(Opening remarks in an ongoing discussion within New Socialist Initiative (NSI) on Left’s approach to Electoral Politics in Contemporary India)
The Speaker :
Ravi Sinha is an activist-scholar who has been associated with progressive movements for nearly four decades. Trained as a theoretical physicist, Dr. Ravi has a doctoral degree from MIT, Cambridge, USA. He worked as a physicist at University of Maryland, College Park, USA, at Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad and at Gujarat University, Ahmedabad before resigning from the job to devote himself full time to organizing and theorizing. He is the principal author of the book, Globalization of Capital, published in 1997, co-founder of the Hindi journal, Sandhan, and one of the founders and a leading member of New Socialist Initiative.
The 14 th Lecture in the Democracy Dialogues Series organised by New Socialist Initiative was delivered by Prof Irfan Habib, Famous Historian, Public Intellectual and Marxist Thinker, on Sunday 30 th January 2022 at 6 PM (IST). Prof Habib spoke on ‘Doctored History : From Ancient Times till Today’
About the Speaker :
Prof Irfan Habib ( Professor of History at the Aligarh Muslim University, Retd) is a well-known historian and author of the The Agrarian System of Mughal India ( 1963), An Atlas of the Mughal Empire ( 1982), Essays in Indian History : Towards a Marxist Perception ( 1985) , The Economic History of Medieval India : A Survey ( 2001) , Medieval India : The Study of a Civilisation ( 2008), a multivolume study titled ‘People’s History of India’ etc and has edited many books
Ashokan lions adorn Indian currency and the Dharmachakra features in the tricolour. Neither symbol has any sanctity for the ideologues of the ruling dispensation.
Thousands of kings and emperors shone for a brief moment in history, then quickly disappeared. But in ‘The Outline of History: The Whole Story of Man’, H.G. Wells writes, “Ashoka shines and shines brightly like a bright star, even unto this day.” The famous British historian EH Carr also wrote, “What is history? It is a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts, an unending dialogue between the present and the past.”
Yet, history is a continuous ‘us versus them’ for some individuals and outfits in India. Their interaction with the past typically degenerates into a vicious monologue aimed to vitiate the present and control the future. Nowhere is their vandalism of history more visible than what the Hindutva brigade is doing to the last great Mauryan ruler, Ashoka (304-232 BCE). Often compared with a medieval Mughal ruler—whom the Hindutvadis detest and distort in equal measure—they are now transforming the Ashokan period beyond recognition into a symbol of cruelty and bigotry.
Ashoka is widely known to have filled with remorse after the tremendous bloodshed in the battle of Kalinga. After that, he is known to have devoted his life to “conquest by Dhamma or right/moral life”. It is less known that Ashoka was among the earliest rulers to launch public utilities such as hospitals, encouraged tree-plantation, dug public wells and ordered the construction of rest houses along roads. His commitment to public reason is considered phenomenal, as he, two hundred years before Christ, organised the earliest open general meetings in the world.
The second lecture in the ‘Sandhan Vyakhyanmala’ series – initiated by New Socialist Initiative ( Hindi Pradesh) will be delivered by Sanjeev Kumar, Well known Critic and Deputy General Secretary of Janwadi Lekhak Sangh on Saturday 15 th January 2022 at 6 PM (IST). He will be speaking on हिंदी की मार्क्सवादी बहसें : ‘विचारधारा’ से विचारधारा तक ( Hindi ke Marxwadi Bahasein : ‘Vichardhara’ se Vichardhara tak) The focus of this lecture series – as you might be aware – is on the Hindi belt, especially, on literature, culture, society and politics of the Hindi region where we intend to invite writers, scholars with a forward looking, progressive viewpoint to share their concerns. The inaugural lecture in the series was delivered by poet and thinker Ashok Vajpayi, where he spoke on ‘Thought and Literature”
सन्धान व्याख्यानमाला दूसरा वक्तव्य हिंदी की मार्क्सवादी बहसें : ‘विचारधारा’ से विचारधारा तक वक्ता : श्री संजीव कुमार आलोचक संयुक्त महासचिव, जनवादी लेखक संघ 15 जनवरी , शनिवार शाम 6 बजे
क्या वजह है कि हिंदी में पिछली सदी के 40 और 50 के दशक में प्रगतिशीलों के बीच जितने मुद्दों पर मतभेद उभरे, उनमें वही मत संख्याबल से विजयी रहा (और कमोबेश अभी तक है) जो हिंदी लोकवृत्त की स्थापित मान्यताओं के प्रति पूरी तरह से अनालोचनात्मक था? क्या यह एक परिवर्तनकामी वैचारिकी का परचम लहरानेवालों के भीतर वर्चस्व की प्रदत्त व्यवस्था का पोषण करनेवाली विचारधारा की सुप्त मौजूदगी थी जो भक्ति आंदोलन की विभिन्न धाराओं के रिश्ते, कथित हिंदी नवजागरण में भारतेन्दु और उनके मंडल के योगदान, हिंदी-उर्दू और उनके इलाक़े की सभी भाषाओं के आपसी संबंध, साहित्य में यौन-नैतिकता जैसे तमाम मसायल पर सभी असहज करनेवालों सवालों को हाशिये पर धकेल रही थी? क्या प्रगतिशील और मार्क्सवादी होने में अपने ‘संस्कारों’ के साथ एक तकलीफ़देह लड़ाई लड़ने और उपलब्ध सहूलियतों-रियायतों का त्याग करने की जो अपेक्षा निहित होती है, यह उससे पल्ला छुड़ाना था? या कि यह प्रगतिशील आंदोलन को वर्चस्वशाली बनाने के लिए सबको अपने साथ ले चलने की एक कार्यनीतिक पहल थी जो कि शायद सफल भी रही?
एक आत्मावलोकन से शुरुआत करनेवाला यह पर्चा इन प्रश्नों की दिशा में एक प्रस्थान है।
The literary award must generate wider discussion in society on what plagues us. After all, the writer has always been outspoken against extremism.
This year’s Jnanpith Award for best literature has gone to Damodar Mauzo, the famous Konkani novelist and short story writer. The great Assamese poetic talent, Nilmani Phookan Jr, has also been awarded the Jnanpith for 2020. Hopefully, as we celebrate “their outstanding contribution towards literature,” our discussions will not remain confined to the literary domain.
In his acclaimed novel, ‘Karmelin’ (1980), Mauzo writes about the abuse of women who go to work as housemaids in the Middle East. This novel came long before everybody started talking about this issue. His story, ‘The Burger’, is about two school friends, Irene and Sharmila, and the guilt little Irene experiences over ‘polluting’ Sharmila with a beef burger. Another story describes how cow vigilantes intimidated a Dalit youth long before others talked about the phenomenon.
Maybe Mauzo could see beyond the immediate and obvious, which prompted his social and political actions on issues of concern to all of society. That social engagement allowed him to observe the dangers that lurked in our society in the form of the right-wing, and gave him courage to never shy away from boldly speaking out against them.
The13 th Lecture in the Democracy Dialogues Series organised by New Socialist Initiative will be delivered by Prof Romila Thapar, Professor of Ancient History, Emerita, JNU, author of many books and a leading public intellectual on Sunday 19 th December 2021 at 6 PM (IST). Prof Thapar would be speaking on ‘Voices of Dissent in Pre-Modern and Present Times‘
About the Speaker :
Internationally renowned scholar of Ancient History, Prof Thapar was elected General President of the Indian History Congress in 1983 and a Fellow of the British Academy in 1999. In 2008, she was awarded the prestigious Kluge Prize of the US Library of Congress which complements the Nobel, in honouring lifetime achievement in disciplines not covered by the latter.
Prof Thapar has been a visiting professor at Cornell University, the University of Pennysylvania, and the College de France in Paris and holds honorary doctorates from the University of Chicago, the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales in Paris, the University of Oxford, the University of Edinburgh (2004), the University of Calcutta and from the University of Hyderabad.
Here is a select list of Prof Thapar’s publications
Ashoka and the Decline of the Mauryas, 1961 ( Oxford University Press) ; A History of India : Volume 1, 1966 ( Penguin) ; The Past and Prejudice, NBT ( 1975) ; Ancient Indian Social History : Some Interpretations, 1978 ( Orient Blackswan) ; From Lineages to State 1985 : Social Formations of the Mid-First Millenium B.C. in the Ganges Valley, 1985 ( Oxford University Press) ; Interpreting Early India, 1992 ( Oxford University Press) ; Sakuntala : Text, Reading, Historie, 2002 ( Anthem) . Somanatha : The Many Voices of History, Verso ( 2005) ; The Aryan : Recasting Constructs, Three Essays ( 2008) ; The Past As Present: Forging Contemporary Identities Through History, 2014
न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनिशिएटिव की तरफ से आयोजित ‘डेमोक्रेसी डायलॉग्स सीरीज ‘ का 12 वां व्याख्यान अग्रणी लेखक, स्तम्भकार, दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय में हिंदी विभाग से सम्बद्ध प्रोफेसर अपूर्वानंद 6 बजे शाम, रविवार, 28 नवम्बर 2021 को प्रस्तुत करेंगे।
विषय : ‘वैष्णवजन की खोज में’
“वैष्णवजन की कल्पना को राजनीतिक और सामाजिक पटल पर स्थापित करने का श्रेय गाँधी को है। इस बात पर ध्यान जाना चाहिए कि उपनिवेशवाद विरोधी आंदोलन में या राष्ट्र की स्वतंत्रता के संघर्ष में गाँधी ने वैष्णवजन को संभवतः इस आंदोलन के लिए आदर्श आंदोलनकारी के रूप में पेश किया। वह कैसा जन है? पीर और पराई , इन दोनों से उसका रिश्ता क्या होगा? और क्यों एक सच्चा जनतांत्रिक जन वैष्णवजन ही हो सकता है? हमारे संविधान की प्रस्तावना में हम भारत के लोग जिस यात्रा पर निकले हैं क्या वह इस वैष्णवजनत्व की तलाश की यात्रा है?”
हिंदी तथा अंग्रेजी अख़बारों तथा अन्य प्रकाशनों में तथा टीवी की चर्चाओं में अपनी निरंतर सशक्त उपस्थिति दर्ज करते रहने वाले प्रोफेसर अपूर्वानंद सार्वजनिक जीवन में न्याय, समता और तार्किकता के पक्ष में अपने सक्रिय हस्तक्षेप के लिए जाने जाते हैं .
आप ने कई किताबें भी लिखी हैं, जिनमें से कुछ के शीर्षक इस प्रकार हैं : ‘सुंदर का स्वप्न ‘ ( वाणी प्रकाशन, 2001 ) , ‘साहित्य का एकांत’ ( वाणी प्रकाशन , 2008 ), The Idea of University ( Context, 2018 ) , Education at the Crossroads ( Niyogi Books, 2018 )
हिन्दी इलाके को लेकर विचार-विमर्श के लिये “सन्धान व्याख्यानमाला” की शुरुआत इस शनिवार, 13 नवम्बर, को शाम 6 बजे प्रख्यात कवि और विचारक श्री अशोक वाजपेयी के व्याख्यान से हो रही है.
इस व्याख्यानमाला की शुरुआत के पीछे हमारी मंशा ये है कि हिन्दी में विचार, इतिहास, साहित्य, कला, संस्कृति और समाज-सिद्धान्त के गम्भीर विमर्श को बढ़ावा मिले. हिन्दी इलाक़े के सामाजिक-सांस्कृतिक विकास को लेकर हमारी चिन्ता पुरानी है. आज से बीस साल पहले हमारे कुछ अग्रज साथियों ने “सन्धान” नाम की पत्रिका की शुरुआत की थी जो अनेक कारणों से पाँच साल के बाद बन्द हो गयी थी. इधर हम हिंदी-विमर्श का यह सिलसिला फिर से शुरू कर रहे हैं. यह व्याख्यानमाला इस प्रयास का महत्वपूर्ण अंग होगी.
हममें से अधिकांश लोग “न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनिशिएटिव” नाम के प्रयास से भी जुड़े हैं. यह प्रयास अपने आप को सामान्य और व्यापक प्रगतिशील परिवार का अंग समझता है, हालाँकि यह किसी पार्टी या संगठन से नहीं जुड़ा है. इसका मानना है कि भारतीय और वैश्विक दोनों ही स्तरों पर वामपन्थी आन्दोलन को युगीन मसलों पर नए सिरे से विचार करने की और उस रौशनी में अपने आप को पुनर्गठित करने की आवश्यकता है. यह आवश्यकता दो बड़ी बातों से पैदा होती है. पहली यह कि पिछली सदी में वामपन्थ की सफलता मुख्यतः पिछड़े समाजों में सामन्ती और औपनिवेशिक शक्तियों के विरुद्ध मिली थी. आधुनिक लोकतान्त्रिक प्रणाली के अधीन चलने वाले पूँजीवाद के विरुद्ध सफल संघर्ष के उदहारण अभी भविष्य के गर्भ में हैं. दूसरी यह कि बीसवीं सदी का समाजवाद, अपनी उपलब्धियों के बावजूद, भविष्य के ऐसे समाजवाद का मॉडल नहीं बन सकता जो समृद्धि, बराबरी, लोकतन्त्र और व्यक्ति की आज़ादी के पैमानों पर अपने को वांछनीय और श्रेष्ठ साबित कर सके.
“सन्धान व्याख्यानमाला” का प्रस्ताव यूँ है कि हिन्दी सभ्यता-संस्कृति-समाज को लेकर हिंदी भाषा में विचार की अलग से आवश्यकता है. हिन्दी में विचार अनिवार्यतः साहित्य से जुड़ा है और हिन्दी मनीषा के निर्माण में साहित्यिक मनीषियों की अग्रणी भूमिका है. हम हिन्दी साहित्य-जगत के प्रचलित विमर्शों-विवादों से थोड़ा अलग हटकर साहित्य के बुनियादी मसलों से शुरुआत करना चाहते हैं. प्रगतिशील बिरादरी का हिस्सा होते हुए भी हम यह नहीं मानते कि साहित्य की भूमिका क्रान्तियों, आन्दोलनों और ऐतिहासिक शक्तियों के चारण मात्र की है. हम यह नहीं मानते कि साहित्यकार की प्रतिबद्धता साहित्य की उत्कृष्टता का एकमात्र पैमाना हो सकता है. हम अधिक बुनियादी सवालों से शुरू करना चाहते हैं, भले ही वे पुराने सुनायी पड़ें. मसलन, साहित्य कहाँ से आता है – ऐसा क्यों है कि मानव सभ्यता के सभी ज्ञात उदाहरणों में साहित्य न केवल पाया जाता है बल्कि ख़ासकर सभ्यताओं के शैशव काल में, और अनिवार्यतः बाद में भी, उन सभ्यताओं के निर्माण और विकास में महती भूमिका निभाता है. साहित्य के लोकमानस में पैठने की प्रक्रियाएँ और कालावधियाँ कैसे निर्धारित होती हैं? क्या शेक्सपियर के इंग्लिश लोकमानस में पैठने की प्रक्रिया वही है जो तुलसीदास के हिन्दी लोकमानस में पैठने की? निराला या मुक्तिबोध के लोकमानस में संश्लेष के रास्ते में क्या बाधाएँ हैं और उसकी क्या कालावधि होगी? इत्यादि. हमारा मानना है कि “जनपक्षधर बनाम कलावादी” तथा अन्य ऐसी बहसें साहित्य के अंतस्तल पर और उसकी युगीन भूमिका पर सम्यक प्रकाश नहीं डाल पातीं हैं. बुनियादी और दार्शनिक प्रश्न संस्कृतियों और सभ्यताओं पर विचार के लिए अनिवार्य हैं.
इस व्याख्यानमाला में हम विचार-वर्णक्रम के विविध आधुनिक एवं प्रगतिशील प्रतिनिधियों को आमन्त्रित करेंगे. ज़रूरी नहीं है कि वक्ताओं के विचार हमारे अपने विचारों से मेल खाते हों. हमारी मंशा गम्भीर विमर्श और बहस-मुबाहिसे की है.
प्रख्यात कवि और विचारक श्री अशोक वाजपेयी इस शृंखला के पहले वक्ता होंगे जिनका मानना है कि साहित्य की अपनी “स्वतन्त्र वैचारिक सत्ता होती है; उस विचार का सामान्यीकरण नहीं किया जा सकता; वह विचार अन्य विचारों से संवाद-द्वन्द्व में रहता है पर साहित्य को किसी बाहर से आये विचार का उपनिवेश बनने का प्रतिरोध करता है; साहित्य का विचार विविक्त नहीं, रागसिक्त विचार होता है.”
आप सभी इस शृंखला में भागीदारी और वैचारिक हस्तक्षेप के लिये आमन्त्रित हैं.
The 11 th lecture in the Democracy Dialogues Series organised by New Socialist Initiative was delivered by Ashutosh, TV anchor, columnist, author and co-founder of satyahindi.com at 6 PM ( IST), Sunday, 31 st October 2021.
Mr Ashutosh spoke on ‘Will India Survive as a Democracy ?’ A highly acclaimed journalist and TV News Anchor, a reputed Columnist, and a successful Author, Ashutosh was associated with AAP for a while but was soon disenchanted with this experiment and returned to journalism again with a new experiment in the form of satyahindi.com
He has many books to his credit, Anna – 13 days that awakened India, (2012) ; The Crown prince, The Gladiator & The Hope — Battle for Change ; Mukhaute ka Rajdharm ( 2015). In his latest book Hindu Rashtra published in 2019, he takes a hard look at the political reality of India and what its future may hold.
Modern-day Eklavyas are depriving students of their dues across the country. No government can compensate for robbing students from underprivileged backgrounds of their future.
In the 19th century, Chatra district in Jharkhand hosted the legendary Raja Rammohan Roy for a while. A memorial to Subedar Nadir Ali Khan and Jay Mangal Panday, martyred during the 1857 war of independence, is also here. Now, this district is in the news again, but for the wrong reasons.
A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report tabled in the state Assembly has detailed the embezzlement of around Rs. 85 crore, meant to fund the scholarship of students belonging to the backward classes. The siphoning went on from 2013-18, says the CAG report for 2018-19.
The modus operandi of the scammers was simple. The money was not transferred to the accounts of beneficiaries, as the state department for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes, Minority and Backward Class Welfare says. Instead, it went into the bank accounts of other individuals.
The explanation offered by the concerned people was straightforward. They told the CAG that documents related to the transfer of Rs. 70 crore got destroyed in a fire. A significant portion of the Rs. 85 crore is yet to get recovered. The department never bothered to reconcile its accounts even after the fire incident.
The BJP is imposing harmful dietary restrictions and refusing to accept that more Indians want to consume meat, fish and eggs for their nutritional benefits.
In 1902, the prolific British writer HG Wells delivered a philosophical speech titled “The Discovery of the Future” at the Royal Institution in London. Wells is often remembered for his “predictions”, for example, the approximate date when the second world war would begin. In this speech, he envisioned something else with equally significant ramifications—the collapse of the capitalist system. Wells also anticipated that a world of peace and plenty would follow in its wake.
What if someone, following Wells example, attempts a similar extrapolation for India? If anybody could foresee such things, what would they find lies ahead for the “biggest democracy” in the world?
In the absence of Wells, perhaps present-day events can be a map or guide to the future. For example, during recent Janamashtmi celebrations, Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced that his government would ban meat and liquor in Mathura city. He said the meat-sellers and liquor dealers of the area could switch to selling milk. According to his government, a meat and liquor ban would help combine “modern technology” with the cultural and spiritual heritage of the region.
The 10 th lecture in the Democracy Dialogues Series organised by New Socialist Initiative was delivered by Prof Mridula Mukherjee ( Retd.) on Sunday, 12 th Sepember at 6 PM ( IST). She spoke on ‘Nationalism : Then and Now’
Prof. Mridula Mukherjee, was associated with Centre for Historical Studies, JNU for a long time and was also Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, ( NMML), New Delhi.
Well known as a historian for her work on the role of peasants in the Indian independence movement, she has authored two important books on the theme, Peasants in India’s Non-Violent Revolution ( Sage 2004) and Colonising Agriculture : Myth of Punjab Exceptionalism ( Sage 2005). She has also coauthored books with Prof Bipan Chandra, Prof Aditya Mukherjee on ‘India’s Struggle for Independence’ ( Penguin 2000) and ‘India After Independence‘ ( Penguin 2008). The monograph ‘RSS, School Texts and Murder of Mahatma Gandhi‘ which she has coauthored with Prof Aditya Mukherjee and Prof Sucheta Mahajan has been widely appreciated.
In this lecture Prof Mridula Mukherjee discussed Nationalism and its origins as a modern ideology, how nations are historical constructs with each nation having its own distinctive historical evolution and the emergence of two kinds of nationalism and how the present notion of aggressive, chauvinistic nationalism is in sharp contrast to the once evolved by the freedom struggle and how the task of preventing the appropriation of nationalism and its creative linking to progressive agenda is the need of the hour.
Please write to us at email@example.com if you are interested in getting upadates about the series.
Moderation and acceptance are parts of a continuous struggle to ensure that democracy does not get subsumed by majoritarianism.
‘The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related that it is difficult to class them separately. One step above the sublime makes the ridiculous,
and one step above the ridiculous makes the sublime again.’ –Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason.
The idea of public good faced a faith hurdle in Kerala recently. The issue was the widening of National Highway 66 on a stretch in Umayanalloor village, Thazhuthala, and adjacent towns of the Kollam district. A batch of petitions challenged the highway because two temples and mosques were in its alignment. It was a tricky situation, and a hasty decision may well have had consequences.
Without wavering on constitutional principles, the Kerala High Court handled the case skilfully. A single-judge bench of Justice PV Kunhikrishnan rejected petitions that opposed the land acquisition and asked citizens to rise above difficulties for better highways for all citizens. It emphasised that courts could not intervene in acquisition proceedings unless there is patent illegality or malafide action.
न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनिशिएटिव की तरफ से शुरू की गयी आनलाइन व्याख्यानमाला ‘डेमोक्रेसी डायलॉग्ज’ की अगली कड़ी में मेगसेसे पुरस्कार विजेता, प्रख्यात पत्रकार और विश्लेषक रवीश कुमार हमारे अगले वक्ता होंगे। आप सभी जानते हैं कि रवीश कुमार न केवल एक जानेमाने टीवी एंकर हैं बल्कि भारतीय राजनीतिक-सामाजिक परिदृश्य पर पैनी निगाह रखनेवाले निर्भीक लेखक हैं और साहसी टिप्पणीकार हैं।
इस अवसर पर व्याख्यानमाला में आए चार महिने के अंतराल के प्रति भी हम खेद प्रगट करना चाहते हैं। इस के पीछे एकमात्र कारण कोविड महामारी की दूसरी लहर के चलते भारत की जनता पर बरपा प्रचंड कहर और भयानक त्रासदी ही है। हम सभी इस विभीषिका के गवाह रहे हैं और हममें से कइयों ने इस दौरान अपने आत्मीयों को, अपने दोस्तों-मित्रों को या अपने पड़ोसियों को खोया है। हमारे इर्द गिर्द मची इस तबाही के बीच व्याख्यानमाला के आयोजन को जारी रखना हमें मुनासिब नहीं लगा था।
रवीश चाहते हैं कि उनका व्याख्यान संवाद नुमा और बातचीत की शक्ल में हो। हमें पूरी उम्मीद है कि आप भी न केवल इस बातचीत को सुनना चाहेंगे और उसमें शामिल भी होना चाहेंगे। कार्यक्रम फेसबुक लाइव होगा।
कार्यक्रम का विवरण इस प्रकार है :
न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनिशिएटिव
9 वां व्याख्यान और चर्चा
विषय : लोकमानस और लोकतंत्र
वक्ता :रवीश कुमार
प्रख्यात पत्रकार, लेखक और मीडियाकर्मी , मैग्सेसे पुरस्कार से सम्मानित
Accountability is foundational to democracy and, ultimately, people are supposed to take those in power to account through democratic processes and mechanisms. But, then, we also know what often happens in democracy. Electoral competition gives rise to ‘technologies’ (often religious, cultural and identity-based) which turn citizens into “Bhakts” (devotees) and storm-troopers (remember Hitler’s “Brownshirts”). The dark side of democracy comes on top more often than the other side. India is witnessing that disaster. Trump was a testimony to the same phenomenon in the United States.
But what about movements? Are they also supposed to be accountable to someone or something? One would presume that movements are accountable to their own missions, values, objectives, arguments and strategies. Is anyone taking the movements to account on that score?
One would imagine that the left movement has been taken sufficiently to account all over the world. So much so that, for most people, there is no longer any need to take it to account. In many eyes, it is finished. Why waste time on something that is finished? And yet, the most curious thing is that the left remains the favourite whipping boy of most other movements and their intellectual luminaries. Here in India a favourite pre-occupation of Dalit intellectuals is to expose the Savarna (upper caste) hegemony over the left movement and many feminists focus on the misogyny of leftists. As if in a survey of the Indian society, leftists have come on top as the most likely and most numerous perpetrators of oppression and violence against Dalits and women! There is no denying that left must be taken to task for all its ills and all its failings. But, should a movement that is often pronounced dead be the prime example when it comes to evaluating movements?
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh has declared that it would be the party that would actually build the Ram temple. This party is openly and loudly appealing to Brahmins as a caste to come into its fold. Babasaheb Ambedkar famously talked about annihilation of caste and declared that there is no scope of Dalit liberation under Hinduism. This irony is not confined to BSP. A Dalit is submissively the President under the current dispensation and an ex-Dalit Panther is a minister. All this can be explained away as pragmatic responses to the demands and rigours of democracy. But what about the movement itself? What about Ambedkar’s mission?
The question goes far deeper. Why is it the case that Hindutva has been able to make such inroads into Dalit communities? In what ways and to what degrees the ‘Hindu civilizational mind’ sits within the ‘Dalit cultural mind’? Why is it the case that in Gujarat carnage and elsewhere Dalits have been as much and as willing a part of the Hindutva “Brownshirts” as any other community? Why is it the case that an occasional Dalit leader who emerges as a fiery meteorite in the aftermath of a gruesome atrocity disappears as fast from the social and political horizon and the masters of the electoral machinations remain as much in control of the actual political arena?
One hopes that the theorists of social movements – from Columbia and Harvard Universities to JNU and Osmania – are earnestly grappling with this puzzle. We all know the simple and common-sense answers, but they do not suffice. The puzzle needs a deeper explanation. How long the intellectual prophets of the social movements remain content with celebrating the history and the survival of these movements? How long will Dalit writers remain content with asking the caste lineage of other (Savarna) writers and denouncing them for the surnames they use? How long will they be content with demanding monopoly over literary depiction and theoretical explanation of Dalit life and experience? Real questions and real challenges remain unattended.
Several courts have tried to reign in states bent on holding religious events during the pandemic. Judiciary must more proactively prevent them as the third wave approaches.
Simple things need retelling when society is in a state of flux. The fact that India is a republic—has been one for more than 70 years—where sovereignty rests with the people and not with scriptures is one fact. That India runs by its Constitution and laws under it is another fact.
The Uttarakhand High Court reminded the state government of these facts when it objected to proposals to live-stream the historic Char Dham Yatra on the plea that the scriptures do not sanction it. The court rejected the petition, saying India is a democracy where the rule of law, not religious texts, govern.
India’s most prominent sports and entertainment figures have to traverse a long distance to achieve true greatness.
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Freepik
The racial bias in the American education system came under the scanner recently from an unexpected quarter. The occasion was a series of events to mark the 100th anniversary of an organised massacre of Blacks in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921. Mobs of violent white supremacists had destroyed the prosperous black Greenwood neighbourhood in a well-planned and predetermined manner, many aided and abetted by city officials, who provided arsonists with weapons. Actor-filmmaker Tom Hanks, regarded as an American cultural icon, underlined the conspiracy of silence in the school curriculum around this tragic race massacre in which 300 Black people died, and 10,000 became destitute or homeless.
In his essay, “You Should Learn the Truth about Tulsa Race Massacre”, published this month in the New York Times, Hanks unpacks the systematic cover-up of the massacre and other instances of racial bias and discrimination that the school education system papers over. He writes that white teachers and school administrators prioritise white feelings over Black experiences, which helps them omit “volatile” topics and preserve the status quo. Hanks has not limited his focus to the racial bias in the American education system but admits the role of Bollywood in shaping “what is history and what is forgotten”.
Have the icons of entertainment in India ever taken a leaf out of Hank’s book and searched their soul about the exclusions, discriminations and humiliations rampant in Indian society and their “industry”? For example, forty-two people, most of them Dalit women and children, were killed in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu in 1969 by local landlords. The Kilvenmani massacre took place more than a half-century ago. On its fiftieth anniversary, a series of remembrance events were held across the country, not unlike the events that marked the Tulsa race violence. The Thanjavur killings are said to be the first massacre of their kind in independent India. No perpetrator of this attack ever got punished. The court held that since the alleged attackers belonged to the upper strata of society, it was difficult to believe that they had walked into the village…(Read the full text here))
Legendary freedom fighter and Civil Rights activist Harohalli Srinivasaiah Doreswamy popularly known as HS Doreswamy breathed his last yesterday.
The 103 year-old Gandhian, who kept the ‘conscience of Karnataka till his very last breath, and was the tallest public intellectual, who appeased none and spared none‘ would be remembered for his enthusiasm for public causes till he remained alive
Born on 10 April 1918 in Harohalli village in the then princely state of Mysore, he was jailed for the first time during Quit India movement – for his association with a group involved in making bombs and who spent 14 months of his life then – never stopped working for people even after independence.
In 1975, he had even challenged the then prime minister Indira Gandhi when emergency was declared, civil liberties stood suspended and who faced jail under the draconian Defence of India rule.
One of the issues closest to his heart remained getting land rights for the poor and the landless.
Before the first wave of Covid 19 struck he has been a prominent figure at protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and has been openly critical of BJP-led central government’s policies.
He was cremated with state honours but it was clear as mirror that the BJP government in Karnataka always felt uncomfortable with his presence.
A year before last a leading BJP legislator had hurled choicest abuses at this legendary freedom fighter, and when the issue was raised in the Karnataka assembly, forget issuing any unconditional apology for his remarks the legislator not only remained adamant but received support from many of his colleagues.
While Rome never burned, Nero never played the fiddle…
Pragya Singh Thakur, the Lok Sabha Member of Parliament from Bhopal, would never have imagined that the leading Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar would mark her return to her constituency after a 70-day gap with a sarcastic article published on its front page. The headline read, “He Digvijayi Sadhvi Pragya! Shukriya, Aap Ko Bhopal ki Yaad to Aayi—O World Conqueror, Many Thanks, You Remembered Bhopal at Last.”
The daily was giving vent to the feelings of the lakhs of citizens of the capital of Madhya Pradesh. Some had even organised a social media campaign revolving around their “missing” MP.
The last time Thakur was in the city was 2 March, to participate in a condolence meeting for a BJP leader. Thereafter, she was away from the city. The intervening period had proved extremely harsh for residents due to the deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already claimed hundreds of lives.
The anger of citizens was palpable. That is why the daily asked her, “When Bhopal was sick and desperate for help, you were not to be seen. When the city needed oxygen and Remdesivir, you were still not here.”
The absence of an elected leader belonging to the ruling dispensation when people need her the most raises a pertinent question. Was this an exception? Forget the fact that the BJP-Sangh Parivar repeatedly claim they are “disciplined soldiers”, a number of those associated with right-wing organisations have gone missing in action.
Guest Post : New Socialist Initiative NSI Facebook Page
Samuel Johnson famously said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” The two prime ministers in the photograph below would claim to be patriots both. The scoundrel part should be left to your judgment, but it is obvious that both of them cannot claim to be patriots at the same time.
These two prime ministers came up with a deal a couple of days ago that no one in India is talking about. Even the Indian government, uncharacteristically, is not trumpeting about it. The UK government announced the day before yesterday that it sealed a deal with India in which Indians will make a one billion pound ($1.39 billion) investment in the UK creating 6500 British jobs. In addition India will open its market doors wider by reducing tariffs not only on British cars and British whisky but also on British apples and pears.
It looks curiouser than Alice’s Wonderland. India lost 7.25 million jobs in April alone. Actually tens of millions of Indian jobs have been lost during the pandemic and during the Modi misrule. And Indian moneybags facilitated by the Modi government are going to invest more than Rs 10 thousand crores in the UK creating highly paid British jobs! On top of that India will also hurt the interests of Indian producers of apples and pears (also of cars and whiskeys) by lowering tariffs on British goods. What is India gaining out of it?
But if you think about it, it is not so surprising. This is a government that spends tens of thousands of crores on a new central vista, a new parliament and a new house for the Prime Minister at a time when thousands are dying due to shortage of oxygen and of hospital beds. This is also a regime under which its favourite corporate houses have registered fattest profits ever during the worst humanitarian crisis that India is groaning under.
This Prime Minister not only helps corporate houses to amass mountains of wealth in an India where people are losing jobs, facing unimaginable hardships – many are on the verge of starvation; where cremations pyres are spilling on to the roads and burning 24×7. He also helps them take that money to safe houses on foreign shores – invest in rich countries and create jobs there. Can he qualify to be a patriot, even if one ignores Samuel Johnson’s reference to being a scoundrel?
How anti-national this government and this Prime Minister can become? And why is this Indo-British deal not being talked about here in India?
Brazil’s Parliamentary Enquiry is probing the way the Bolsonaro-led government handled the pandemic leading to the deaths of 4,00,000 Brazilians.
Jail Bolsonaro, the far right President of Brazil, is a worried man these days. The next round of elections for the post of President is merely a year away and there is a strong possibility that his bete noire Lula – former President of Brazil between 2003 and 2011 – can be in the ring to challenge him. The Supreme Court of Brazil has annulled Lula’s two bribery convictions, and if he plans the 75 year old charismatic Lula can give him a tough challenge.
The worrisome aspect is the unfolding Parliamentary Enquiry, which seeks to focus on the way the Brazil government handled the pandemic, what his critics call ‘disastrous and potentially criminal response to Covid that has killed 4,00,000 Brazilians and the nightmare still continues.
An indication of the fact that this enquiry is not going to be a formality can be gauged from the way one of its key members, Sen Humberto Costa, who was a former health minister, put it; he said, “It is a true health, economic, and political tragedy, and the main responsibility lies with the president,” and he believes there is enough evidence to conclude that Bolsonaro committed “crimes against humanity”. Costa is not alone in his assessment of Bolsonaro, many other analysts have also used similar label for him.