Everywhere the talk is still about rebuilding Kerala: I say, we need to talk about healing Kerala. The change in phrasing is not trivial. When we admit that we need to heal, rather than rebuild, we are admitting much that we did not care to own up till now. That is, we would be agreeing that the problem at hand is a human one and not just one that can be resolved through technical intervention; that, as a complex process, it will take its time and quick-fixes will not suffice. Thankfully, there is a widespread discussion on the recommendations of the Gadgil Committee Report and the Post-disaster needs assessment report of last year; quarrying has been stopped all over the state. Maybe we will heal, indeed. What do we need to do to heal, and not just rebuild? Continue reading Healing Kerala: Thoughts after the Second Warning→
The ethic that dehumanises dalits continues 72 years after the country’s Independence.
What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless… There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
These fiery lines from a speech delivered on July 4, 1852 in New York by Frederick Douglass, a former slave who had become a national leader of the abolitionists, rattled a predominantly White audience. The speech was delivered 10 years before slavery in the Southern states was abolished.
More than 80 years later, on August 14, 1931, Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, a Columbia University and London School of Economics graduate, who was then leading a movement of the oppressed and exploited in India, met Mahatma Gandhi for the first time. “Gandhiji, I have no homeland,” Ambedkar told Gandhi, according to a transcript of that meeting. “No untouchable worth the name will be proud of this land.” As expected, the Varna (caste) mindset that dominated India then did not take kindly to Ambedkar’s charge.
Economist Jean Dreze, Kavita Krishnan of the CPI(ML) and the All India Progressive Women’s Association, Maimoona Mollah of the All India Democratic Women’s Association and Vimal Bhai of the National Alliance of People’s Movements released the following report to the press today, 14 August 2019, after spending five days in Kashmir, meeting and talking to people.
We spent five days (9-13 August 2019) traveling extensively in Kashmir. Our visit began on 9 August 2019 – four days after the Indian government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A, dissolved the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.
When we arrived in Srinagar on 9 August, we found the city silenced and desolated by curfew, and bristling with Indian military and paramilitary presence. The curfew was total, as it had been since 5th August. The streets of Srinagar were empty and all institutions and establishments were closed (shops, schools, libraries, petrol pumps, government offices, banks). Only some ATMs and chemists’ shops – and all police stations – were open. People were moving about in ones and twos here and there, but not in groups.
Determined, defiant – not the Kashmiri women of Sanghi fantasies
Protest in Srinagar against the abrogation of Article 370 on August 11, 2019, despite the clampdown by the Indian government. Image courtesy The Wall Street Journal.
When trolls on social media started circulating photographs of young Kashmiri girls, gloating, “now we can marry them”, it was only the overt manifestation by Sanghis of the real spirit behind abrogating Article 370. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi held forth at length on development, rights to education, rights for women and for Dalits, all of which the people of J&K were deprived of because of Article 370, the truth of course, is that J&K stands in the top 10 to 15 states on different indicators ranging from life expectancy, people served per government doctor, poverty rate and infant mortality rate, to human development index.
Or as Haseeb Drabu puts it:
The level of economic empowerment is evident from the fact that more than 25% of the household earnings in J&K are from own cultivation. In “prosperous” Punjab, it is only 18%, in “vibrant” Gujarat, it is less than 16% and in “terrific” Tamil Nadu, it is only 3%. And yet, J&K is being portrayed as a “sick” state.
I guess bad habits in development take a very long time to unlearn. Even in the face of the direst of warnings.
I know that last year, when taken completely by surprise, Kerala rose to the occasion. It appeared that a new civil society had come to being around the flood rescue and relief work, and that promised a new lease of life for our flagging-if-still-working project of people’s planning and political decentralization. It appeared that there was a real chance to stop the bureaucratic-technocratic coterie from shoving this ecologically-fragile area down the path of utterly destructive infrastructure-obsessed growth. It seemed that we could now seriously expose the depredations of the predatory capitalists, especially in the construction sector. Continue reading After Kavalappara: Is the Future that of Ecological Patriotism?→
On the same page of the Times of India of June 28, 1958 are two news items. The one on the left is a report of how Bakrid was celebrated the day before in various cities, including Jammu, where Hindus and Sikhs offered namaz along with their Muslim brethren. On the right is another story that reports the expulsion of Ms. Mridula Sarabhai from the Congress party for her ‘anti-party activities’ in opposing the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah in 1953 and the muzzling of democratic rights in Kashmir.
Dear Prime Minister, nothing about Jammu & Kashmir is as your party sees it
Economist and activist Jean Dreze, who has co-authored books with Nobel laureates, such as Amartya Sen and Angus Deaton, was in the headlines for a placard he carried to a protest rally in Delhi earlier this week. His placard challenged the government’s most critical justification for its controversial move to scrap Article 35A and read down Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The placard displayed statistics that compare J&K with Gujarat, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah’s home state. Dreze clearly showed how Gujarat lags behind J&K on a raft of development indices.
Although Dreze’s data beautifully punctures the government’s claim that J&K’s special status was a hindrance to its progress, Modi in his address to the nation on Wednesday night repeated the same argument, based on dubious claims. For instance, his claim that J&K lags behind other Indian states in matters of health services, education and so on, is patently incorrect.
Figures recorded in the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has extended the debate further and shown that J&K already excels many other Indian states on several human development counts. Once again, this underlines that all talk about how “development” will reach J&K after Article 370 is made redundant is sheer humbug.
The propagation of false information brings home the fact that the government has gone very far to generate legitimacy for its decisions in J&K. In his address to the nation, Modi also said that his government had “fulfilled the dreams of [BR] Ambedkar as well as [the then Home Minister Vallabhbahi] Patel”.