All posts by ponni

Letter to Occupy Together Movement: Harsha Walia

Cross-posted from

I wish I could start with the ritual “I love you” which the Occupy Movement is supposed to inspire. To be honest, it has been a space of turmoil. But also, virulent optimism.

What I outline below are not criticisms of the Occupy movement. I am inspired that the dynamic of the movement thus far has been organic, so that all those who choose to participate are collectively responsible for its evolution and development. To all those participating — I offer my deepest gratitude and respect. I am writing today with Grace Lee Boggs on the forefront of my mind: “The coming struggle is a political struggle to take political power out of the hands of the few and put it into the hands of the many. But in order to get this power into the hands of the many, it will be necessary for the many not only to fight the powerful few but to fight and clash among themselves as well.” This may sound dramatic and counter-productive, but I find it a poignant reminder that, in our state of elation, we cannot underestimate the difficult terrain ahead and I look forward to the processes that will further these conversations.

Read the rest of the article here.

Aadmi hoon aadmi se pyar karta hoon: Indu Vashist

This is a fun radio show of various songs that queer spaces in Delhi and Bombay have reclaimed as our own. It is also a a coming together of songs that lend itself to queering almost effortlessly. A fun listening experience with snippets of information and laughs mixed in. 

Guest post by Indu Vashist

Soundtrack of the Indian Queer Movement originally aired on Sunday October 9, 2011, 6-7pm EST. Hosts, Indu Vashist and Srinath Baba had special guests Ponni Arasu and Gautam Bhan in studio for commentary, history and a whole lot of laughs. Listen to full broadcast here.

Montreal-based Indu Vashist and Srinath Baba are the hosts of Desi Dhamaka, a South Asian music show with a political and social twist. It airs on CKUT, a non-profit, campus-community radio station based at McGill University. CKUT provides alternative music, news and spoken word programming to the city of Montreal and surrounding areas, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hear us at 90.3 MHz on the FM dial, 91.7 by cable, or listen on-line.

An extraordinary general strike for Telangana: A Suneetha, Vasudha Nagaraj and Others


[This post was sent to us on the 23rd of September, when the strike, still on-going, entered its tenth day.  On the date of posting this, the strike had entered its sixteenth day].

Sakala Janula Samme (extraordinary general strike) in the ten districts of Telangana has entered its tenth day today. Miners in the Singareni Collieries, private college teachers and students, road transport employees unions, school teachers, university staff, lawyers in the lower and high courts, the electricity employees union—in short almost all employees (who usually refuse to see beyond their immediate benefits) and contract workers (who under normal circumstances cannot afford to lose wages) needed by the state to “govern” its people—have gone on strike.

Telengana general strike
Telengana general strike, photo courtesy: msn news

Government in this region, already seriously impaired and facing severe challenges from the movement since 2009 has come to a standstill. In an extraordinary “do or die” battle for the formation of a separate Telangana state, the various joint action committees promise to continue this strike till a separate Telangana state is formed.

Continue reading An extraordinary general strike for Telangana: A Suneetha, Vasudha Nagaraj and Others

Desecrating Memory – The Paramakudi Police Shootings: V Geetha

Guest Post by V. GEETHA

Readers of Kafila might have heard of the horrific shootings that took place at Paramakudi and Madurai on September 11. Officially seven people died when police opened fire on dalits who had gathered to pay their respects to Immanuel Sekaran, a dalit leader who was brutally killed in 1957 in circumstances that pointed to the complicity of dominant caste thevars in carrying out this murder.  (The thevars are an important constituent of the ‘Mukkulathor’ complex of castes that includes the kallars and the maravars.) Subsequently, U Muthuramalinga Thevar, Forward Bloc leader was arrested in connection with Sekaran’s death – he stood trail and was released two years later, because the case against him was not established and proved. (Thevar was proud of his anti-communism and his Hinduism; to him he claimed that patriotism and theistic belief constituted his very vision, they were the ‘eyes’ through which he saw the world.) Continue reading Desecrating Memory – The Paramakudi Police Shootings: V Geetha

An appeal against infringement of university autonomy in Sri Lanka

The Ministry of Higher Education has issued a directive that all state universities should hire the services of Rakna Lanka Ltd for provision of security services. The undersigned of the University academic community considers that directive to be in complete contravention of the norms and conventions by which universities are expected to function.

The letter issued by the Secretary to the Ministry of Higher Education seeks to bypass standard procedures that are followed in the university system in the hiring and outsourcing of services. That process requires tenders to be called for and for a suitable company to be selected in a transparent and independent manner. The Secretary’s instruction therefore is in violation of established processes and is contrary to the underpinning principles of governance and the autonomy of academic institutions.

Read the whole article here.

The fire lit by Senkodi: Prema Revathi

Senkodi, a 20 year old woman, part of Makkal Mandram a commune in Kancheepuram immolated herself outside the collector’s office on the 29th of August in Kancheepuram. She left a letter saying that it was in solidarity with the campaign against the death penalty awarded to Perarivalan, Murugan and Santhan in the case relating to Rajiv Gandhi’s killing. Growing up in the commune Senkodi was part of the struggles that were around her such as those for land and other rights of marginalised communities. Much has been written about her both maligning her and her comrades as well as hailing her ‘martyrdom’. Below is a piece that brings into question the reasons for her death and the reactions to it. It is translated as accurately as possible in language and tone from it’s original Tamil version. It is a piece written to raise questions within progressive spaces in tamilnadu, but can be easily read into similar contexts.

Guest post by PREMA REVATHI
Translated from the Tamil by Ponni 

The human heart is a strange creature. The utter helplessness and pathos I felt after I heard of the death of Senkodi reminded me of lines I had heard ages ago which stuck with me;

Continue reading The fire lit by Senkodi: Prema Revathi

செங்கொடி மூட்டிய தீ

An English translation, with a background note, is available here.

மனித மனம் விசித்திரமானது. செங்கொடியின் மரணச்செய்தியை கேட்டதும் ஆறாத இயலாமையின் இருள் சூழ்ந்துகொண்டுவிட்ட மனதில் எப்போதொ ஒரு காலத்தில் மனதில் ஆழப்பதிந்துபோன

“ இந்த பூமியின் தேசங்களில்

ஒளி வீசுக செங்கொடியே…”

என்ற பாடல் வரிகள் மீண்டும் மீண்டும் அலையாடியது.

புரட்சிகர போராட்டத்தால் இந்த பூமியையே மாற்றிவிடும் ஒரு பெருங்கனவு இன்று முள்ளாய் உறுத்தும் ஒரு பழங்கனவாய் விடைகள் இல்லாத திசைவழிகள் இல்லாத நம்பிக்கைதரும் தலைமைகள் இல்லாத இத்தனிமையான அரசியல் இரவில் துறுத்திக்கொண்டிருக்கும் வேதனை முகத்தில் அறைகிறது.

ஆயிரமாயிரம் வார்த்தைகள் செங்கொடி பற்றி எழுதப்பட்டுவிட்ட, எழுதப்பட்டுகொண்டிருக்கும் இக்கணத்தில் நெஞ்சுருக்கும் இந்த இன்மையும் புகைப்படத்தில் தீர்க்கமாயொளிர்ந்து கொண்டிருக்கும் அவள் விழிகள் கேட்கும் கேள்விகளும் அலைகழித்துக் கொண்டே இருக்கின்றன.

Continue reading செங்கொடி மூட்டிய தீ

Urgent Help Needed in Koodamkulam

As you all might be aware around 15000+ people are gathering everyday for more than 4 days from 3 south Tamil Nadu districts as part of an indefinite hunger strike to stop the Koodamkulam Nuclear Plant.

More than 100 people are on indefinite fast and some people’s health are turing bad as well. They are more or less in a isolated situation within the village of Idinthakari near Koodamakulam. There is a huge battalion of Police waiting outside the village venue. The police is trying to block the free passage of people into the village. The state administration and central administration has neglected the protest till now. The non-violent protest needs to be sustained, but people are losing their patience. The leaders who are very few in number though exhausted after 4 days of sleepless nights are trying their level best. Continue reading Urgent Help Needed in Koodamkulam

No One Killed Meena Khalkho?: Akhil Katyal

Guest post by AKHIL KATYAL

Now that the Anna Hazare Show is over, will the Indian media go back to looking at India as also existing outside Delhi? On 6 July 2011, Meena Khalkho, a sixteen year old tribal girl from Karcha village in the state of Chhattisgarh was raped and murdered by the local police and it barely made a dent on our news universe. A search for her name on most television news websites returns nothing. The police in Chattisgarh immediately hit upon a strategy that has now long been in circulation. They subsume Meena’s horrible rape and murder within what goes these days as a laudable mission, one that manages to neutralize all rage against police atrocities, by claiming Meena to be a Naxal and by claiming her to be fatally wounded in an encounter that night against a larger party of Naxallite cadres.

Continue reading No One Killed Meena Khalkho?: Akhil Katyal

The Lokpal- NCPRI approach: the right to differ

In the midst of the overwhelming focus on Anna Hazare and the campaign around a bill that lacks consistency or clarity, both legal or ethical, below is a letter from Aruna Roy drawing our attention to an alternative approach to the Lokpal. It is an existing process for us to partake in, agree, disagree and/or rally behind.

Click here for more information on this alternative.

A letter from Aruna Roy

We write to you on a matter of mutual and common concern, the
Lokpal bill, now in Parliament. The context of this letter is
explained below.When the Joint Drafting Committee of the Lokpal was working on the Jan
Lokpal ,  the NCPRI had written to the Chair, Shri Pranab Mukherjee,
and the co-chair Shri Shanti Bhushan, enquiring about the TORs and the
process of and participation, in public consultation. Both assured us
that there would be formal public consultation. It did not happen.

When the government bill went to cabinet with the intention of placing
it in the monsoon session of parliament, the NCPRI decided to make its
position known. The NCPRI is continuing with its deliberations and
consultations and has  prepared an approach paper and a set of
principles for circulation. This is a work in progress.

The belief in consultations and discussion is the reason why we write to you. Continue reading The Lokpal- NCPRI approach: the right to differ

THREE MEN FACE IMMINENT EXECUTION: Urgent Action petition from Amnesty International

Two Sri Lankans and an Indian national convicted for the assassination of India’s former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, are facing imminent execution in Vellore prison in Tamil Nadu, India. This follows the rejection of their mercy petitions by the President of India. If carried out, these would be the first executions in India since 2004.

Murugan and Santhan, both 41, and Arivu alias Perarivalan, 37, were sentenced to death in January 1998 by a Special Anti-Terrorist Court on grounds of involvement in the assassination of India’s former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Their sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court of India in May 1999. According to information received by Amnesty International and reports in the Indian media, their mercy petitions were rejected by the President in August 2011, following the advice of the Government of India.

The rest of the petition is available here. The petition opens in German, but you can use the option on the top right to change to English.


Songs After Independence

Guest Post by Indu Vashist

Click here for full broadcast: Songs After Independence

Acknowledging Independence day without nationalism, the hosts of Desi Dhamaka use Independence Day as a platform to explore contemporary social and political issues in South Asian. Featured are songs in Urdu, Hinglish, Tamil, Bengali, Punjabi, English, just to name a few. The artists featured range from Iqbal Bano singing to Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s lyrics to Indian Ocean, from Alisha Chinoy to Mohd Rafi, and much more.

Montreal based Indu Vashist and Srinath Baba are the hosts of Desi Dhamaka, a South Asian music show with a political and social twist. It airs on CKUT, a non-profit, campus-community radio station based at McGill University. CKUT provides alternative music, news and spoken word programming to the city of Montreal and surrounding areas, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hear us at 90.3 MHz on the FM dial, 91.7 by cable, or listen on-line.

Issues in sri lanka today: A primer for activists in india

Originally written for the forthcoming Human Rights Forum Bulletin

Very often issues related to sri lanka are spoken in a manner that is disjointed from one another. We often do not have a clear holistic picture. Many of the problems in stands vis-à-vis sri lanka come from this lack. We need a holistic picture not just of the present situation but of past histories. The holistic picture needs to be rigorous and honest; based on continuous work on the area and gathering of knowledge. In the case of sri lanka, as in many other things in the world, the significance of this cannot be stressed enough. We barely have any reports that have come out of sri lanka that are either biased or have had to struggle to expose many things and those concerned have often paid a heavy price; sometimes the price has been their life.

A friend from sri lanka, who lives in Colombo, recently commented that, right now, the situation is worse than during the war in some senses. The surveillance and the hidden violence is so intense and widespread that it is hard to escape it and there is never enough warning. The quest to turn sri lanka into a Sinhala Buddhist nation governed by a fascist is well underway. All of this being done under the garb of democracy; a garb that has not been hard to look right through. Continue reading Issues in sri lanka today: A primer for activists in india

Statement of Indian Women’s Rights Activists in Solidarity with Women in Sri Lanka

It’s been more than two years since the supposed end of the war in Sri Lanka. The issues of concern are many, particularly with regard to the period after the end of direct combat. The Sri Lankan government has been abysmal in acknowledging the range of human rights violations that have been committed by the armed forces, which has been documented without a kernel of doubt by the United Nations report as well as the Channel 4 documentary. This documentation has been made in spite of circumstances where any neutral observation of the last stages of the conflict was made impossible by the Sri Lankan government and its army.

Continue reading Statement of Indian Women’s Rights Activists in Solidarity with Women in Sri Lanka

Gandhi vs. Gandhi

Guest post by NEERJA DASANI

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ‘Dilli Darbar’ on Wednesday reaffirmed this government’s unyielding belief in the trickle-down theory. Let a select few be given the pie and eventually they’ll share it byte by byte. One of the hand-picked senior editors at this super-exclusive meeting said Mr. Singh came across as “totally relaxed, confident and jovial” even as they confronted him with ‘very embarrassing questions’.

The life-altering titbits flashed repeatedly on our TV screens. “I am not a lame duck PM” – Arre wah! “I have full support of Sonia Gandhi – What more could we possibly ask for? “This is not a puppet government” – Hear, Hear! “I can come under Lokpal” – Or the Lokpal can come under you, same difference. “Inflation will come under control by March 2012” – No rush, we’ll just quietly wait in a corner, maybe eat a meal or two less, work three jobs, drop out of school…anything for the nation.

But hidden deep within all this rhetoric was a misquote of great magnitude, one that reveals a lot about the man at the helm and the dodginess of the boat we are all currently rocking along on. Continue reading Gandhi vs. Gandhi

Counting the Cost: Industrialism, Capitalism, Socialism


Years ago, after the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of communism, a faux philosopher announced the end of history. What he meant was the permanent victory of capitalism and its correlate, liberal democracy. Unfortunately history has an unkind habit of rolling right along, throwing a sucker punch at intervals – remember Gordon (No Boom and Bust) Brown? The triumph of laissez faire capitalism has been celebrated since the ’80s (when the term Reaganomics was coined for redistributive policies that blithely transferred wealth to the rich). Until the crash of 2008-09 set the cat amongst the pigeons; and sent the semi-converted scurrying back to Keynes – and Marx (especially in Germany where the sales of his books suddenly soared). However after a state bailout of unprecedented proportions, that had the satisfactory effect of restoring the position of the wealthy, especially the bankers and financial whiz kids who had caused the crash, the dust settled down. In the industrialized west, discontent seethes beneath the surface, but the dictum that the experts – the bankers, the CEOs, the policymakers (who swap roles seamlessly) – are right still holds. The majority must accept a decline in their standard of living and the prospects, such as they were, of job security so that growth can continue and the minority prosper even more opulently. This, of course, has long been the received wisdom in India, where, ever since the ’80s, full consensus was reached on the fact that the middle-class is the only class that matters – the rest can go hang. Continue reading Counting the Cost: Industrialism, Capitalism, Socialism

‘मेरे लिए लेस्बियन होने का सबसे बढ़िया पहलू है मज़ेदार सेक्स’

Published originally in English  here

Translated by AKHIL KATYAL

मैंने हाल ही में एक डोक्युमेंटरी फिल्म देखी, प्रतिभा परमार की १९९१ में बनायीं हुई खुश, जो कि दक्षिण ऐशिआयि एल.जी.बी.टी (लेस्बियन, गे, बिसेक्सुअल, ट्रांसजेंडर)  लोगों कि अलग-अलग ज़िन्दगी के बारे में थी। एक लेस्बियन महिला से जब फिल्म में पुछा गया कि ‘लेस्बियन होने का सबसे बढ़िया पहलु क्या है?’ तो उसका जवाब था ‘मेरे लिए लेस्बियन होने का सबसे बढ़िया पहलु है पूरी तरह से ख़ुशगवार, मज़ेदार सेक्स!’ फिर वो महिला, पूरे नब्बे दशक के फैशन में सजी हुई, ऐसे मुस्कुराई,
कि लगा  कि वहीं उसी वक्त, उसी जगह, उसे अपने मज़ेदार सेक्स के सारे पल याद आ गयें हों।
मुझे, एक क्युइर एक्टिविस्ट के नाते, जो कि इस फिल्म के बनने के समय कुछ आठ साल कि थी और जो कि सार्वजनिक ढंग से एल.जी.बी.टी लोगों के बारे में न्यायालयों में और पत्रकारों से बोलती आई है, एक भी ऐसा पलयाद  नहीं आ रहा है, जब मैंने सेक्स के बारे में कुछ लिखा या बोला हो। Continue reading ‘मेरे लिए लेस्बियन होने का सबसे बढ़िया पहलू है मज़ेदार सेक्स’

The Middle-class and the State: Shashank Kela

Guest post by SHASHANK KELA

These fragmentary reflections on the historical relationship between the middle-class and the state may help to place the brouhaha over Anna Hazare in a fresh perspective.

No one celebrates capitalism quite as enthusiastically as your average (well, all right, above average) Marxist historian. Few conservative encomiums on the subject have the lapidary elegance of Perry Anderson’s Lineages of the Absolutist State, or the remorseless logic of Robert Brenner’s celebrated paper on the origins of capitalism.[1] This line goes back all the way to Marx in whose work praise of capitalism and execration of its effects are perpetually balanced.

Capitalism’s motor is the bourgeoisie or the middle-class. Its ancestors – the burghers of the medieval west European town and large landowners in the countryside – transformed the crisis of feudalism into opportunity with the help of the state. The result: mercantilism, enclosures, poor laws; the reorganization of agriculture on rational, commercially profitable lines. The cumulative effect of these developments was to extinguish avenues of subsistence hitherto available to the poor, throwing them on the market as sellers of their labour. Continue reading The Middle-class and the State: Shashank Kela

I Wish You Egypt: An open letter to people of conscience in the West. Omar Barghouti

Guest post by OMAR BARGHOUTI

I wish you Egypt!

I wish you empowerment to resist; to fight for social and economic justice; to win your real freedom and equal rights.

I wish you the will and skill to break out of your carefully concealed prison walls. See, in our part of the world, prison walls and thick inviolable doors are all too overt, obvious, over-bearing, choking; this is why we remain restive, rebellious, agitated, and always in preparation for our day of freedom, of light, when we gather a critical mass of people power enough to cross all the hitherto categorical red lines. We can then smash the thick, cold ugly, rusty chains that have incarcerated our minds and bodies for all our lives like the overpowering stench of a rotting corpse in our claustrophobic prison cell.

Your prison cells, however, are quite different. The walls are well hidden lest they evoke your will to resist. There is no door to your prison cell — you may roam about “freely,” never recognizing the much larger prison you are still confined to. Continue reading I Wish You Egypt: An open letter to people of conscience in the West. Omar Barghouti

Think Freely, but Obey: Indu Vashist

Guest post by INDU VASHIST

In recent years, we have seen a number of filmic representations of Delhi, (Love Aaj Kal, Delhi 6, Band Baaja Baraat, to name a few.) Amit Trivedi has even given Dilli a new anthem. All of these artist representations have been trying to capture or at least showcase the contemporary social, political and economic layers of India’s Powerpolis. Implicit within these depictions is that Delhi is actually Dilli, a place mired in contradictions and tensions, but still dil wali, a city with heart.

Vishwajyoti Ghosh’s graphic novel Delhi Calm (Harper Collins Press, 2010) recounts the 21-month period from 25 June 1975 – 21 March 1977 that is known in this country as the Emergency. This book shows another side of the city, one that does not talk about or acknowledge the atrocities committed in the name of the nation. In fact, Ghosh’s Delhi functions on the principle that silence or “self-censorship” is the key to survival in this city and by extension the mythical nation. Continue reading Think Freely, but Obey: Indu Vashist

Who is Jugni?: Indu Vashist

Guest post by INDU VASHIST

The character of Jugni has been featuring in Punjabi popular and folk music for well over a century. The most recent references of this rebellious, fiery female character have appeared in diverse productions like Pakistan’s Coke Studio (above), Punjab’s sensicore rocker Rabbi Shergill, and of course Bollywood in films like Tanu Weds Manu and Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! Continue reading Who is Jugni?: Indu Vashist