All posts by Aditya Nigam

‘Beheading’ Marxism, Unleashing Desire: Ghya Chang Fou and the Marxist Unconscious

Ghya Chang Fou is not a Chinese or East Asian word – it is the name of this new dark Bengali satirical film that had its world premiere this September (2018), at the Transart Communication Festival, Nove Zamky, Slovakia.  Below is the official trailer of the film, followed by my take on it – better not read as a review.

The quirky world of Ghya Chang Fou (Joyraj Bhattacharjee, 2017) is best seen and understood as a dream. For, a dream never really adheres to the conventions of linear realistic narrative, and characteristically, scrambles up time and space. Everything makes perfect sense while you are seeing it but do try interpreting your dreams through realist conventions, especially if you are a believer in any form of realism.

Continue reading ‘Beheading’ Marxism, Unleashing Desire: Ghya Chang Fou and the Marxist Unconscious

The Kisan Charter – ‘Farmers are not just a residue from our past but integral to the future of India and the world’

Kisan Mukti March in Delhi, image courtesy New Indian Express
Till just the other day, they were committing suicide, while some of them were demonstrating in Jantar Mantar, Delhi, humiliating themselves by disrobing and eating rats, trying in vain to draw the attention of the political establishment to their plight.  And to pour salt on their wounds, BJP leaders were saying that committing suicide had become a fashion among farmers! Today they are out on the streets, demanding, among other things, that their own debts be written off, not of the powerful and predatory capitalists. (See the Charter of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee below). This is, in all probability, the sign of a decisive shift, for today the charter relseased by the Coordination Committee declares loud and clear that
Farmers are not just a residue from our past; farmers, agriculture and village India are integral to the future of India and the world.

Continue reading The Kisan Charter – ‘Farmers are not just a residue from our past but integral to the future of India and the world’

100th day of Shahidul Alam’s Detention – Eminent South Asians Write to Bangladesh Prime Minister

Today, it is 100 days of the detention of acclaimed photographer and cultural activist Shahidul Alam. On this occasion, Arundhati Roy, Aparna Sen, Vikram Seth, Romila Thapar, Amitav Ghosh, Shabhana Azmi, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Nandita Das, Mohammad Hanif, Anish Kapoor among other eminent persons from across South Asia have written a letter to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed demanding his immediate release.  on the 100th day of his detention.

Shahidul 3

H.E. Sheikh Hasina Wazed
Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Prime Minister’s Office
Dhaka, Bangladesh
13 November 2018

Subject: Appeal for release of Shahidul Alam on 100th day in custody

Your Excellency:
As well-wishers of Bangladesh and supporters of its 166 million citizens’ struggle for dignity, social justice and prosperity, we are distressed by the continued imprisonment of photographer and cultural activist Shahidul Alam. Since the founding of the nation in 1971, the people of Bangladesh have led by example, fighting poverty, ending social injustices and being standard-bearers of participatory development. This advance has been made possible by the democratic spirit of the people, who have challenged military rulers and autocrats alike. As well-wishers of Bangladesh, we fear that these gains are in danger due to the rising political intolerance and denial of fundamental freedoms.

Shahidul Alam is a Bangladeshi citizen, but the rest of us in South Asia are also proud to call him our own, for the values of truth, justice and social equality he promotes. His work and activism are respected all over our region and beyond, with innumerable friends who admire his concern for the voiceless and marginalised. One example is his latest work highlighting the tragedy of the Rohingya people, who have been given refuge in Bangladesh by your Government.

Since Shahidul Alam was forcefully taken from his home on the 5th of August, he was remanded first in Detective Branch custody for seven days and, then held at Dhaka Central Jail at Keraniganj. He is accused of ‘hurting the image of the nation’ while reporting on protests by young students demanding road safety.
It is clear to us that the case of Shahidul Alam is being used as a means to suppress criticism by others in civil society. His arrest and continued detention appear to be manifestation of an intolerant political atmosphere, an attempt to threaten and silence the voice of Bangladeshi citizens. With the country preparing for general elections, this is a time when there should be more space for debate and discussion, not less.

As believers in the rule of law, we are shocked to learn that government lawyers continue to oppose Shahidul Alam’s release on bail using various stratagems and delays intended to deprive him of his fundamental rights to liberty and due process. Across South Asia, politicians and citizens have fought for the right to speak, and to write, and it is astonishing to us that a government today, especially one which seeks to harness technology for progress, should choose to use a law to proscribe online speech to jail a citizen.

Prime Minister,

We the undersigned urge you to ensure the release of Shahidul Alam on this, the 100​th​ day of his detention. We look forward to Bangladesh retaining its place as an exemplar of
participatory democracy in South Asia.

Sincerely,
1. Akram Khan, London
2. Amar Kanwar, New Delhi
3. Amitav Ghosh, Goa
4. Anish Kapoor, London
5. Aparna Sen, Kolkata
6. Arundhati Roy, New Delhi
7. Ashok Vajpeyi, New Delhi
8. Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Kolkata
9. Dayanita Singh, New Delhi
10. Ina Puri, Kolkata
11. Jayadeva Uyangoda, Colombo
12. Kanak Mani Dixit, Kathmandu
13. Laila Tyabji, New Delhi;
14. Manjushree Thapa, Toronto
15. Mohammed Hanif, Karachi
16. Moushumi Bhowmik, Kolkata
17. Nandita Das, Kolkata
18. Nimalka Fernando, Colombo
19. Patricia Mukhim, Shillong
20. Pooja Sood, New Delhi
21. Rachana Singh, New Delhi
22. Raghu Rai, New Delhi
23. Rajdeep Sardesai, New Delhi
24. Ramchandra Guha, Bangalore
25. Romila Thapar, New Delhi
26. Salima Hashmi, Lahore
27. Sanjay Kak, New Delhi
28. Sanjoy Hazarika, Shillong
29. Sankha Ghosh, Kolkata
30. Shabana Azmi, Mumbai
31. Sushila Karki, Kathmandu
32. Vijay Prashad, New Delhi
33. Vikram Seth, New Delhi
34. Vrinda Grover, New Delhi

One month at an Indian Yoga Centre: Dhruv Ramnath

Guest post by DHRUV RAMNATH

“When you are in India, you must follow Modi. When you are in America, you must follow Trump,” said the semi-literate Odia instructor to a batch of 70-odd students at Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (S-VYASA), a university which received crores from our prime minister not so long ago. 30 kms from Bangalore, its Vice-Chancellor, Dr. H. R. Nagendra (“Guruji” to his devotees), went further. “Thanks to Modi, we are now taking yoga to the world,” he said on the first day. Both the Odia speaker and Guruji told us to “have a smile on our face all the time”. Repeated so often whilst we performed our asanas, it became patently corny and destroyed any sense of feeling welcome and of enjoying a simple, one-hour class.
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‘आधार’ न बचा, न मरा, बचा केवल मदमस्त सफ़ेद हाथी : राजेन्द्र चौधरी

Guest post by RAJINDER CHAUDHARY

Aadhar for Hanumanji
Aadhar for Hanumanji, image courtesy Aaaj Tak

उच्चतम न्यायालय के बहुमत ने ‘आधार’ पर दिये गए हालिया फैसले में सरकारी योजनाओं, सब्सिडी इत्यादि का लाभ लेने के लिए आधार अनिवार्य करने के सरकारी फैसले को सही ठहराया है। इस के साथ ही आयकर दाता के लिए भी आधार अनिवार्य कर दिया है। इस के अलावा बाकी जगह इस के प्रयोग को अवैध ठहरा दिया है; अब न मोबाइल फोन और न बैंक खातों के लिए यह ज़रूरी रहेगा। न निजी कंपनियाँ इसे मांग या प्रयोग कर पाएँगी। यह सब अब बच्चा बच्चा जानता है। सवाल यह है कि इस परिस्थिति में अब आधार का क्या प्रयोजन बचा है?
सरकार ने अदालत में आधार को कर-चोरी, काले-धन और आतंकवाद के खिलाफ लड़ाई और राष्ट्रीय सुरक्षा के लिए एक सशक्त हथियार के तौर पर प्रस्तुत किया है (बहुमत समेत तीनों फैसलों की एक संयुक्त फाइल का पृष्ठ 1095-6)। काले-धन के खिलाफ लड़ाई के लिए बैंक खातों और पैन को आधार से जोड़ना अनिवार्य किया गया था। आतंकवाद से लड़ने एवं राष्ट्रीय सुरक्षा के लिए मोबाइल फोन के लिए आधार अनिवार्य किया गया था। अब जब बैंक खातों और मोबाइल फोन के लिए आधार अनिवार्य नहीं रहा, तो अब आधार इन दोनों उद्देश्यों की पूर्ति के लिए किसी काम का नहीं रहा। लोगों के छद्म नाम से कई-कई खाते चलते रहेंगे और काले धंधे का कारोबार जैसे अब तक चलता रहा है, वैसे ही चलता रहेगा। आयकर दाता के लिए आधार अनिवार्य करने से काले धंधे और काली कमाई पर कोई खास फर्क नहीं पड़ेगा। अदालत के आधार को वैध ठहराने वाले एक जज ने भी अपने फैसले में कहा है कि बैंक खाता और पैन कार्ड दोनों का लिंक होना ही प्रभावी होगा (अकेला पैन कार्ड नहीं; इस लिए उन्होने बैंक खातों के लिए भी आधार को वैध ठहराया है हालांकि अल्पमत होने के चलते उन के फैसले का यह अंश प्रभावी नहीं होगा (पृष्ठ 55 माननीय जज अशोक भूषण के फैसले का/पृष्ठ 1103 तीनों फैसलों की संयुक्त फाइल का)।
Continue reading ‘आधार’ न बचा, न मरा, बचा केवल मदमस्त सफ़ेद हाथी : राजेन्द्र चौधरी

The Impossible Gandhian Project and its Limits – Remembering the Mahatma Today

Gandhi, Nehru and Azad, Wardha 1935, image courtesy Governance Now

Majboori ka naam Mahatma Gandhi (Roughly: Compulsion thy name is Mahatma Gandhi)

I have grown up hearing this expression and have often wondered about its meaning and at the almost proverbial status acquired by it. Whose majboori or compulsion was Gandhi really? Well, at one level, everybody’s, for practically every current within the anti-colonial struggle was uncomfortable with his presence and his leadership. Jawaharlal Nehru had even remarked once that after independence, his fads would have to be kept in check. All nationalists who fought for independence from colonial rule (as opposed to the pseudo-nationalists who tried to convert it into a cow-protection movement) had their gaze fixed on the state. They wanted control of that coveted instrument – that was the crux of their anticolonial struggle. There were others like BR Ambedkar, who too invested a lot in the state but realized that the state in the hands of the nationalists would be a disaster for his people. But no one among them (poet-thinkers like Tagore apart) was prepared to look beyond the state. And Gandhi’s disavowal of the state – and of politics as such – was something that no one could digest. More than anything else, that was what made him a majboori for this set of people who could only lay their hands on their object of desire as long as Gandhi was in the leadership – for he alone could move millions like no one among his contemporaries could.

But my hunch is that these were not the people who coined this expression. Gandhi was a bigger majboori for another set of people who were, ironically, equally disinterested in the state and its ‘capture’ – at least till recently. Yes, these were the different currents of the Hindutva Brigade (VD Savarkar of the Hindu Mahasabha and his followers and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). They had to tolerate Gandhi – that is exactly what their majboori meant – till they could finally eliminate him. And it was one Nathuram Godse, with connections to both Savarkar and the RSS, who eventually killed him. There were earlier attempts too on Gandhi’s life – all from upper caste Hindus (one lot being Chitpavan Brahmins). Continue reading The Impossible Gandhian Project and its Limits – Remembering the Mahatma Today

Sewer Workers Deaths – The Meaning of Dalit for Bhartiya Janta Party

Guest post by PRAVEEN VERMA

If Prime Minister Narendra Modi were to write about the recent deaths of sewer workers in India, the headline would be:

Some people attained moksha (nirvana) while experiencing spirituality,

Protest against deaths in sewers, photo courtesy The Hindu

In his casteist book Karmayog, he wrote that manual scavenging is a spiritual experience, hence if some people die during cleaning sewers manually, that would be attaining moksha! In a caste Hindu society this should have been a matter of joy, that even in Kaliyuga, there are still some ‘pious’ soul who could give up all moh-maya and do this punya karma! How true this depiction/ description, one feels like saying: why not make the umpteen godmen-led spiritual movements in India take this route to spiritual moksha? This would perhaps have saved the many rapist-rioter babas from arrest and they could truly do their prayaschit (atonement) in these various, very Indian jails. This is after all the real world of this ‘spiritual experience’ of manual scavenging/sewer cleaning, where ‘Moksha’ means institutional killing!

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