All posts by Aditya Nigam

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.
Continue reading One month at an Indian Yoga Centre: Dhruv Ramnath

‘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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The Poverty of Politics and Pre-Requisites of an Anti-Hindutva Front: Moggallan Bharti

Guest post by MOGGALLAN BHARTI

Going by the track record of past four years of Narendra Modi’s government, the only definitive political narrative today is that of the ruling party, characterized by its brand ideological vehemence/ aggression and paralleled by corresponding ideological ennui in the opposition camp. The fact that there is an astronomical rise in hate crimes against Muslims, Dalits, Women and other minorities, silently supported by large numbers of people, underlines the  onset of an ideology, conceptualized by the caste Hindus and institutionalized as Rashtriya SwayamSevak Sangh (RSS).

The electoral success of BJP – the political wing of RSS – only points to a reality which is the logical outcome of the political processes, wherein the Hindu right has been handled with the customary albatross of secularism around all of our necks – defying the social reality of India. In a predominantly caste society, secularism tends to obfuscates real social cleavages and gives preeminence to an idea shaped by the literate elites. That is not to say there is something inherently misplaced with the idea of secularism in this country. Certainly not! On the contrary, it is the dishonesty and the utter insincerity of the India’s political class for whom the politics of secularism remains a mere means to claim political power. Nothing wrong with that too, as long as, this means was directed to its logical end of making an India actually secular. Alas, India’s attempt at constructing a sincere secular society have been halfhearted at its best and nonexistent at its worst, regardless of the secular nostalgia that some people – very sincere and honest people – find themselves attached to.

Continue reading The Poverty of Politics and Pre-Requisites of an Anti-Hindutva Front: Moggallan Bharti

University Teachers Forum Hyderabad Condemns the Raid at Prof Satyanarayana’s House

The following is a statement signed by 143 teachers of Hyderabad, released by the University Teachers’ Forum Hyderabad, condemning the police raid at the residence of Prof K. Satyanarayana recently.

We university teachers of Hyderabad hereby strongly register our protest against the arbitrary, ill-mannered raid on the residence of Dr. K. Satyanarayana, Professor of Cultural Studies and Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at the EFL University on 28 August 2018.

Early in the morning of 28 August, a police team from Maharashtra accompanied by some Telangana policemen and women, forced themselves into the apartment residence of Prof. Satyanarayana and his wife Pavana without showing them any authorizing document and proceeded to ransack and vandalise the entire flat for over eight hours.

The document that they eventually produced authorized the search ostensibly to find Mr. Varavara Rao, who had already been house-arrested at his own flat by another team. There was no mention of any charges against Prof. Satyanarayana himself. In violation of all rules and conventions, this document was in Marathi, was never presented at the time of entering the residence, and no explanation was offered as to the purpose of their raid. The team left having turned the entire flat upside down taking with them three laptops, a tablet and hard drive apart from some books and papers. Prof. Satyanarayana’s accumulation of research done over 30 years is now in danger of being completely destroyed.

An internationally renowned scholar of Cultural Studies and a pioneering author and editor in the field of Dalit Studies, Satyanarayana co-edited the two-volume anthology of New Dalit Writings from South India: No Alphabet in Sight (vol 1) and Steel Nibs are Sprouting (vol 2), Exercises of Freedom, as well as the volume of Dalit Studies, the first effort of its kind.

He has been a Dalit scholar and has devoted his entire time as an academic to the pursuit of knowledge and research into issues affecting dalits.

Continue reading University Teachers Forum Hyderabad Condemns the Raid at Prof Satyanarayana’s House

Beneath the glitter – Looking at The Asian Games : Praveen Verma

Guest post by PRAVEEN VERMA

Hima Das

Does it amaze you when you hear the stories of poverty and success in same sentence? Does it amaze us when we hear the stories of some of the best sports-persons and the hardship they have dealt with before and throughout their careers? Does it amaze us when we hear about the sorry state of affairs of sports facilities and some athletes still coming up with great performances? Does it amaze that most of these athletes come from rural India and mostly where they have much economic and social constraints, where work and employment is still precarious? Does it alarm when one get to know that some of these phenomenal sports-persons come from the areas which are still dealing with the issues of hunger, high rate of unemployment, major gender gap? Areas where women coming out and trying to make cut into sports are still taboo? How often does one hear about women from marginal sections (Dalit/Backward caste/tribal) becoming a sportsperson?

Some stories of these kinds make usual snippets in many Hindi newspapers around big sports events. Though, these stories, which are posed as individual heroic one and less of a critical approach to see the working of sports administration, are meant to be sensational and don’t do justice to the entire sports affairs in India. Continue reading Beneath the glitter – Looking at The Asian Games : Praveen Verma