All posts by Aarti Sethi

I am an M.Phil student at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, New Delhi. This blog is meant to be a space for conversation with friends on my ongoing work on cinema and the city. And since all of you know me there not much else to say ;)

The Outsiders: Jagjit Pal Singh

This is a guest post by JAGJIT PAL SINGH

It was the year 2013; I took an auto-rickshaw from Dal Gate to Shankaracharya temple. As the auto-rickshaw took a right from the Boulevard towards the road that goes to the temple it was halted by a long queue of vehicles, mostly cars. I could see a security-check post from the distance, men in uniform grilling the drivers and their automobiles with the same thirst. You have to clear it before you pay visit to the deity. In Kashmir, these security-checks posts are just like traffic signals we habitually obey and cross in Delhi or in any other city, every day, every few kilometres. As I got off from the auto to take some fresh air a faujee approached me. He inquired from where I was coming, a very friendly tone in his voice. I was not new to these security-checks. I am half-Kashmiri, half-Punjabi, half-Sikh, half-Indian, half-Pakistani, half- refugee, and many others halves I could never put together to give a name to. He was visibly happy to see an ‘Indian’ in the land of ‘terrorists’, probably mistaken by my Punjabi/Sikh appearance. I’m more Kashmiri than a Punjabi though. If it were 1980’s or 1990’s the approach would have been different. Punjabis, mostly Sikhs, were terrorists those days. There are few other adjectives he used for Kashmiris I would like to skip. I instantly gathered all my Indian-ness and replied in an equally friendly-Indian tone to his friendly-Indian questions. It was a casual chat. Then, he went to the auto-driver in his role as a uniformed Indian in a ‘conflict-zone’; spoke to him in a dialect ‘only Kashmiris understand’, gave a green signal and in few minutes our middle-class auto-rickshaw bypassed all the expensive cars with JK number at the rear. Continue reading The Outsiders: Jagjit Pal Singh

What Made Burhan a Hero?: Muzaffar Ali

This is a guest post by MUZAFFAR ALI

Around two lakh people participated in the funeral procession of Burhan Wani: the slain Hizb militant from Shareifabad, Tral. Without a break Kashmiris are offering prayers in absentia and paying tributes to the `martyr.` Community kitchens in his locality have been set up to feed people who come to pay tributes. Defying curfew, people are crossing hills and hamlets on foot to reach his native place. Graffities in the Lalchowk area of Srinagar hail him as a hero who lives in “our hearts.” Never before has anyone witnessed such a tremendous support or tribute base for a slain militant. Militants have died before as well, but his death has given life to something unprecedented. Banners in his honour have been installed across the valley to convey the message that he will be remembered. The valley is on boil, and people are risking lives to attack armed police officers and CRPF personals. The death toll according to reports in Rising Kashmir has reached 43 and thousands of people are injured, many of them critically. While the state and the propagandistic TRP driven media emphasize Burhan being a ‘terrorist’, Kashmiris hail him as their ‘hero’ and ‘saviour.’ The question is what turned Burhan into a hero and why are Kashmiris across age groups eulogizing him? What is inspiring people to raise a slogan like, “mubarak tas maajeh yes ye zaav: shaheed hai aav, shaheed hai aaav” (congratulations to the mother who gave birth to Burhan—the Martyr). Continue reading What Made Burhan a Hero?: Muzaffar Ali

Statement by SC/ST Faculty Forum and Concerned Teachers of the University of Hyderabad on the Attack on Velivada

In the early hours 28th May 2016, at around 2 P.M., the authorities at the University of Hyderabad removed the tents erected in North Shopcom around the Velivada and the venue of protest following the death of Rohith Vemula. This happened in the darkness of night, shrouded in secrecy and utterly insensitive towards the turmoil it was bound generate within the student community. Such an act reaffirms the dictatorial stance of the present administration as well as its intolerance to dissent.

The removal of the tent is a clear act of provocation against students since it is well known that they are emotionally attached to the Velivada and consider it as a place of mourning and memorial for Rohith. Especially for the Dalit students, it remains the site of challenge against caste discrimination. Further, bringing down the posters of Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar’s quotes that surrounded the tent is a grave insult to the Father of the Constitution of this country and an atrocity in itself. It is indeed ironic that the university administration that overtly pronounces its intent to celebrate Dr. Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary for a year has no qualms about removing his posters, or barring his grandson, Prakash Ambedkar, from entering the university. Such actions unmask the true character of the administration; revealing its deeply discriminatory, apathetic and disrespectful attitude towards Dalits and their leaders. Continue reading Statement by SC/ST Faculty Forum and Concerned Teachers of the University of Hyderabad on the Attack on Velivada

On the Need for Obscene and Offensive Humour: Rohit Revi

This is a guest post by ROHIT REVI

Tanmay Bhat, popular Stand Up Comic, recently released a video on the popular social networking platform SnapChat, imitating Sachin Tendulkar, the popular cricketer, and Lata Mangeshkar, the popular Musician. He called it ‘Sachin vs Lata Civil War’, where the two figures argue over who the better cricketer is, Tendulkar or Kohli. It was almost immediately picked by right-winged political groups, such as the BJP and the MNS, and over the course of the day, the few seconds long video became about ‘Tanmay vs Indian Culture’, ‘Comedians vs The Nation’ and so on. Mumbai Police consulted legal experts, in the meanwhile asking YouTube and Facebook to take the video down. The mainstream media, held hour long debates in relation to the video, and those who tuned in heard about ‘drawing lines’ and ‘crossing boundaries’, amidst drowning shrieks on, again, what ‘our’ culture is and what it is not. As customary, MNS Leader Ameya Kopkar, issued a quick threat to assault him, if he ever appeared in public. Sunil Pal, the comedian, called the young brand of comedians of which Tanmay is a part, a group “filled with lesbians and gays”. An effigy was burnt.

This article is not about whether the video was funny or not. It is about a certain brand of offensive humour and the need for it. Continue reading On the Need for Obscene and Offensive Humour: Rohit Revi

Response to Shantanu Guha Ray’s Mumbai Mirror Article on Tarun Tejpal: Anonymous

Guest post by ANONYMOUS

[The letter below was sent to the Mumbai Mirror by the woman journalist who has accused Tarun Tejpal of rape. The paper is yet to issue a clarification on Mr Guha Ray’s connection to the rape accused Mr Tejpal, or to carry this letter on its website, or paper. As per Indian Law the identity of a victim of sexual assault is protected. We are thus carrying the letter below without disclosing her identity]


The Editor

Mumbai Mirror

This is to draw your attention to the article printed in your newspaper titled “Rape Charges Against Tarun Tejpal: Over Two Years On, Trial Yet to Begin” dated March 21, 2016 by Shantanu Guha Ray.

Having long admired the Mumbai Mirror, I was disappointed to note the factual inconsistencies and biases evident in the article. To begin with, Mr Guha Ray, allegedly a senior journalist (and therefore, one hopes, familiar with at least a few journalistic tenets) fails to mention in his piece that he worked under the rape accused, Tarun Tejpal, for several years at Tehelka magazine, and was also the head of Tehelka’s sister venture, Financial World – indicating that he had significant financial interest the magazine.

Further, Mr Guha Ray mentions that the complainant in the case is “working on a book on the complicated matter of sexual harassment at the workplace” to be published by Harper Collins. As the complainant, I would like to clarify that I am not working on a book about office harassment, have never been contacted by Harper Collins, and that the only thing complicated about sexual harassment at the workplace is the management bending over backwards to protect abusive employers responsible for their pay cheques.

If any further evidence of Mr Guha’s bias and professional ineptitude was necessary, let me also point out that while he liberally quotes the rape accused as saying the case is “a matter of life and death for him”, he fails to even get the state prosecutor’s name right, and has never contacted me for an account of how the delay in an allegedly “fast track” and high profile rape case has affected my health or professional prospects.

A basic fact check, or a few phone calls to lawyers and editors in New Delhi would have alerted the journalist in question, as well as you to the fact that Mr Tejpal and his family have repeatedly screened sub-judice CCTV footage for anyone that asks to view it. In fact, no one except the police and Mr Tejpal’s defence even have access to this footage, so perhaps Mr Guha Ray can next train his newshound instincts to finding out how story after story defending Mr Tejpal based on this footage appeared in publications like Outlook, The Citizen and the Facebook page of Mr Anurag Kashyap.

Finally, Mr Guha would do well to remember that not only does this delay in proceedings give “some reprieve” to Mr Tejpal, but combined with his slanderous media campaign, it also affects every single witness in the case, and constantly delays the moment I can present my truth and evidence in court — a moment I have patiently waited for for over two years.

Warm regards,


Academics for Democracy: Statement in Solidarity with Students of Hyderabad Central University

The brutal police assault on students of the University of Hyderabad (UoH), which has clearly taken place with the blessings of University authorities, is an unprecedented attack on the student community in India. Starting with last years de-recognition of the APSC in IIT-Madras, to the events at FTII Pune, on to the suspension of students at the University of Madras for protesting against TASMAC, to the suspension of 5 Dalit research scholars belonging to UoH, to the arrests of students at JNU on charges of sedition, to this assault and arrest of students at UoH, clearly demonstrates the increasing intensity with which liberal and democratic spaces inside campuses are shrinking, due chiefly to Hindutva forces.

The students in question were peacefully protesting against the return of Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Podile who, according to the student community at UoH, was one of the key persons responsible for Rohith Vemula’s suicide, an event that since then been termed by some as an ‘institutional killing’. During this period, no action was taken against any University officials for Rohith’s death. The manner in which students and members of the faculty were assaulted — with female students being groped by male police personnel as well! — all the while facing accusations of being an “anti-national”, is probably a new low for the Hyderabad police force.

Recent events have made clear that dissent of any sort on campuses, especially the sort that questions structures of power and the Hindutva ideology, will be suppressed in the most brutal manner possible. We find it especially shocking that sections of the media have chosen to compromise on foundational principles of journalistic ethics and, as they did in the JNU case, have resorted to reporting unverified facts like “the protesters vandalized the Vice Chancellor’s office”. These unverified reports are intended, we assume, to some how justify the violent police action.

In addition to the assault on members of UoH, the attempt to turn the campus into a prison yard by blocking water and food supplies as well as the alleged blocking of debit cards is a worrisome development. It should serve as a warning to all students and members of faculty across the country: if they are to fight to preserve liberal democratic spaces on campuses, these are the challenges they will face.

Academics For Democracy condemns this whole episode in strongest possible terms and demands further that:

  1. All arrested protesters be released,
  2. Action is taken against the police personnel who assaulted the protesters in the campus as well as in police vans, and
  3. Appa Rao Podile be removed from his post as Vice Chancellor.

List of Signatories

V.S. Sunder, Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSC), Faculty

Arnab Priya Saha, IMSc, PhD student

Suratno Basu, Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI), PhD student

Nirmalya Kajuri, IIT Chennai, Postdoctoral fellow

Continue reading Academics for Democracy: Statement in Solidarity with Students of Hyderabad Central University

Statement in Solidarity with the ongoing movement at University of Hyderabad

  1. We, the undersigned, unequivocally condemn police action in and around University of Hyderabad, from the 22 of March onwards. We criticize extreme police brutality, lathi charge, threats of rape and verbal abuse done to the students and faculty members of UoH.
  2. We demand to know the whereabouts of the faculty members and students who were made to disappear on the 22nd March. We condemn the false charges under which they are rumoured to have been booked. We condemn the police attack on students preparing food, the detaining of students for ‘cooking in a public space’ and the insinuation that they had to be taught a lesson because they might have been cooking beef!
  3. We condemn the UoH administration’s cutting off of water, electricity, internet and food to the campus residents. Nothing, no trumped up charge merits this kind of denial of basic necessities, and this action taken by the administration and aided by the police is CASTEISM, whereby the authorities feel justified to ‘teaching’ dissenting voices a lesson, in the manner of feudal upper caste landlords.
  4. We demand a response from the Telangana state government, which has supplied police to meet the nefarious demands of tainted and on-leave VC Appa Rao. A government which was formed on the demands of equality of the disadvantaged sections of society must hang its head in shame due to its complicity with the casteist UoH admin.
  5. VC Appa Rao Podile assumed office on the 22nd of March even though he has been booked under the SC ST Atrocities Act. Instead of arresting him, the police aided him in postponing the Academic Council meeting and shutting down university amenities. Appa Rao must go! The judicial probe and the MHRD probe against him be concluded impartially and at the earliest, and those responsible for Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder punished.
  6. We also condemn the national media’s silence over this state of emergency imposed on UoH, demand that the UoH community’s voice be heard and adequately represented, as the gravity of the situation merits. This media blackout reeks of casteism and complicity with Hindtutva forces, and must be resisted by all means.
  7. Casteism is the most deeply entrenched reality of modern India. Our public spaces, universities, and academia are as much a part of it, as our institutions of marriage, dining and religion. We urge the academic community in India and abroad to support UoH in its fight against casteism and fascism in the same manner in which it has supported elite institutions in the past.

Jai Bhim!

Continue reading Statement in Solidarity with the ongoing movement at University of Hyderabad