Supporters of Left Presidential candidate Pedro Castillo take to the streets, image courtesy BBC and Reuters
It seems quite clear from the latest reports coming in from Peru that the Left-wing candidate Pedro Castillo is all set to win in what has been described as the most polarized election till date. With over 99 percent of the ballots counted, Castillo had taken a lead of approximately 80, 000 votes (50. 2 of the total) over his Right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori. The counting process, reports say, has already been considerably slowed down as ballots seem to be still arriving from abroad as well as from the remote rural areas. Votes of expatriates arriving from abroad are mostly right wing votes for Fujimori whereas the ones from the rural areas are likely to be overwhelmingly for Castillo. There also seem to be a huge number of contested votes that might need to be recounted, further slowing down the process.
History apparently allows freaks, whims and hypocrisy, but only temporarily. After all, Hegel as very succinctly stated, ‘History is a slaughter house’. It spares none, not excluding India’s once most powerful Leftist party in the parliamentary arena, Communist Party of India (Marxist) that once had 44 MPs in the lower house of Indian parliament, Lok Sabha. It now faces a crisis of identity and existence. Hypocrisy and falsehood in politics and ideological positions have been two main reasons for the vertical decline of party’s influence and image. Ten years ago, Indranil Chakraborty in his Master’s thesis –“The Market Odyssey: Why and How Was ‘The Market’ Discourse Incorporated in the Party Program of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) During the Days of the Communist Party of China’s ‘Market Socialism’?” referred to CPI(M)’s open criticism of ‘the development of the personality cult of Mao( Tse Tung) , and the problem of left adventurism during the Cultural Revolution. He pointed out that the criticism evaded ‘the question of the relationship between socialism and democracy, and the role of the Chinese people in deciding policy matters of the state’. He quoted Harkishan Singh Surjeet’s article in the party’s theoretical monthly, The Marxist in 1993 commemorating Mao’s birth centenary – ‘We cannot make a subjective analysis of a personality in cases where errors have been committed in the application of the theory to practice.’
The farmers’ struggle at the Delhi borders completed six months yesterday, the 26th of May. The day was observed as a Black Day all over the country, at the call of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM).
Braving unprecedented cold, followed by rains and storm, the struggle has now moved into the cruelest part of Delhi’s summer. In the process, it has lost 470 of its people, thanks to the obstinacy of the government. If one dates the beginning of the struggle from June, when it began in Punjab, soon after the farm laws were stealthily, under cover of the pandemic, promulgated as ordinances by the Central government, the struggle has been on for ten months now. In other words, it is incorrect to go on referring to it as a protest – which we routinely do for many lost causes – for it is now a ‘do or die’ struggle. It became so from the time it shifted its venue to lay siege to Delhi.
Periodically, the government, its police and its minions in the media try and zero in on this epic struggle of the farmers for its ignoring, if not violating of Covid19 protocols. All this even as they look the other way while lakhs of people are thrown into the jaws of death, brought about by the mass murderers who have pushed populations in four states into prolonged election campaigns, played cynical games with precious oxygen and vaccine supplies and allowed all kinds of mass religious gatherings of the Hindus to take place in complete disregard of any protocol whatsoever.
‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’, laments Hamlet, the Prince in the eponymous play by Shakespeare. Today everything seems rotten in the Indian State. The way lives are being lost amidst this raging pandemic – with the wilful indifference and callousness of the Indian State and its appendages—calls our attention to what looms over the helm of the affairs of the state.
The question of federalism and Centre-State relations has been on many people’s minds lately, given that the Centre in the Modi dispensation has been hell bent on usurping the powers of the states while slyly thrusting all responsibility on to their shoulders. As a matter of fact, it was precisely during the outbreak of Covid19, when there should have been maximum cooperation between the Centre and the States, that the strains started showing in a glaring manner. Very early on, it became clear that the Centre was intent upon using the pandemic to usurp more and more powers, while riding roughshod not only on the rights of ordinary citizens but also of the States. In dealing with the pandemic, not only were the mandatory consultations with the States not held, they were in fact simply handed over decisions. The most dramatic of all these, of course, was the completely bizarre manner in which the Lockdown was declared last year, at just four hours notice. The huge tragedy that followed was totally avoidable had there been prior consultations and had the Prime Minister, just for one moment, behaved like one. As a matter of fact, the record of this government over the past seven years has been pretty consistent in this regard at least. Continue reading Why Federalism Must Become the Fulcrum Of Politics In Coming Days→
टिकरी बॉर्डर पर युवा महिला कार्यकर्त्ता के साथ यौन हिंसा और अपहरण पर सार्वजनिक बयान, 9 मई, 2021
बंगाल से आयी असोसियेशन फॉर प्रोटेक्शन ऑफ़ डेमोक्रेटिक राइट्स (एपीडीआर), श्रीरामपुर की 26 वर्षीय कार्यकर्त्ता के 30 अप्रैल 2021 को बहादुरगढ़, हरियाणा में हुए निधन पर हमें गहरा अफ़सोस है। यह युवती किसान आंदोलन से बेहद प्रेरित हुई और 2 से 11 अप्रैल को बंगाल में आन्दोलन का प्रचार कर रहे किसान सोशल आर्मी के साथ टिकरी बॉर्डर पर आंदोलन के प्रति अपना समर्थन दर्ज कराने आयी थी। उसे खोने का शोक मनाते हुए, हम टिकरी बॉर्डर पर उसके द्वारा बिताये चंद दिनों के दौरान उसके साथ हुए घटनाक्रम के बारे में सुन कर भी बेहद चिंतित और परेशान हैं।
Public Statement on the Sexual Assault and Abduction of a Young Woman Activist at Tikri Border issued on 9 May 2021
We deeply mourn the death of a 26-year old activist from APDR (Sreerampur) in West Bengal, who passed away on 30th April, 2021 at Bahadurgarh in Haryana. She was deeply inspired by the farmers’ movement and had gone to express her solidarity at the Tikri border with the Kisan Social Army who had been campaigning around Bengal from 2nd April to 11th April, 2021. As we mourn her loss, we are also deeply troubled and concerned on hearing the events that had unfolded during her short stay at the Tikri border.
As India updated its COVID cases on April 30th, it became the first country to register over 4 lakh infection in a single day. This record breaking second-wave spike in the country opened the Pandora’s Box of the Modi-led central government’s claim of defeating the pandemic. The government patted itself for successfully defeating the virus and bringing normalcy in the country, without getting hit very hard like many other countries. The second wave of virus has showed up the naked picture of the hollow claims that the government made about their preparedness to tackle COVID.
India is now the epicentre of infection, accounting for 46% of world’s total cases and quarter of deaths. The ravaging crisis brought about cries for oxygen countrywide. Mass deaths due to unavailability of medical care is the new picture that India portrays of its incompetence in dealing with the second wave. The recent editorial of Lancet slammed Modi government, mentioning that the second wave is a ‘self inflicted national catastrophe’.
Some observations and takeaways from State Assembly elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Assam in May 2021 – from an original Facebook post. The observations are in the form of informal reflections but they point towards certain developments that might open up new, anticipated spaces for the struggle for a democratic India.
Federalism: The Election verdicts of May 2, 2021, from Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Kerala scream ‘federalism’. The election results are so vastly different in the State Assemblies and Lok Sabha. The election outcomes of Delhi, Maharashtra, Haryana, West Bengal, Kerala are important examples of this phenomenon.
India is a country that naturally lends itself to federalism and greater state autonomy. While the Congress, by and large, didn’t allow for it, the BJP is hell-bent on a deeply centralized structure and crushing any aspiration for regional autonomy. If progressive forces don’t take up the question of federalism and state autonomy, then it runs the risk of slipping into the hands of crude chauvinists and xenophobes like Shiv Sena of yesteryears or secessionists like Khalistanis.
As close to 8.5 lakh voters spread over 35 Assembly constituencies go to vote today in the last phase of Bengal’s elections, the line from the famous jatra Nabab Siraj-Ud-Doula from which the title of this post is extracted, haunts. The original ‘jatra pala’, written by Sachin Sengupta was staged in 1938 had a dialogue that announced the dark clouds collecting at Bengal’s horizons. The lines ‘Banglar akashe aaj durjoger ghanaghata/ Taar shyamal prantore rakter alpona’ have since resounded in the many iterations of the play, over the decades. The figures of Siraj-Ud-Daula and the traitor Mir Jafar have generally become part of Bengal’s political vocabulary but this time round the sense of Bengal being under attack from ‘outsiders’ has been pervasive. Along with that other episode of political folklore – repeated attacks by the borgis or the plunderous cavalrymen of the Maratha Empire, on Bengal has been recalled often. The attacks by the borgis were followed, only a few years later, by the Battle of Plassey (Palashi), in which Siraj-Ud-Daula was defeated after Robert Clive bribed Mir Jafar, his army commander, to betray the Nawab.
This time round too, it is widely believed, the aggression by ‘outsiders’ cannot and will not succeed but for the Mir Jafar’s who collaborate with the aggressors.
As the news of the killings of four youth in Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar district by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) came in on 10 April, reactions of horror and anger became evident all around. This reaction among politically informed sections was only natural, for anybody with a little bit of common intelligence will tell you that the BJP is making an all out bid to capture power in the state. And anyone who has watched the Modi-Shah duo in action over the past few years, does not need to be told what this means. It is always ‘Heads I win; Tails you lose’ with them. It doesn’t matter what dirty trick you have to play, all is fair in this game of capturing power with them. They will form the government, no matter who wins but first, every effort has to be made to ‘win’ by any means. And that means by ANY means, ranging from killing people by engineering violent communal incidents to buying off opposition parties’ winning legislators. Despite the full battery of BJP’s star campaigners ranging from Narendra Modi and Shah to Yogi Adityanath making repeated visits to the state, their rallies have seen very low turnout and in some instances meetings had to be cancelled. So the desperation is growing. The first four of the unprecedented eight rounds in the state’s elections were to be in the areas where TMC is relatively weak. But even in these areas the reports were not very encouraging for the BJP. Thus, every child in Bengal could see what these killings meant. Except the CPI-M that is.
Soon the story of the killings was being given a typically BJP IT Cell spin: a mob of Muslim TMC people surrounded the CISF and tried to snatch their rifles. This was followed by identical tweets by a range of people describing how they could not sleep all night because of the sounds of the explosion of bombs, suggesting that things had been going on all night – and the CISF action in the morning was therefore, only justified.
Seasoned CPI-M stalwarts on Twitter apparently neither saw those tweets or more likely, jumped at them to immediately amplify the BJP narrative of provocation by TMC (Muslim mob is often implied). It is certainly not possible that anybody with a little bit of common sense would not have immediately seen this copy paste job for what it was – a BJP IT Cell operation. The CPI-M leaders and their social media warriors went on, willfully, to reinforce the ‘provocation’ narrative that was being circulated by the BJP.
Meanwhile, many people including poll analysts and former bureaucrats started asking that if there really was an irate mob attacking the CISF party, where was the footage? Was there any video evidence? No such question crossed the CPI-M leaders’ minds and from all appearances, from Biman Bose to Mohd Salim (and the pathetic Sujan Chakrabarty) pushed ahead with not-so-subtle ways of relaying the BJP narrative and indeed, it was not difficult to discern that they were in fact, gloating.
Mamata Banerjee recently stirred up a fresh new controversy by accusing her former party colleague Suvendu Adhikari, now adversary in the Nandigram Assembly seat as BJP candidate, of being complicit in the 14 March 2007 violence. Had it not been for the complicity of the ‘father-son duo’ (Suvendu and his father Sisir Adhikari, both in the BJP now), she claimed in the heat of the electoral campaign, the police could not have entered Nandigram. She also asked rhetorically how it came to be that these two were spared by the police? To my mind, the claims seem difficult to sustain, if only because, the CPI(M) was at the height of its power and would have had little to do with these Trinamool Congress leaders. Listening to her speak, it did seem that she was quite rattled. Who would not be – with Amit Shah and central government on one side, the aggressive BJP goons in the state, her erstwhile collaborators now on the BJP side and, to cap it all, the aggressive, misogynist, patriarchal campaign against her from the CPI(M)? One meme by people obviously linked to the CPM, for instance, portrayed her witch-like, with a haggard and wicked expression, which was counter-posed to the young beauteous CPI(M) candidate Meenakshi Mukherjee. The meme describes Meenakshi as the ‘beloved daughter of Bengal’, while Mamata is described as the ‘old hag spinster sister-in-law’. (After a lot of hue and cry, this meme was taken off though the page continues to be on Facebook).
In this guest post, RAHUL GOVIND gives us, by way of a review of Audrey Truschke’s book, a glimpse of the world of medieval Sanskrit and what they tell us about ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ identity in their own time.
Why Audrey Truschke’s The Language of History is essential reading for every Indian (and Pakistani and Bangladeshi)
There is the view that the medieval period of Indian history witnessed an all-consuming battle between Hindus (who were native to India) and Muslims (who came to India as conquerors). This originated as a typical colonial strategy of ‘divide and rule’ in the 19th century, but then transformed into a communal politics that ultimately led to Partition. In India today this very view is becoming a dominant one, where the medieval period is assumed to be nothing but the destruction of an ancient indigenous Sanskritic culture by invading Muslims.
This is a provocative book in two different ways. It provokes us to interrogate the supposedly foundational propositions that constitute the very first article of the Indian Constitution: ‘India that is Bharat’. The book destabilizes the very language—the concepts, categories, frames—by which we are trained to envisage India as a historic entity and/or as a civilization.
The author does not merely engage in producing a deconstructionist version of India’s past. He, unlike others, incites us to imagine the unimaginable: the idea of Hindustan. The book introduces us to a rich archive of Persian scholarship and explores the ways in which Hindustan as a concept as well as a geo-political reality is erased to pave the way for a new intellectual imagination, India.
The Loss of Hindustan is also provocative in an overtly political sense. The book cannot be described as an intellectual-historical project. It raises a few powerful political questions especially in relation to the placing of modern history in postcolonial projects of nation building. Continue reading Loss of Hindustan – A Symposium III: Hilal Ahmed→
“Nostalgia is not what it used to be.” – Simone Signoret
To look back these days evokes less anger or longing and more a sense of gazing on ruins. Like the Angel of History, so evocatively described by Benjamin, we are being blown with our backs to an unknown future, gazing at the relentless pile of wreckage that accumulates behind us. The idea of a nation that we once imagined together is buried somewhere in the debris, our residual idealism detects its gleam sometimes. This sense of melancholy propels different shades of politics, one of which does a fine combing through the rough texture of history to recover lost visions. The other seeks to resist the lure of the past and think exigently within the horizon of the present. A hard headed engagement with contemporary times comes rooted in the belief that there is no space of authenticity or of an archive of resistance awaiting us in the past: there is no ‘there’ there. However, the mode of thinking that informs the historical discipline requires us to look back, and see the filiations with the present as much as the future. The fact that we occupy a future past (that is to say, we live in a moment that was once imagined as a future, utopian or otherwise) can be an occasion for cynicism as much as a fillip for renewed action. Continue reading Loss of Hindustan – A Symposium II: Dilip M. Menon→
Manan Ahmed Asif’s recent book Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India* has aroused considerable interest that goes beyond academic readers. Since the book deals with a matter that concerns not just our past but also how we imagine our future, we at Kafila decided to try out a symposium on it – on an experimental basis, since we do not generally carry book reviews as such. We will be serially publishing three reviews/ comments on the book, by DWAIPAYAN SEN, DILIP M. MENON and HILAL AHMED, over the next few days, in the hope of provoking some discussion.We also hope to get the author’s response to these contributions. This first piece is by DWAIPAYAN SEN. The second contribution by Dilip M. Menon can be read here. You can read the final piece by Hilal Ahmed here.
This book is the most recent addition to a growing tradition of precolonial history-writing that depicts India as a land of milk and honey before the coming of the colonial flood. Evidently, a European understanding of India as Hindu replaced an earlier, native understanding of India as Hindustan, rendered a home for all faiths. Such arguments are based on the close reading of Muhammad Qasim Firishta’s Tarikh-i Firishta, and its appropriation by scholar-administrators in the employ of the East India Company.
It is interesting that though Marxism was born in Europe, it has found its most enduring habitat in the Global South, but this has meant very little in terms of its overall theoretical formation and structure. Thinking about this encounter of ‘Marxism’ and the ‘Global South’ – the continents of Africa, Asia and Latin America – is a daunting task for the sheer range of experiences and questions it has thrown up. It has thrown up fundamentally new concerns as well as produced, in practice, some of the most grotesque outcomes. But the task is also daunting because despite the range of experiences that Marxism has gone through and has put us through, it has not so far given us any serious body of theoretical knowledge that reflects this experience. It has not given us anything like the way, say, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese and Sinhala Buddhism have produced their own versions of Buddhist philosophy. One could also perhaps say the same thing about Christianity in Europe, where – at least up to a point – its philosophy was elaborated and innovated or transformed by the best minds of their time.
Spot the difference between the two quotations below.
“The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.” – [Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848. Emphasis added]
“Hence, the historical movement which changes the producers into wage-workers, appears, on the one hand, as their emancipation from serfdom and from the fetters of the guilds, and this side alone exists for our bourgeois historians. But, on the other hand, these new freedmen became sellers of themselves only after they had been robbed of all their own means of production, and of all the guarantees of existence afforded by the old feudal arrangements. And the history of this, their expropriation, is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire.” – [Karl Marx, Capital Volume 1, Chapter 26, ‘The Secret of Primitive Accumulation’. 1867. All emphasis added]
Look closely at both, and if you have any doubts, you can return to the original texts from which these two passages have been extracted – the Communist Manifesto, by the youthful Marx and Engels, published in 1848 and Capital, Volume I, published in 1867. If the Communist Manifesto almost celebrates the ‘fact’ that capitalism has “rescued a considerable part of the population [i.e. the peasant] from the idiocy of rural life”, what does the text of Capital say? It underlines that precisely these people who had been thus ‘rescued’, “became sellers of themselves after they had been robbed of all their means of production“.
And if we take a step outside their context and read these lines in the context of contemporary India – from Singur and Nandigram to the ongoing saga of the epic farmers’ struggle – it is not difficult to see why the text of Capital insists that the history of their expropriation is written in “letters of blood and fire.” The big difference is that while literally millions perished in the storm of capitalist industrialization in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and simply disappeared into history; today, the peasants, farmers and indigenous people – all the so-called ‘pre-capitalist’ populations – are fighting back. There were no institutions of democracy, no language of struggle back then; it was the sheer exercise of naked power by the rising bourgeoisie that enforced the expropriation of agrarian and artisanal communities.
[In this column this time, I am reproducing a piece that I recently wrote at the request of some friends – as a popular pamphlet, meant primarily for election purposes. Therefore, while it draws on the work of experts in the field, it does not really address the academic reader.]
“Hinduize all politics and militarize Hindudom – And the resurrection of our Hindu Nation is bound to follow it as certainly as the Dawn follows the darkest hour of the Night!” – Hindutva’s founding ideologue Vinayak D. Savarkar’s message to Hindudom on his 59th birthday, 25 May 1941.
“Our arms stretched as far as America on the one side – that was long before Columbus ‘discovered’ America – and on the other side to China, Japan, Cambodia, Malay, Siam, Indonesia and all the South-East Asian countries and right up to Mongolia and Siberia in the North. Our powerful political empire too spread over these South-East areas and continued for 1,400 years, the Shailendra empire alone flourishing for over 700 years – standing as a powerful bulwark against Chinese expansion.” M. S. Golwalkar, [Second Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)], Bunch of Thoughts, Vikrama Prakashan, Bangalore 1968, p. 9.
“Emotions have more connection with the senses than with the faculty of reason; and therefore when principles are entirely lost sight of and emotions prevail, religions degenerate into fanaticism…They are no better than party politics…The most horribly ignorant notions will be taken up, and for these ideas thousands will be ready to cut the throats of their brethren.” – Swami Vivekananda, “The Methods and Purpose of Religion”, The Definitive Vivekananda, Rupa, New Delhi, 2018, p. 211]
STATEMENT BY WOMEN AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND STATE REPRESSION
Demand the immediate release of Nodeep Kaur and Shiv Kumar and cessation of targeting of workers and peasants by the Haryana Police!
On January 12th 2021, the Haryana Police began firing at a workers’ rally in the Kundli Industrial Area. Firing at workers demanding unpaid wages, the police claimed that their demand amounted to extortion. Following the gunfire, when the congregated workers dispersed in all directions, a 24-year-old dalit worker, Nodeep Kaur, was caught by the police and brutally beaten. She was beaten by male police officers who targeted her genitals and then dragged her to the Kundli Police Station. She was then arrested and had two FIRs filed against her, FIR 25/2021 and 26/2021; one under sections 148, 149, 186, 332, 352, 384, 379B and 307 of the Indian Penal Code and the other under sections 148, 149, 323, 452, 384 and 506 with a wide range of charges including inciting a riot, causing hurt to a public servant, assault and criminal force, extortion, trespass, criminal intimidation and attempt to murder. Most shockingly, even after being taken into custody, Nodeep Kaur was mercilessly beaten by the police. She has sustained severe injuries on her body including her genitals amounting to sexual violence and torture in custody. She has been lodged in Karnal Jail, without adequate medical care or support, barely able to speak to her sister, one of the only persons she is allowed to meet. She has spent over two weeks in judicial custody. On January 25th, she was produced in court via video conference. The court ordered a medical examination over two weeks after she was beaten in custody. The family has not been provided the medical examination report. Meanwhile, another worker and Majdoor Adhikar Sanghatan (MAS) activist Shiv Kumar has also been arrested by the Haryana Police. This comes alongside the arrest of Mandeep Punia, a freelance journalist who had been extensively covering the Kisan Andolan for over two months, who covered issues of worker-peasant unity in the Kundli area and, most recently, had exposed the BJP-police nexus during the attack against the peasants at the border on January 29th 2021.
दिल्ली पहुँचने के बाद और 26 जनवरी से पहले, ऊपरी तौर पर सरकार ने किसान आन्दोलन की राह में कोई रोड़े नहीं अटकाए और किसान आन्दोलन को दबाने की रणनीति दबी-ढकी थी। परन्तु अब सरकार खुल कर किसान आन्दोलन को दबाने का प्रयास कर रही है। न केवल आन्दोलनकारियों का बिजली पानी बंद किया जा रहा है और उन पर पथराव प्रायोजित किया जा रहा है बल्कि आन्दोलन स्थल तक पहुंचने के रास्ते भी बंद किये जा रहे हैं। इन्टरनेट जो आज झूठी ख़बरों के साथ साथ जानकारी का भी मुख्य स्रोत बन चुका है, बल्कि आज जीवन की बुनियादी ज़रूरत बन चुका है उस पर भी आन्दोलन स्थलों के आसपास के इलाकों में रोक लगा दी गई है। यहाँ तक की आन्दोलनकारियों द्वारा कोई रूकावट न डाले जाने के बावजूद, रेलगाड़ियों के मार्ग परिवर्तन किये जा रहे हैं या रेल सेवा बंद की जा रही है जिस से न केवल आन्दोलनकारी किसानों या उन के समर्थकों को परेशानी हो रही है अपितु आमजन भी परेशान हो रहा है। ऐसा प्रतीत होता है कि सरकार किसान आन्दोलन से बिलकुल बेपरवाह है।