On Not Having Sindh – Reflections on an Irredentist Anthem: Sajan Venniyoor


Hoax claim that circulated for a while

(Image added by Kafila for no good reason)

Every once in a while, it dawns on an Indian citizen that, among the list of provinces of British India thoughtfully provided by Tagore in our national anthemSindh is an anomaly.

Sindh was a fairly significant part of the British Empire ever since it was absentmindedly conquered by General Napier in the 1840s. (He is believed to sent his superiors a brief message on the conquest, Peccavi, Latin for ‘I have sinned’, which is to say, Sindh. The man was an insufferable nerd).

However, the Partition of 1947 placed Sindh on the wrong side of the Indian border, and its continued presence in the national anthem does not sit well with some Indians. “Why Sindh?” they ask plaintively. “Why not Rajasthan or Jammu & Kashmir? What about the North East States? Isn’t it time we rewrote Jana Gana Mana to reflect our current political realities, etc?”

Passing lightly over the fact that replacing ‘Sindh’ with ‘the North East States and Sikkim’ would play hell with the scansion of the disputed line, there are apparently very good arguments for not tinkering with Jana Gana Mana as it has stood from 1911.  I have only the haziest notion of what these arguments are, but among other things, we are told it would “disregard its existence as a poem by Rabindranath Tagore and an associated ethic that you do not take other people’s poetry and make changes to them.” Continue reading “On Not Having Sindh – Reflections on an Irredentist Anthem: Sajan Venniyoor”

JNU Faculty Stand With The Women Students Of SLS

We, the undersigned teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University, are deeply distressed to read about extremely grave allegations of moral turpitude against Prof. Atul Johri, amounting to charges of sexual harassment, academic dishonesty, and financial misappropriation. We now hear that seven women have made police complaints. Coming on the heels of recent media stories that Prof. Johri was involved in the forgery of assent by leading scientists in a signature campaign, we are appalled by the university’s silence about an individual that it has vested with so many offices. Prof. Atul Johri is the Director of the University’s Internal Quality Assurance Cell, the Director of the Human Resource Development Cell, a warden, and the Vice-Chancellor’s favourite nominee on several committees.

We demand that Prof. Johri be immediately removed from all these positions, as the allegations against him bring great disrepute to the university. We expect the university to take all the requisite measures to investigate the charges that may be brought against Prof. Johri and to pursue them to their logical conclusion.

As faculty who have fought for and long supported the GSCASH, which this administration has shut down, we are distraught that complainants have had to take charges that should have been pursued within the institution to the police, because of a lack of faith in the university’s internal complaints committee nominated by the Vice Chancellor. We support the complainants’ exercise of their rights to approach the police, but rue the fact that the illegal and immoral dissolution of GSCASH has resulted in a situation in which no aggrieved person seems to have any faith in the delivery of justice within the institution on matters of sexual harassment. This is the second such case when allegations about sexual harassment have been filed under the IPC, because complainants do not have faith in the autonomy, impartiality, and commitment to complete confidentiality of the JNU ICC. We would like to emphasise the complainants’ rights to approach the police with their complaints must be respected and protected, and that the complainants must be given full protection against victimisation and full cooperation by the university authorities in pursuing their complaints.  Continue reading “JNU Faculty Stand With The Women Students Of SLS”

In the wake of the AUD report

This post is not a statement from the Kafila collective, but my individual response to the news about the Ambedkar University report having found Lawrence Liang guilty of sexual harassment. This response will also address some of the comments that were posted on the Kafila statement posted yesterday.

We learnt from media reports that a duly constituted committee of AUD has found Lawrence Liang guilty of sexual harassment. We did not know about this earlier, as some characteristically self-righteous and ill informed twitterati assume we did. Those whose social concern and activism is limited to busy fingertips obviously have no idea about the processes that have been carefully put in place in sexual harassment policies in universities, which protect confidentiality primarily to protect the complainant. So the first we heard of the leaked AUD report was from the media. Lawrence’s own statement was then issued that says that he plans to appeal this decision. This statement too we saw in the media.

From enquiry to report to appealing the decision (which can be done by complainant or accused) – these are all established stages of due process that feminists have worked for decades to establish, from the Vishakha judgement of 1997 onwards. That judgement itself was a result of feminist intervention. I do not understand ‘due process’ as a technicality alone, nor do feminists in general who have worked with women and men complainants on this complicated issue, especially in a context of power in academic contexts. Continue reading “In the wake of the AUD report”

Exposing the mirage of ‘Modicare’: Jan Swasthya Abhiyan


The Union Budget 2018-19 makes tall claims, with no clear road map for the health sector, one that is sensitive to the needs of the poor and the vulnerable population of India.

The allocations for Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) (including for AYUSH) have increased from Budget Estimate of Rs. 50,281 crore in 2017-18 Rs. 56,226 crore in 2018-19.

However, from 2017-18 (Revised Estimate) the increase is much lower, a mere Rs. 1374 crore, or just about 2.5 percent. This is a decline in real terms if we account for inflation, and Union Budget allocations for the health sector have stagnated at 0.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The 2017 target of National Health Policy (NHP) is 2.5 percent of GDP as health expenditure by the Government (both Centre and States) by 2025. However, with central allocations stagnating at the current 0.3 percent of GDP, it would not be possible to achieve this target.

The ‘Modicare’ mirage

Continue reading “Exposing the mirage of ‘Modicare’: Jan Swasthya Abhiyan”

International Mother Language Day: Ayesha Kidwai

Guest post by AYESHA KIDWAI

Happy International Mother Language Day. This day, declared by UNESCO, is straight up South Asia’s alley as it celebrates linguistic diversity and multilingualism. In other words, it celebrates each Indian.

Here’s what you can do from now on to celebrate it:
1. Resist Hindi imposition. An official language is not the national language. Persian was the language of administration for close to three hundred years, Sanskrit has been the language of knowledge for close to two thousand years, but neither were the only languages in the room. And we know what happened to those languages over time.

2. Defend diversity: Understand that, as in nature, numerical strength is not might (e.g., there may be more cockroaches in the world than humans), so if you belong to a large group of people, then this doesn’t mean that your language is better and more representative of the ‘heart and soul’ of ‘Indianness’. In India, literally hundreds of languages with populations ranging between 500 to 10,000 have flourished (many reported over all the Census) because

(a) mothers and fathers speak the language to their children in their homes beyond their school years, and Continue reading “International Mother Language Day: Ayesha Kidwai”

The Vice Chancellor of JNU has lost all moral authority: A dossier of misdeeds


Student poster displaying a clear understanding of Foucault and surveillance. Compulsory attendance is really not needed at JNU!

Let us begin with a basic fact. The diktat on compulsory attendance in JNU is only a symptom of the larger, continuing crisis created by the utterly dictatorial style of functioning of this Vice Chancellor.

Professor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar has, since his taking over in January 2016:

  • openly flouted every statute and regulation of the university
  • shut down admissions almost entirely for the 2017 academic year
  • violated the law of the land, that is, constitutional provision for reservations
  • failed to implement JNU’s Deprivation Point system that attempts to bring about representation for students from a diversity of class, regional and caste backgrounds
  • shut down the country’s oldest functioning Committee on Sexual Harassment (GSCASH)
  • brazenly cooked up and manipulated Minutes of meeting after meeting of the Academic Council and
  • treated faculty and students of JNU as his enemies to be defeated by the naked use of authoritarian power.

Continue reading “The Vice Chancellor of JNU has lost all moral authority: A dossier of misdeeds”

His Smile Matters Too: Vikas Bajpai

Guest Post by VIKAS BAJPAI

Ram Teke Bhoi, rickshaw puller from Puri, Odisha

My search for Mr Bhoi, whose sketch I present above, had started on the 1st of January 2017. It culminated sometime around the middle of May 2017 in Puri while on my sojourn to the state of Odisha for conduct of Jawaharlal Nehru University’s entrance exam. Between these two points in time I shall try to weave a tiny story, albeit a true one, of the hundreds of millions of our country’s women and men who live by the sweat of their brow but are expected to remain content with the brow beatings they get in return. Mr Bhoi to me emerges as emblematic of this goings on.

In the last week of December 2016 our ‘twosome awesome’ daughters – Moozna and Amaira, my wife and I had been on a vacation to Meghalaya. On our return back home we decided to have a teat-a-tea with the rhinos at the Kaziranga National Park. Kaziranga in itself was a tame affair and is not relevant to the narrative I attempt to weave here. Rather your attention is solicited for something that transpired on our way back to Guwahati from Kaziranga.

Continue reading “His Smile Matters Too: Vikas Bajpai”