts from  a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, written 120 years ago, titled “Deeno Daan”.

It is about a temple.

Original Bangla below the translation.

“There is no god in that temple”, said the Saint.

The King was enraged;
“No God? Oh Saint, aren’t you speaking like an atheist?
On that throne studded with priceless gems, beams the golden idol,
And yet, you proclaim that it is empty?”

“It is not empty; rather, it is full of royal pride.
You have bestowed yourself, oh King, not the God of this world”,
Remarked the saint.

The King frowned, “2 million golden coins
were showered on that grand structure that kisses the sky,
I offered it to the Gods after performing all the necessary rituals,
And you dare claim that in such a grand temple,
There is no presence of God”? Continue reading “There is no god in that temple”: Rabindranath Tagore/Translated by Banojyotsna Lahiri

क्या राम मंदिर की आड़ में अपनी विफलताएं छिपा रही है मोदी सरकार

यह मानने के पर्याप्त आधार हैं कि राम मंदिर के भूमि पूजन के लिए चुना गया यह समय एक छोटी रेखा के बगल में बड़ी रेखा खींचने की क़वायद है, ताकि नरेंद्र मोदी और उनकी सरकार की बढ़ती असफलताएं जैसे- कोविड कुप्रबंधन, बदहाल होती अर्थव्यवस्था और गलवान घाटी प्रसंग- इस परदे के पीछे चले जाएं.

Ayodhya: A hoarding of PM Narendra Modi and other leaders put up beside a statue of Lord Hanuman, ahead of the foundation laying ceremony of Ram Temple, in Ayodhya, Thursday, July 30, 2020. (PTI Photo)(PTI30-07-2020 000044B)

अयोध्या में राम मंदिर के भूमि पूजन से पहले लगा प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी और अन्य नेताओं का एक होर्डिंग. (फोटो: पीटीआई)

बीते दिनों जनाब उद्धव ठाकरे द्वारा अयोध्या में राम मंदिर के प्रस्तावित भूमि पूजन को लेकर जो सुझाव दिया गया है, वह गौरतलब है.

मालूम हो कि आयोजकों की तरफ से जिन लोगों को इसके लिए न्योता दिया गया है, उसमें महाराष्ट्र के मुख्यमंत्री का नाम भी शामिल है, उसी संदर्भ में उन्होंने इस बात पर जोर दिया है कि ‘ई-भूमि पूजन किया जा सकता है और भूमि पूजन समारोह को वीडियो कॉन्फ्रेंसिंग के जरिये भी अंजाम दिया जा सकता है.’

उनका कहना है कि इस कार्यक्रम में लाखों लोग शामिल होना चाहेंगे और क्या उन्हें वहां पहुंचने से रोका जा सकता है? कोरोना महामारी को लेकर देश-दुनिया भर में जो संघर्ष अभी जारी है और जहां धार्मिक सम्मेलनों पर पाबंदी बनी हुई है, ऐसे में उनकी बात गौरतलब है.

गौर करें कि ऐसा आयोजन जिसका लाइव टेलीकास्ट भी किया जाएगा, कोई चाहे न चाहे देश में जगह जगह जनता के अच्छे-खासे हिस्से को सड़कों पर उतरने के लिए प्रेरित करेगा.

और अगर दक्षिणपंथी जमातें इस बारे में अतिसक्रियता दिखा दें तो फिर जगह जगह भीड़ बेकाबू भी हो सकती है और केंद्र सरकार और गृह मंत्रालय द्वारा जारी गाइडलाइंस की भी धज्जियां उड़ सकती हैं.

( Read the complete article here)

 

गैर-दक्षिणपंथी विचारकों के आत्ममंथन का घोषणा पत्र है अभय दुबे की पुस्तक : अरविंद कुमार

Guest post by ARVIND KUMAR

अभय दुबे की पुस्तक हिन्दू एकता बनाम ज्ञान की राजनीति पर जारी बहस में एक योगदान।

दि प्रिंट में 8 जुलाई 2020 को  योगेंद्र यादव का लेख ‘भारतीय सेक्युलरिज्म पर हिन्दी की यह किताब उदारवादियों की पोल खोल सकती थी मगर नज़रअंदाज़ कर दी गई है’, अभय दुबे की पुस्तक को केंद्र मे रखकर लिखा गया है.  उन्होनें लिखा: “अगर अभय की किताब के तर्क उन सेकुलर बुद्धिजीवियों के कान तक टहलकर नहीं पहुंचे जिनके लिखत-पढ़त की उन्होंने आलोचना की है तो इसकी वजह को पहचान पाना मुश्किल नहीं. वजह वही है जिसे अभय ने अपनी किताब में रेखांकित किया है कि भारत के अँग्रेज़ीदाँ मध्यवर्ग की सेकुलर-लिबरल विचारधारा और देश के शेष समाज के बीच सोच समझ के धरातल पर एक खाई मौजूद है.” योगेंद्र के लेख के जवाब में, दि प्रिंट में ही 15 जुलाई को राजमोहन गांधी का लेख ‘भारत में धर्मनिरपेक्षता की विचारधारा पराजित नहीं हुई है, इसके पैरोकारों को आरएसएस  पर दोष मढ़ना बंद करना होगा’ पढ़कर संतोष और असंतोष दोनों हुआ. संतोष इसलिए कि योगेंद्र के आग्रह पर बुद्धिजीवियों ने बहस को आगे बढ़ाने की पहल तो की. इसी कड़ी में 16 जुलाई 2020 को काफ़िला में छपा आदित्य निगम का लेख ‘डिसकोर्स ऑफ हिन्दू युनीटी इन द स्ट्र्गल अगेन्स्ट द राइट’ को भी देखा जा सकता है.

Continue reading गैर-दक्षिणपंथी विचारकों के आत्ममंथन का घोषणा पत्र है अभय दुबे की पुस्तक : अरविंद कुमार

Release Prof Hany Babu – A Statement of Solidarity from his Students

We are publishing below a statement by about 350 current and former students of Hany Babu, condemning his arrest on cooked up charges, and expressing solidarity with him.  

Students’ Statement of Solidarity: Release Prof. Hany Babu

We, the undersigned former and current students of Prof Hany Babu M.T., condemn his arrest by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday and stand in firm solidarity with him. Prof. Babu is a noted academic, a well known anti-caste activist, and a member of the committee formed for the defence of G.N. Saibaba, a former Delhi University professor who is over 90% disabled, and wheelchair bound. Prof. Babu has maintained his innocence since the illegal raid at his Noida apartment last year in September by Pune police. The raid, which was conducted without a warrant, resulted in the Pune Police confiscating Prof. Babu’s laptop, mobile phones, two booklets printed for the G.N. Saibaba defence committee and two books which are publicly available in bookstores and libraries. The nature of his alleged ‘crime’ remains unclear because the NIA’s warrant is, in our opinion, deliberately vague with clearly fabricated accusations. According to news reports, the ‘evidence’ that has apparently led to Prof Babu’s arrest was based off of an e folder on his hard disk. He was, however, not given a hash value for his laptop. 

We believe this is a direct attack on education, activists and the academic space at large.     It is outrageous that on 23rd June Prof. Babu was summoned to Mumbai from Noida during a pandemic. His summon and arrest cannot be seen in isolation. Activists like Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, Gulfisha Fatima and Sharjeel Usmani were also arrested during the ongoing pandemic which mandates social distancing. Overcrowded jails have now become the new Covid19 hotspots. Activists arrested earlier, like Sharjeel Imam, Akhil Gogoi, and Varavara Rao, and, according to recent news reports, many other prisoners, have also tested Covid positive.  

We demand Prof. Babu’s immediate release, and reaffirm our complete solidarity with our Professor, Dr. Hany Babu. We also demand the release of all political prisoners who were arrested in cases related to the Elgar-Parishad, as well as the anti-CAA protestors booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act, which makes bail almost impossible under medical and humanitarian grounds despite the ongoing pandemic. Continue reading Release Prof Hany Babu – A Statement of Solidarity from his Students

Once Upon a Time There Was a Campus (and Why it is Still There) – A Fable: Hammersickle Rubberchappal

Guest post by HAMMERSICKLE RUBBERCHAPPAL

From the very title you can tell that it is a story with a happy end. It is also a true story.

Image courtesy Kevin Clancy Studio

Once upon a time there was a campus. In a slightly shabby postcolonial country. When they became post-colonial, they decided they needed somewhere to send their bright minds, so they could think, read, and learn to write. And since they were dusting themselves off after they had booted the colonisers out, they also knew that most people in that shabby country had nowhere they could send their kids to learn and grow because everyone lived in all kinds of faraway parts of the country, had no money, and had very difficult lives. Some enthusiastic, farsighted, and sensible people in their parliament decided to make this possible. They made the laws, they found the space, barren and brown, in a hot part of a sprawling northern town. Then they got the best minds from everywhere, to teach and to learn, so that together they could do their best to make everyone a citizen of a slightly less shabby postcolonial country.

For half a century, this campus flourished. It became green from brown, it had slightly rickety places for everyone to live in. There were many small and big places you could go for a hot meal. Yes, it cost the government some money, but not that much. There are people who say very tall buildings are phallic symbols. Interestingly though, the tallest building on the campus was the library. Slowly, the busy people on this campus took on the responsibility for how the shabby postcolonial country would think. Not everyone was happy, but all these people were so sincere and so committed and so good, that no one could really say they were wrong. They learned languages from all over so they could speak with the world, they learned about the past in history, about the present in sciences that were very talkative and social, and thought hopeful and sciencey thoughts about the future. Even the walls danced with poetry, purpose, and an abandon of colour.

Then came those years of frightening and radically evil people who began to take over entire countries. Not that this was entirely new, it had happened before. How that could happen again is being investigated to this day, but is dark matter for another story. And then this shabby postcolonial country fell to the same fate. Continue reading Once Upon a Time There Was a Campus (and Why it is Still There) – A Fable: Hammersickle Rubberchappal

Gramsci, the “Puranic” and Shekhar Gupta

 

Re-reading Antonio Gramsci lately, in preparation for a webinar organized by the Dean, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad on “Gandhi, Ambedkar, Gramsci”, I was struck by an aspect of his thought that I had not really understood in all its dimensions earlier. This aspect is directly related to the relationship between subalternity and the political party, a  lifelong preoccupation for him, linked in turn to the problem of “philosophy” and “thought”.  Some of the reflections here on this question were also sparked off also by some questions that were raised during the discussion.

Skhekhar Gupta on Taali-Thaali and Diya

It was while searching for something related to the Indian government’s handling of the Covid-19 situation, that I hit upon this astonishing article by Mr Shekhar Gupta, which is my peg for the discussion that  follows. It is an older article (4 April 2020), for I must confess I had stopped reading him long ago given the  sheer predictability of what he had to say. But here he seems to have surpassed himself. The title itself first caught my attention: “Poke fun at taali, thaali, diya and mombatti all you want. Modi couldn’t care less“. Shekhar Gupta was one of those who had, in the run up to the 2014 elections, come out with brass band to clear the way for Narendra Modi’s accession to power. But hadn’t he lately – so I had heard – started expressing some criticisms of the regime? Tavleen Sigh certainly had. So what is Gupta saying? Well for one thing, I realized that his deep fascination with the Modi persona continues unabated but that is something I can’t blame him for. We can’t determine what our taste-buds like, can we? I am also not surprised that Gupta’s tone regarding his imagined secular-liberal adversaries is one of derision. What struck me was that all that he is basically saying in the article is that Modi knows who he should speak to and he is able to read the popular mind, but this banality is presented as one great insight of all times!

Continue reading Gramsci, the “Puranic” and Shekhar Gupta

आज़ाद जनतंत्र में सत्तर साल बाद भी वेल्लोर से विरमगाम तक श्मशान भूमि से वंचित हैं दलित

क्या कोई जानता है 21वीं सदी की शुरुआत में चकवारा के दलितों के एक अहम संघर्ष को? जयपुर से बमुश्किल पचास किलोमीटर दूर चकवारा के दलितों ने गांव के सार्वजनिक तालाब पर समान हक पाने के लिए इस संघर्ष को आगे बढ़ाया था। अठारह साल का वक्फा गुजर गया जब दलितों ने इस संघर्ष में जीत हासिल की थी, जिसमें तमाम मानवाधिकार संगठनों एवं प्रगतिशील लोगों ने भी उनका साथ दिया था। (सितम्बर 2002)

विश्लेषकों को याद होगा कि इस संघर्ष में तमाम लोगों को डॉ. अम्बेडकर द्वारा शुरू किए गए ऐतिहासिक महाड़ सत्याग्रह की झलक दिखायी दी थी जब मार्च 1927 में हजारों दलित एवं अन्य मानवाधिकारप्रेमी महाड़ के चवदार तालाब पर जुलूस की शक्ल में गए थे और वहां उन्होंने पानी पीया था। जानवरों को वहां पानी पीने से कोई मना नहीं करता था, मगर दलितों को रोका जाता था। (ज्‍यादा जानकारी के लिए देखें: Mahad – The Making of the First Dalit Revolt – Dr Anand Teltumbde, Navayana)

चकवारा में बाद में क्या हुआ इसके बारे में तो अधिकतर लोग नहीं जानते होंगे।

Continue reading आज़ाद जनतंत्र में सत्तर साल बाद भी वेल्लोर से विरमगाम तक श्मशान भूमि से वंचित हैं दलित

No End to Humiliation of Dalits Even After Death

The attitude of respect and reverence towards fellow men is yet to develop in India.

No End to Humiliation of Dalits

Does anybody still remember the Dalits of Chakwara, a village around 50km from Jaipur in Rajasthan, who had launched a struggle to gain access to the pond in their village? It is more than 18 years since the Dalits, supported by human rights organisations, won that fight for water. Their undertaking had echoes with the historic struggle launched by Dr BR Ambedkar in March 1927 at Chavdar tank at Mahad to assert the equal rights of Dalits to water. It is well known to most people that while animals were allowed to use the water of this tank in present-day Raigad district of the state, the Dalits were not. Anand Teltumbde has described the events of this satyagraha in his book, Mahad: The Making of the First Dalit Revolt, published by Navayana in 2016.

But what happened at Chakwara after the Dalits started using the village pond is hardly known: the upper castes slowly stopped using the water from the pond once the Dalits gained access to it, saying it had become “impure”. Enraged by the assertion of the Dalits and keen to humiliate them for it, they dug up the village sewer and directed the waste water to their own village pond. There is no change in the status quo there.

Around 700km away, in Viramgam near Ahmedabad in Gujarat, a village cemetery used by Dalits was recently flooded with sewer water, a stark reminder that the gap of two decades has not changed the caste scenario in the country. The executioners of this sinister plan in Viramgam were the residents of two housing societies in which the well-off and educated middle classes live. For more than the last six months, the graves of the socially-disadvantaged Vankar, Chamar, Rohit, Dangasia, Shetwa and other communities have been surrounded by dirty water. The district administration did not intervene on behalf of the Dalits despite their repeated complaints. The fact that dignity after death is being denied to marginalised communities did not seem to rouse the administration.

( Read the full text here)

Rest In Power John Lewis

John Lewis ( 21 February 1940 – 17 July 2020)

Legendary Civil Rights leader John Lewis died on 17 th July 2020.

An analyst wrote ”Lewis, a titan of the civil rights movement, died on Friday at the age of 80, severing a vital link with the generation that rose in the 60s to resist the US’s version of racial apartheid. The news was met with a depth of grief normally reserved for former presidents. Lewis transcended party politics and was truly admired and beloved.”

A state trooper beats John Lewis with a club

A state trooper beats John Lewis (kneeling, right) with a club in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. Lewis sustained a fractured skull in the assault. Photograph: unknown/AP

A CNN documentary entitled John Lewis: Good Trouble, quotes him: “I tried to do what was right, fair and just. When I was growing up in rural Alabama, my mother always said, ‘Boy, don’t get in trouble … but I saw those signs that said ‘white’, ‘colored’, and I would say, ‘Why?’

“And she would say again, ‘Don’t get in trouble. You will be beaten. You will go to jail. You may not live. But … the words of Dr King and the actions of Rosa Parks inspired me to get in trouble. And I’ve been getting in trouble ever since. Good trouble. Necessary trouble.”

 

 

Imagining India for Contemporary Politics- What Should the Left Do? : Ravi Sinha

 

(Webinar – Sunday, July 19, 5 pm)

Shakespeare said, what is past is prologue. A simple-minded rationalist may be contented to assume that past is fixed as it has already gone into the making of the present. Nothing can be done to change it. The truth however is that past is being ‘remade’ every day. Imaginations of ancient glories or of humiliating defeats in the distant past are being deployed in contemporary politics all across the world. This phenomenon has been a key element behind the resurgence of rightwing in many countries. Contemporary India is a calamitous example where a perverse variant of mass-democratic politics has been fashioned through the political ideology of Hindutva resulting in serious damage to democracy and to people’s welfare.

Contemporary politics is driven more pressingly to such ideological re-imaginings in the conditions of vigorously competitive electoral democracies. The phenomenon is far more pronounced in countries with a significant minority (religious, racial, linguistic-cultural etc.) that can be portrayed as a historical villain. The majority can, then, be mobilized through the political process of polarisation in which some historical-civilizational-social tectonic plate is deployed in the service of electoral-political objectives. India is a pre-eminent example of this tragic phenomenon.

Invariably, left and progressive forces find themselves handicapped in these circumstances. Attempts to prove that such polarising strategies based on re-imagining the past are malignant turn out to be politically ineffective. A typical response from such forces has been to counter the emotive with the economic and to challenge cultural nationalism with anti-colonial, anti-imperialist nationalism. These strategies have failed miserably. Other social and resistance movements too have attempted partial re-imagining of India’s past from the standpoint of traditionally oppressed communities (Dalit, feminist, native-ist, etc.). While offering some resources to the respective movements, these efforts have failed equally miserably in challenging the Hindutva’s cultural nationalism. The efforts of some of the liberal bourgeois forces, on the other hand, to gain ground by partly imitating the Hindutva forces (variants of soft hindutva) have been no more than a laughing stock. Continue reading Imagining India for Contemporary Politics- What Should the Left Do? : Ravi Sinha

Statement on the Arrest of a Survivor of Sexual Assault in Araria, Bihar: Ambedkar University Delhi Faculty Association

15.7.2020

Ambedkar University Delhi Faculty Association (AUDFA is alarmed to hear of and strongly condemns the arrest of a survivor of gang rape along with two social workers (including former AUD student Tanmay Nivedita), at the office of the Judicial Magistrate (1st Class) in Araria, Bihar on 10 July 2020. The arrest was ordered during the course of recording of the survivors’ statement under section 164 CrPC in relation to a case of gang rape which took place just days earlier, on 6 July 2020.

It is further disturbing that the hon’ble court appears to have registered offence at the fact that the survivor sought the presence and support of two social workers prior to actually signing her statement under section 164 CrPC in the said case. The right of a survivor of sexual assault/rape to the presence of caregivers for psychological support is well established and is specifically noted in the Justice Verma Committee Report (2013, Appendix 8). Instead of recognising the right of the survivor to psychological support, the Judicial Magistrate, Araria District, thought it fit to order the arrest of the survivor and the two social workers under sections of the IPC, including 353 and 228, on grounds of “obstructing the work of public servants”.

The absence of sensitivity in dealing with cases of sexual assault, and the unfortunate use of power to discipline a survivor of gang rape for seeking psychological and social support at a time of deep trauma, lays bare the deeply worrisome reality of the functioning of the criminal justice system that survivors of sexual assault face on a regular basis. AUDFA unequivocally condemns these arrests and stands in solidarity with the arrested persons.

Discourse of Hindu Unity and Challenges in the Struggle Against the Right

 

In a recent book Hindu Ekta Banaam Gyan ki Rajneeti [Hindu Unity versus the Politics of Knowledge] (Vani 2019), my colleague and friend Abhay Kumar Dubey raises some extremely important issues that have now become central to the struggle for a more just and inclusive India. The book is in Hindi and written in the highly provocative and combative style that characterizes most of Abhay’s writings but there is something profundly disturbing – and enlightening – about the key point that  he has to make. In this brief piece I discuss it here for the benefit of the non-Hindi reader (which is not the same as ‘English-speaking’ or ‘English-educated’). However, those who understand Hindi and are interested can watch the 42-minute discussion between Abhay Dubey and myself (recorded in Janaury this year) for the Youtube book discussion channel Parakh run by Kamal Nayan Choubey. The video is embedded this post below.

The central concern of the book is with certain blindspots in what Abhay calls the ‘Centrist discourse’ [madhyamargi vimarsh] or interchangeably, ‘anti-majoritarian discourse’ [bahusankhyakvaad virodhi vimarsh] – which, for some reason, has been rendered as ‘secular ideology’ by Yogendra Yadav in a recent piece in The Print. (Yadav’s piece and Rajmohan Gandhi’s response in defense of ‘secular ideology’ can he read here and here). In keeping with Abhay’s usage, I will use the term ‘anti-majoritarian’ rather than ‘secular’ discourse for this specific configuration that emerges in the the 1990s, for as we will see, this is not a simple continuation of the secular discourse of the 1980s. For the earlier discursive formation, however, I will continue to use the term secular and we will see below how the two differ.

The blindspots that Abhay insistently and relentlessly draws the readers’ attention to, have to do with the very superficial and often hugely misleading understanding of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its deeper connections with the much longer and larger history of the project of forging ‘Hindu unity’.

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