Statement from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Students, Alumni, Faculty and Staff on arbitrary arrests of academics and activists

 

Image courtesy Rebel Politik

Statement from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Students, Alumni, Faculty and Staff

We, the undersigned students, alumni, faculty, staff and other members of the TISS community stand with Mahesh Raut and the four other activists who have been arrested unfairly and demand their immediate and unconditional release.

On the morning of June 6th, 2018, the Pune Police investigating the Bhima Koregaon case arrested Mr. Mahesh Raut. Mahesh is an alumnus of TISS, a former fellow at the prestigious Prime Minister’s Rural Development Programme (PMRD) and an anti-displacement activist working with gram sabhas on implementation of laws like PESA (Panchayat Extension
to Scheduled Areas) and FRA (Forest Rights Act). He was arrested from Nagpur, where he had been staying for his ongoing medical treatment. On the same day, the premises of Mr. Sudhir Dhawale, Dalit activist and editor of Marathi magazine Vidrohi, Professor Shoma Sen, Head of the English literature department at Nagpur University, Advocate Surendra Gadling, general secretary of Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), and Mr. Rona Wilson, secretary of the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) were raided and they were arrested too. Even as the police informed that they were being picked up in connection to the Bhima Koregaon case, the media started releasing news about them being ‘top urban Maoist
operatives’. Continue reading “Statement from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Students, Alumni, Faculty and Staff on arbitrary arrests of academics and activists”

Disinheriting Adivasis – The Gadchiroli Game Plan: Vidhya A

Guest post by VIDHYA A

Image courtesy Subcontinental wind

In a statement issued on April 16th 2018, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) claimed that the ‘National Policy and Action Plan’ to combat Left Wing Extremism (LWE) is ‘a multi-pronged strategy involving security and development related measures’[1]. This new policy, apparently in place since the NDA government came to power at the centre, claims to have ‘zero tolerance towards violence coupled with a big push to developmental activities so that benefits of development reached the poor and vulnerable in the affected areas’[2]. The statement talks of substantial improvement in the LWE scenario by indicating reduced incidents of violence over the last four years. Within a week of this statement to the press, several Maoists are killed in an alleged encounter in Gadchiroli district of Maharastra and, then, in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh[3]. The Maharashtra state police immediately issued press notes and organised a press conference on April 24th declaring the operation an unmitigated success. A week later, Chhattisgarh police did the same. Even as the death count of Maoists kept rising, the police claimed that none of their personnel, primarily the elite C-60 force in Maharashtra and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), were seriously injured let alone killed in action.

Continue reading “Disinheriting Adivasis – The Gadchiroli Game Plan: Vidhya A”

Letter of protest to Association of Asian Studies on exclusion of Pakistani participants from Delhi conference

A letter of protest by Concerned Scholars/Conference Participants, addressed to the Association of Asian Studies (AAS), is being circulated  for signatures.

The AAS has bowed to the Indian government’s directive not to include Pakistani nationals at the AAS-in-Asia Conference to be hosted in Delhi between 5 – 6 July, 2018. The letter of protest states that the organisers of the Conference have thus been complicit in the curtailing of basic academic freedom, and that AAS’ soft stand and lack of transparency in the matter has meant an exclusion of Pakistani voices from an international conference on Asia.

If you agree with the arguments being put forward in the letter, please consider signing and circulating it within your network.

You can access and sign the letter here:   Letter to AAS-in-Asia

Thoothukudi Massacre – When State becomes Predator: Bobby Kunhu

Guest post by BOBBY KUNHU

Thoothukudi protests – Image courtesy LiveMint

On 22nd May 2018, in what cannot be imagined even in a dictatorial regime, the police in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu – a South Indian state opened fire to kill, on a group of peaceful protesters marching towards the district administration office demanding denial of permission for expansion and closure of the existing copper smelting plant of Sterlite. Sterlite is a subsidiary of the London based corporation Vedanta, which has been dumping toxic waste all over this town since 1998 resulting in widespread health hazards including increase in reports of cancer. This massacre is unimaginable even in the worst dictatorial regimes, because not only were known national and international legal norms and protocols in crowd/riot control violated, but also because the video clippings that have surfaced after the massacre seem to indicate sufficient premeditation – with a plainclothes sniper on the top of a van being ordered to kill at least one person. Continue reading “Thoothukudi Massacre – When State becomes Predator: Bobby Kunhu”

How Does Raazi Resolve The Tension Between Patriotism and Humanity? Kavita Krishnan

Guest Post by KAVITA KRISHNAN

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not seen Raazi, please don’t read this review because it contains spoilers.

Rabindranath Tagore, the composer of the poems that serve as the national anthems of India and Bangladesh, wrote an essay on nationalism in which he asserted, “it is my conviction that my countrymen will gain truly their India by fighting against that education which teaches them that a country is greater than the ideals of humanity.” In a letter to a friend, he wrote, “I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.”

My concern, as I watched Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi, was about how the film handles its central tension – between the values of humanity and patriotism. Continue reading “How Does Raazi Resolve The Tension Between Patriotism and Humanity? Kavita Krishnan”

Gayatri Mantra – Aryanism versus Hinduism: Rajni K. Dixit

Guest post by RAJNI K. DIXIT

The Gayatri mantra, as it is called these days, has been assigned a very important position in Hinduism. One is supposed to pray to the Sun god with this verse every morning and evening. It is supposed to be a prayer to the Divine Light to guide our mind in the right direction, and to show us   the correct way to live life. At the thread ceremony, which was a rite performed as the initiation of a Brahmin child’s education (samskarajanma or dwijatva i.e. second birth), the Gayatri mantra is spoken in the child’s ear because it is a prayer to guide the mind. It becomes his daily prayer to god for the right guidance and upliftment of mind for his whole life henceforth.

However, this verse was composed in a particular political context, understanding which expands our understanding of what is called Hinduism today.

This verse is composed by the great poet-priest Vishvamitra Gathina, and is selected from a poem of eighteen verses, the 62nd poem of the third mandal of the Rigveda. The major portion of this third mandal or group is   composed by Vishvamitra. ‘Gayatri’ is actually the name of the metre that the verse is composed in. The verse is about god Savita, i.e. the sun, and the correct name by which this verse was originally known is the ‘Savitri’ mantra.

Gayatri is not the composition of an ascetic sage. It is written by a poet-priest who was a born politician, a Rajarshi as the later Sanskrit calls him. This was a time when all good poets worked as professional priests. Composition of literature had no existence separate from religion in those times.

Continue reading “Gayatri Mantra – Aryanism versus Hinduism: Rajni K. Dixit”

Statement on Atrocities on Dalits : New Socialist Initiative

Guest Post by New Socialist Initiative

New Socialist Initiative Condemns Hindutva Engineered and Inspired Atrocities on Dalits

Hardly a day passes without headline news of some or another atrocity on Dalits. On 24 May, a Dalit man in the Ahmedabad district was beaten and his house attacked by a gang of socalled ‘upper’ caste men after he had attached Sinh to his name on his facebook post.  On 21 May a dalit ragpicker was beaten to death in a Rajkot factory. Atrocities on Dalits are occurring in the midst of a public ideological environment against them. On 26 May news came of a private school in Delhi asking 8th class students to write a note on how reservations help undeserving and unqualified people for their summer vacation homework.  According to National Crime Record Bureau reports for recent years, between 10 to 15 thousand cases of crimes are reported under the Prevention of Atrocities act every year; an average of 35 crimes per day. Many times more crimes actually go unreported. In 2016 Indian courts had over 45 thousand cases under this act. Out of the 4048 cases decided, conviction occurred in 659 cases only. That is, five out of six cases of atrocity against Dalits did not result in any punishment. The number of attacks against one of the weakest and the poorest sections of the society, and the abysmal rate of conviction would put any civilized society to shame, but India chugs along. Continue reading “Statement on Atrocities on Dalits : New Socialist Initiative”