When Charlatans Become Ideologues – The Real ‘Prisoners of the Binary’

Present day Hindus are probably the strongest opponents of Marxism. They are horrified at its doctrine of class-struggle. But they forget that India has been not merely the land of class struggle but she has been the land of class wars. – B. R. Ambedkar, Philosophy of Hinduism.

I often find myself in a bind over whether or not to respond to supposed RSS ideologues, given that they simply trade in lies and hatred with the supreme arrogance of ignorance. One such is the upcoming star on the RSS horizon, a gentleman called Rakesh Sinha, who like the rest of his pack (led by the supreme leader) is currently engaged in a cheap attack on the outgoing Vice-President, Hamid Ansari. His piece in the Indian Express today (linked above) is an  instance of a combination of all these things. So, why should one bother about such a character? Why take him and his discourse seriously? Well, someone had better respond because, because, for one thing they are in power, and are going to teach generations of students that valorous ‘Hindus’ like Maharana Pratap won all the wars, though by some magic, ‘Muslims’ continued to rule for about 8 centuries! For another, there are enough gullible types who really think these people ‘have a point of view’, which should be debated.

As we have repeatedly seen, their ‘having a point of view’ has nothing to do with debate. It is to be enforced by gangs of gorakshaks, anti-romeo squads, hoodlums deciding what will or will not be taught in universities and schools, what will be written, how people should dress and love – and when nothing works, ‘win’ a ‘debate’ like Arun Jaitley claimed they did, by simply arresting the opponents and slapping sedition charges on them. Given this, I do not really address, in person, the ideologue, Rakesh Sinha, who has now made it a fine art to pick up some phrases from the toolkit of what is understood as ‘postmodernism’ by many. Wasn’t it postmodernism, one can  hear them say, that said all viewpoints are equally valid and ‘everything goes’? Wasn’t it postmodernism that challenged the hegemony of Western thought, its logocentrism, its Rationalism (with a capital R) from within that very tradition? Wasn’t it postmodernism again, that by decentering West’s logocentrism, actually gave these RSS-type creatures the gumption to claim that their utterly unsubstantiated viewpoint about the past too was as valid as that of historians who struggled with evidence, painstakingly putting together texts, artefacts and procedures of dating in order to produce a plausible account of the past?

Continue reading “When Charlatans Become Ideologues – The Real ‘Prisoners of the Binary’”

No to ‘Geri Route’, Bekhauf Azadi/ Reclaim the Night in Chandigarh: Janaki Srinivasan

Guest post by JANAKI SRINIVASAN

Reclaim the Night

If you are a resident of Chandigarh and came across pictures of the Bekhauf Azaadi Reclaim the Night and the Streets march of August 11 in the newspapers, it is most likely that you assumed it to be just another routine protest.  Protests in ‘the city beautiful’ do tend to follow a standard template. A small number gather in the Sector 17 plaza, banners are held, a few speeches made, photographs taken and a brief news report gets generated for the inner pages of the city supplement. In a small city, finding a mention in the newspapers is no indicator of the importance of one cause or one protest over others. Over the past decade, the administration has ensured this indifference, by physically redirecting political rallies- any event with the potential for large numbers- away from both government offices and public spaces to the outer perimeter of a severely gridlined map. The ‘Rally Ground’ neighbours the crematorium and the garbage landfill. Yet just as Le Corbusier’s monotonous plan and strict guidelines have been subverted by its residents to infuse vitality and uniqueness to the city, the protest template too sees a rare upheaval. Continue reading “No to ‘Geri Route’, Bekhauf Azadi/ Reclaim the Night in Chandigarh: Janaki Srinivasan”

Beneath the Veil – Lipstick Under My Burkha and Debates around the Uniform Civil Code (UCC): Debaditya Bhattacharya and Rina Ramdev

Guest post by DEBADITYA BHATTACHARYA and RINA RAMDEV

*Disclaimer: Even as news pours in of Pahlaj Nihalani’s ouster as CBFC chief, consider this essay an earnest tribute to the man who is ‘alleged’ to have beeped sense out of Indian cinema. We repeat, merely ‘alleged’ – since we go on to prove otherwise.*

Let us start out with a basic methodological premise – that forms and effects of ideological mensuration cannot exhaust the life of cinema, or even be adequate to an understanding of the ways in which a film-text lives. To that extent, the ferocious debates around how much or how little of Lipstick Under My Burkha qualifies as feminist material have only generated a fair share of readings. While acknowledging the need and value of these aligned readings, we would also urge a look at cinema’s ‘coming into being’ as something more than an image or a text or a performative medium. Often, in our haste for neat hermeneutic closures, reading a film as cognitive-critical material could tend to a negation of the very relationship between the cinematic object and the everyday. The site of a film’s meaning is necessarily in excess of its narrative unfolding as viewing experience. It lies in the negotiations of its object-world – which includes the plot, the actors, the techniques of representation, the exhibition-settings, the infrastructures of distribution and marketing strategies, discourses around its production and release, celebrity-scandals or pre-release promotions, box-office statistics, publicity routines and review ratings, as well as non-audience expectations – with the other object-worlds of thought, feeling and belief. With that note of ‘methodological caution’, as one might call it, we would argue that a movie like Lipstick is also more than just a story of four women as desiring subjects, grappling with their own bodies to secure the most intimately ‘fundamental’ right to dream.

Continue reading “Beneath the Veil – Lipstick Under My Burkha and Debates around the Uniform Civil Code (UCC): Debaditya Bhattacharya and Rina Ramdev”

Noida’s Domestic Workers’ Take on the ‘Madams’ – A Report from Ground Zero: Maya John, Sunita Toppo and Manju Mochhary

This guest post is an investigative report by MAYA JOHN, SUNITA TOPPO and MANJU MOCHHARY, who are associated with Gharelu Kamgar Union and actively involved in organizing domestic workers.

Recently, the otherwise docile workforce of domestic workers – most of whom are migrant labourers from the poorest states in the country – showed remarkable collective zeal against their wealthy employers in Noida (Uttar Pradesh). On the morning of 12th July 2017, a confrontation broke out between wealthy residents in a posh housing society, Mahagun Moderne in Noida Sector 78, and a gathering of agitated domestic workers and their families. The rampant exploitation of domestic workers, and the huge antagonism between their interests and those of their employers was directly exposed with the outbreak of this agitation.

The 12th July incident and subsequent developments have also revealed the sickening nexus between the police, employers, and right-wing politicians who have extended support to the wealthy residents. Within hours, an obvious labour issue, and the struggle of workers against the alleged illegal confinement of a female domestic worker was projected as a communal confrontation. With the accused employers and their sympathizers identifying the protesting workers and the missing domestic worker as ‘Bangladeshis’, the social media exploded with communal diatribe and messages of hate. Conditions for communal discord were consciously sown by Mahagun residents, putting at risk the lives of hundreds of workers living in neighbouring slums.

Continue reading “Noida’s Domestic Workers’ Take on the ‘Madams’ – A Report from Ground Zero: Maya John, Sunita Toppo and Manju Mochhary”

Armed Forces Veterans Speak Out – ‘Act Now to Uphold the Constitution’

In the midst of all the cacophony and shrill pseudo-nationalist rhetoric that is destroying the fabric of a plural India, often in the name of the Armed Forces, 114 veterans of the Indian Armed Forces have spoken out. They have spoken out in no uncertain terms against targeted attacks on Muslims and Dalits and against the attempts to destroy the Constitution –  upon which arose the new, independent India.

An Open Letter from Veterans of the Armed Forces

To: the Prime Minister of India, Chief Ministers of the States, and Lieutenant-Governors of the Union Territories.

30 July, 2017

We are a group of Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces who have spent our careers working for the security of our country. Collectively, our group holds no affiliation with any single political party, our only common commitment being to the Constitution of India.

It saddens us to write this letter, but current events in India have compelled us to register our dismay at the divisiveness that is gripping our country. We stand with the ‘Not in My Name’ campaign that mobilised thousands of citizens across the country to protest against the current climate of fear, intimidation, hate and suspicion.

The Armed Forces stand for “Unity in Diversity”. Differences in religion, language, caste, culture or any other marker of belonging have not mattered to the cohesion of the Armed Forces, and servicemen of different backgrounds have fought shoulder to shoulder in the defence of our nation, as they continue to do today. Throughout our service, a sense of openness, justice and fair play guided our actions. We are one family. Our heritage is like the multi-coloured quilt that is India, and we cherish this vibrant diversity. Continue reading “Armed Forces Veterans Speak Out – ‘Act Now to Uphold the Constitution’”

विश्वविद्यालय, अंध राष्ट्रवाद और देशभक्ति : वैभव सिंह

Guest post by VAIBHAV SINGH

भारत खुद को भले किसी महान प्राचीन ज्ञान-परंपरा का वारिस समझता हो पर उसके विश्वविद्यालयों की दशा चंद चमकदार अपवादों के बावजूद खस्ताहाल है। उच्चशिक्षा की हालत किसी मरणासन्न नदी जैसी है जिसपर पुल तो बहुत बड़ा बन गया है पर पानी सूखता जा रहा है। भारत अपने साथ ही यह झूठ बोल रहा है कि वह ज्ञान या ज्ञानियों का आदर करता है, जबकि सचाई इसके विपरीत है। आधुनिक युग में भारत ने जितना ज्ञान की अवहेलना और अनादर किया है, उतना शायद ही किसी देश ने किया होगा। हर तिमाही-छमाही आने वाली रिपोर्ट्स हमें शर्मिंदा करती हैं कि संसार के सर्वोच्च 100 विश्वविद्यालयों में भारत के किसी विश्वविद्यालय को नहीं रखा जा सका। पूरा शिक्षा-जगत डिग्रियों की खरीदफरोख्त में लगे विचित्र किस्म के अराजक और अपराधिक सौदेबाजियों से भरे बाजार में बदलता जा रहा है। यहां अपराधी, दलाल और कलंकित नेता अपने काले धन व डिजिटल मनी की समन्वित ताकत लेकर उतर पड़े हैं और हर तरह की कीमत की एवज में कागजी शिक्षा बेचने लगे हैं। इस बाजार में ‘नालेज’ और ‘डिग्री’ का संबंध छिन्नभिन्न हो चुका है। कमाल की बात यह है कि यह स्थिति हमें चिंतित नहीं करती।

दूसरी ओर, उच्चशिक्षा अभी भी समाज की नब्बे फीसदी आबादी के लिए सपने सरीखी है। उच्चशिक्षा में जीईआर यानी दाखिले के अनुपात की गणना 18-23 आयुवर्ग के छात्रों को ध्यान में रखकर की जाती है और अभी भी भारत में केवल दस फीसदी लोग उच्चशिक्षा के संस्थानों के दरवाजे तक पहुंच पाते हैं। इसमें भी दलित व गरीब मुस्लिमों की हालत बेहद खराब है। दलितों में दो फीसदी से भी कम लोग उच्चशिक्षा प्राप्त कर पाते हैं तो मुस्लिमों में यह आंकड़ा केवल 2.1 फीसदी का है। भारत की ग्रामीण आबादी में केवल दो फीसदी लोग ही उच्च माध्यमिक शिक्षा के पार जा पाते हैं। ये आंकड़े भारत में उच्चशिक्षा की आम लोगों तक पहुंच की भयावह तस्वीर को प्रस्तुत करते हैं और दिखाते हैं कि हम जिन संस्थानों, बड़े कालेजों-विश्वविद्यालयों आदि को भारत के विकास के प्रमाण के रूप में पेश करने की इच्छा रखते हैं, वे देश की नब्बे फीसदी आबादी से बहुत दूर रहे हैं। Continue reading “विश्वविद्यालय, अंध राष्ट्रवाद और देशभक्ति : वैभव सिंह”

JNUTA Statement on JNU VC’s ‘Tank’ Talk

Following the bizarre idea, earlier mooted by retired army officials, now taken up by the Vice Chancellor of JNU, to install a tank on university campus, ostensibly to instill nationalism in the university community, the JNUTA has issued the following statement:

The JNUTA is amused by the JNU VC’s earnest desire that a tank be rolled onto JNU campus. It is surprising that Prof. Jagadesh Kumar can only be inspired to patriotism upon beholding instruments of war. This seems to be only a personal affliction, since the rest of the JNU community does not need these visual aids to feel love and concern for this land, its environment and all its peoples, whether in the armed services or elsewhere.

The JNUTA also hopes that the JNU VC will understand that developing what he believes is the correct affective attachment towards the Indian Army is not part of his job description. JNU cannot be made into a theatre of war. His statutory role is one of “maintaining and promoting the efficiency and good order of the University” and of upholding the JNU Act and Statutes. The full statement can be read here.