महाड़ सत्याग्रह के नब्बे साल

‘‘जब पानी में आग लगी थी’’
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प्रस्तावना
‘क्या पानी में आग लग सकती है ?’’
किसी भी संतुलित मस्तिष्क व्यक्ति के लिए यह सवाल विचित्र मालूम पड़ सकता है। अलबत्ता सामाजिक-राजनीतिक आंदोलनों पर निगाह रखनेवाला व्यक्ति बता सकता है कि जब लोग सदियों से जकड़ी गुलामी की बेड़ियों को तोड़ कर आगे बढ़ते हैं तो न केवल /बकौल शायर/ ‘आसमां में भी सुराख हो सकता है’ बल्कि ‘ पानी में भी आग लग सकती है।’
2017 का यह वर्ष पश्चिमी भारत की सरजमीं पर हुए एक ऐसे ही मौके की नब्बेवी सालगिरह है, जब सार्वजनिक स्थानों से छूआछूत समाप्त करने को लेकर महाड नामक जगह पर सार्वजनिक तालाब से पानी पीने के लिए डा अंबेडकर की अगुआई में हजारों की तादाद में लोग पहुंचे थे। /19-20 मार्च 2017/ कहने के लिए यह एक मामूली घटना थी, लेकिन जिस तरह नमक सत्याग्रह ने आज़ादी के आन्दोलन में एक नयी रवानी पैदा की थी, उसी तर्ज पर इस अनोखे सत्याग्रह ने देश के सामाजिक सांस्कृतिक पटल पर बग़ावत के नए सुरों को अभिव्यक्ति दी थी।

Continue reading “महाड़ सत्याग्रह के नब्बे साल”

Was the ‘Dancing Girl’ of Mohenjodaro actually a warrior?

NAMAN AHUJA, art historian, asks an exciting question that reminds us that the interpretation of artefacts, indeed, interpretation as such, is inevitably framed by the context of the viewer, and therefore always open to rethinking.

The image below is one that we are all familiar with, the exquisite sculpture of the ‘Dancing Girl’ found at Mohenjodaro.

Naman Ahuja, speaking to Anindita Ghose, suggests that the reading of this image as a dancing girl can be attributed to a perspective arising from the normalizing of patriarchal values prevalent in contemporary society. Ahuja offers an alternative reading that is much more persuasive:

The figure has bangles all the way up her left arm but her right arm is bare, as any working person would have it. A decorated left arm and a bare right arm free for labour…or for war? If she was a dancing girl by profession, surely it would have been relevant to keep both arms decorated? Look at the way she is standing. Look at her confidence. One arm on hip. Head thrown back. The way her hand is sculpted, there might have been a spear in her hand. Is she a warrior figure? Could she be a soldier rather than a dancing girl?

I can’t wait for this exhibition, India And The World: A History In Nine Stories,  to come to Delhi!

Nightmarish Visions – Indian government proposal for ‘Institutions of Eminence’: JNUTA

Statement by JNU Teachers’ Association

In early November, the JNU administration forwarded to all Centres/Special Centres/Schools, the Government of India proposal to establish twenty “Institutions of Eminence” to achieve world class status, from amongst the existing Government/Private institutions and new institutions from the private sector. It conveyed its intentions to submit an application to the UGC under the scheme and has asked Centres/Special Centres/Schools to provide comments on Part-1 – III [Vision for Institute of Eminence], Part-1 – IV [proposed fifteen year strategic plan], and Part-1 – VI [Proposed five years implementation plan] of the attached proforma.

This note from JNUTA is first to direct colleagues’ attention to the serious debate that this GoI plan has occasioned, in a country where higher education has simply failed to deliver in terms of access, quality, and justice — with a Gross Enrolment Ratio of just 20.4, as per the All India Survey of Higher Education (2013), it is the responsibility of educationists to query whether an outlay of Rs. 10,000 crore on ten institutions is warranted in the first place. (Please see the following pieces in favour of the proposal, and against it, in particular). Given that the goal of this whole initiative is a limited one of achieving a breakthrough into the world top 100 rankings, the teaching community must thoroughly discuss what rankings are good for anyway, and what significance the term ‘world class’ truly signifies, if the goals of education are essentially humanist and necessarily inclusive in character.

Continue reading “Nightmarish Visions – Indian government proposal for ‘Institutions of Eminence’: JNUTA”

Thoughts on the Continuing Assault on Women’s Rights and Progressivist Gaslighting in Kerala

After the atrocious indifference and trivialisation of domestic violence displayed by the sneering alpha-male brigade of the CPM during the discussion of the Hadiya Case, nothing surprises me. However, it appears important to point out how such callousness is indeed becoming normalised here alarmingly. It seems that the gains of women’s movement which made violence against women at home something beyond an intimate private affair, a ‘family quarrel’, are being steadily depleted. Of course, we did see how so many smooth-talking liberal CPM-oriented or purportedly-rationalist young male intellectuals went ballistic at the mere suggestion that they are blind to the domestic violence in Hadiya’s imprisonment. Also intriguing was their persistent defense of the father’s right to keep an adult, mentally fit, educated daughter immobile and imprisoned because he feared for her safety. Continue reading “Thoughts on the Continuing Assault on Women’s Rights and Progressivist Gaslighting in Kerala”

Objects in the Mirror are Closer that you Think – Beyond the Rhetoric of Otherness: Lata Mani

Guest post by LATA MANI

Political discourse in the contemporary period is by marked an affective intensity. Regardless of the issue an acute depth of feeling is in evidence. Righteousness, betrayal, entitlement, anguish and aggression suffuse arguments across the political spectrum. What seems at stake is not merely the desire to speak but to have the terms of one’s discourse deemed legitimate, to be understood as one understands oneself. The sizzle, crack and snap of rhetoric expresses the heightened temperature. One could credibly interpret it as the sound of an existing order breaking down under multiple pressures. This would however be a partial explanation. The surcharged atmosphere is equally evidence of the ties that bind those passionately disagreeing with each other. And therein lies a clue. Continue reading “Objects in the Mirror are Closer that you Think – Beyond the Rhetoric of Otherness: Lata Mani”

Statement by concerned citizens on the continued incarceration of Hadiya

We, the undersigned concerned citizens, are greatly disturbed by news reports of the NCW in-charge, Rekha Sharma’s visit to meet Hadiya at the home of her father, Mr. Asokan, where she continues to be incarcerated. These reports raise more fears than they allay.

Ms Hadiya has been reported by Ms Sharma to be ‘healthy and happy’. However, Ms. Sharma goes on to state, without providing any evidence whatsoever, that while there is no ‘love jihad’ in Kerala, there are forced conversions.

It bears reiteration that Ms. Hadiya is a twenty four year old adult woman, who took a decision to convert to Islam, and then to marry a Muslim man. For this exercise of self determination, Ms. Hadiya has been placed under house arrest in her parents’ control, and this shocking violation of Ms. Hadiya’s personal liberty and her right to take decisions about her own life, has been endorsed by the legal system.

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‘Revolution against Das Kapital’ and the ‘Lonely Hour of the Economy’

This is a modified version of the article that was published earlier in The Wire

(T)he economic dialectic is never active in the pure state; in History, these instances, the superstructures etc – are never seen to step respectfully aside when their work is done or, when the Time comes, as his pure phenomena, to scatter before His Majesty the Economy as he strides along the royal road of the Dialectic. From the first moment to the last, the lonely hour of the ‘last instance’ never comes. – Louis Althusser, For Marx, London: Verso 1979, p. 113

The event known to the world as the ‘October’ revolution in Russia – or simply as the ‘Russian revolution’ – took place on 7-8 November, a hundred years ago. But then why call it the October revolution? Thereby hangs a tale – the tale of modernity, myth-making and of a new imagination of Time.

The moment of revolution, image courtesy libcom.org
The moment of revolution, image courtesy libcom.org

As a matter of fact, the Revolution occurred on 25-26 October, according to the Julian calendar (so called because it had been promulgated by Julius Caesar), which Russia, along with a large part of the Western world, followed at that time. It was only in January 1918 that the Soviet government decreed the shift to the Gregorian calendar. The reason was that Russia should join ‘all cultured nations in counting time’, as a decree cited by historian Mark Steinberg put it. Accordingly, the first anniversary of the revolution was celebrated on 7 November 1918 throughout the Soviet Union.

What is interesting here is not so much the shift but the reason assigned for it – joining other ‘cultured nations’ of the world, which in the language of the early twentieth century meant only one thing – the modern West, which had long been setting the norm for everything desirable. Ways of ‘counting time’ too had to be aligned with Europe, lest one be considered insufficiently modern. Spatially, the Czarist Russian empire straddled both Europe and Asia, which had already, in the new reckoning of Time, been cast as ‘advanced’ and ‘backward’ respectively. The desire to become modern and join the ‘cultured nations’ was to run through the history of the revolution and its consolidation into the new Stalinist state. This desire was to be manifested in its deep distrust of the peasantry and rural life on the one hand, and in the frenetic drive to ‘catch up’ with Western Europe. As Stalin would say, he wanted to accomplish in a couple of decades what Europe had in a few centuries, compressing time, as it were, into one dizzying experience for entire society. The continuing ‘past’ had to be annihilated.

Continue reading “‘Revolution against Das Kapital’ and the ‘Lonely Hour of the Economy’”