It is often advised that civil disobedience in the form of breaking a law must not be practiced under a democracy. It is because democracy by giving the space for open discussion prevents a situation wherein people are compelled to think of civil disobedience. Moreover, if citizens develop faith in civil disobedience then that only undermines the rule of law. Such an act doesn’t strengthen democracy but rather helps in diminishing its ethos. People must be discouraged to break laws because in a democracy, it is they who elect their representatives through free and fair elections. These representatives then make laws to which open disobedience must not be practiced. Citizens can also vote for change of leadership in the subsequent election cycle, if they feel their representatives have been incompetent. However, while these provisions fulfil the conditions of a well functioning procedural democracy, what recourse do citizens have, when their representatives don’t act in the interest of the governed continuously but function in an autocratic manner? What if laws are made without following the spirit of democracy? Does that really result in making a substantive democracy?
In the wake of the extreme disagreements we have witnessed in these past few days, there is perhaps no point (at least, not anymore) in staking a claim about whether or not the list should have been created or circulated to begin with. The list is here, and it will most likely stay. It has, as Rama Lakshmi has pointed out in an extremely insightful Facebook post, inaugurated a new moment in the Indian feminist movement. And despite their many concerns, I doubt that even the most vocal anti-listers will deny the cathartic role it has played for some women.
Perhaps the time has come then, to think seriously about how to engage with the list: not simply declare allegiance, or deny legitimacy, but to start thinking about how to work towards bettering what many (both pro- and anti-listers) find to be problematic with it. To at least try to create genuine feminist dialogue about what a crowdsourced list of sexual harassers could look like – starting not from the content, but from the form and format of the list itself. Continue reading “Notes on a Feminist Crowdsourced List of Sexual Harassers: Nandita Badami”→
Violence is sweeping Myanmar and in a short span of two weeks lakhs of ethnic Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh and thousands have lost their lives. Satellite data shows, large parts of the Rakhine state, home to most of the Burmese Rohingya population have been set on fire, and murders, rape, arson, loot and forced displacement of the Rohingya population is taking place on a scale, that should be alarming for all humanity. Even the UN secretary general has called out to Mayanmar to end violence against the Rohingya and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu has urged Mayanmar state Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi to speak out against the persecution of the Rohingya. The tragedy facing the Rohingya is of an unprecedented scale and needs to be addressed with a sense of utmost urgency.
As Indian citizens, we need to break the silence on ethnic violence against the Rohingya and the unconstitutional proposed deportation of a wide and long-residing Rohingya community from India, to certain death that awaits them in Myanmar. The Rohingyas have been living as a peaceful refugee community in various parts of India since the 1970s, with no criminal records or history of crime. Let us not be a part of this genocide. Let us stand up for justice and humanity, and raise our voice against the killings, displacement and deportation of the Rohingya!
A version of this piece appeared yesterday in The Wire
“I would like to thank Huddersfield University for enabling me to have a sabbatical semester to work on this revised edition and for providing such a supportive environment. Thanks to many of the students on my Women, Power and Society module for their hard work and enthusiasm.”
That is the dedication in a book by British scholar and teacher Valerie Bryson – a text I often use for teaching at a college in Delhi University. Evidently, Bryson found her teaching and research lives complementing each other beautifully, as have thousands of university and college teachers who have had the luck to have what she calls a “supportive” professional and academic environment. What are the elements of this support? A sabbatical semester or year every once in a while, ready research facilities within the college premises or nearby, and an opportunity to formulate teaching courses that ally with your research focus. With these elements in place, both teaching and research benefit dramatically.
Until recently, college teachers in this country had the first two conditions. They were given in their entire careers – say from the age of 26 or 27 when one normally began teaching at a college to the age of 65 – three years of paid study leave to pursue or finish their PhDs (with the usual conditions and caveats including a strict bond that they signed with college promising to return the three years’ pay if the PhD remained incomplete, or if they resigned upon return to the institution) and a further two years of (until recently, paid and now invariably unpaid or “extraordinary”) leave to take a break from teaching and pursue a postdoctoral or visiting fellowship at a research institute.
The following is a statement of solidarity for workers sent by COSTISA – The Coordination of Science and Technology Institutes’ Student Associations from IITs around the country.
May Day 2017:In solidarity with Maruti workers’ struggle
More than 130 years from today, in 1886 May 1st, several thousand workers in Chicago city had participated in the massive strike demanding eight-hour working day and several workers sacrificed their life to achieve this demand. From that day onwards, May 1st is celebrated as the International Workers Day, as a symbol of working class unity against the capitalist class. In 1926, British India government brought the Indian Trade Union Act which deals with trade union registration and their rights. Even after 90 years of this act, formation of trade unions and labour rights including the eight-hour working day are hard to imagine for the workers who are in the unorganized sector and private firms (like automobile, IT, finance and education sectors).
My friend Guddi has a great story about a Gujjar wedding she attended recently in Ghaziabad. It was a typically chaotic event, marked accurately by the swirling crowds around the dinner stalls. If Gujjar weddings are chaotic and the dinner doubly so, the scene around the tandoor is triply compounded chaos. Barely concealed competition amongst overmuscled Gujjar men in overtight pants for that precious hot roti ensures that none but the most Hobbesian men remain, circling the tandoor like hungry wolves, periodically thrusting their plate forward like fencing champions and shouting obscenities at the harried servers. In such a heart-stopping scenario, a young server had as Guddi recounts, figured out the formula to keep everybody from killing each other (or him). As soon as the roti would be pulled out of the tandoor, seductively golden brown and sizzling, this man would hold it high up with his tongs so everybody could see, then in an elaborate dance-like ritual, touch each of the empty extended plates in front of him with the roti, and finally, in a mysterious but authoritative decision, place it respectfully on a randomly selected plate. Repeat with every single roti that emerged from the tandoor. A hushed silence followed by nervous laughter followed every such flourish.
Please find below a collation of statements of solidarity received by Kafila over the past fortnight since the shameful incidents of violence by the ABVP occurred on the 21st and 22nd of February 2017. These are from: Ramjas Alumna, Ambedkar University Delhi Faculty Association, O.P Jindal Teachers: Students and Durham University Politics and International Relations Society, U.S.A; and students and faculty at the University of Minnesota, U.S.A.
The statements are preceded by a short write-up on what Ramjas College has meant to its alumna, by ANUBHAV PRADHAN.
Nostalgia is made of more than just happiness. It is sulphurous too.
To many who spent three or more years of their life in Ramjas College, visuals of violence in and around it on 21 and 22 February 2017 have been a source of deep, personal shock. The footpath and the areas adjoining the college gate were often sites of lingering conversations between friends, offering moments of respite from studies, tensions accruing from impending exams, or relief to those who had just accomplished a hectic ECA festival and were there catching up their breath or exhaling smoke.
The ABVP struck twice, once attacking the college Seminar Room and then coming back the second day to attack students. In the hundredth year of Ramjas’ establishment, a college founded at a time when protest was an active ideal for most Indians, this singular episode of planned, institutional violence against students and teachers is a grim reminder of the brute silencing of interrogation, peaceful protest, dialogue and dissent being normalised across our colleges and universities, and in our society at large. The audacity with which these perpetrators and their ideologues brand entire institutions and diverse communities of students and academics as anti-national—and therefore fit recipients for their brute censure—also gives the lie to the intellectual and affective bankruptcy of a rapidly emergent cultural orientation premised on simplistic binaries of good and bad, right and wrong, national and anti-national. In a society—and nation—whose ideals are peace, dialogue, and inclusion, these attacks on students and teachers point to the deep ideological rot in the perpetrators’ conception of nation, nationality and nationalism.
As an alumnus of Ramjas College, I cherish the right to self-determination and open debate. I feel outraged that the students’ and faculties’ right to decide what discussion to hold and whom to invite for it within college premises was usurped in this manner. It is disturbing that this violence rippled across the campus as it were, with students being followed, identified and harassed in their personal spaces for having asserted their right to listen to discussions on Bastar and for not bowing down to bodily attacks perpetrated through stones and fisticuffs by members of the ABVP and their affiliates.
Most alumni like me are invested in our respective professions, but the foundations of study and work were laid for us by Ramjas’ teachers and the college’s vibrant culture of extra-curricular instruction. This experience has proved fundamental to our engagement with our immediate workspaces, surroundings, power structures, and our nation. Denying current and future students their right to freely and openly debate issues of their choice in fora of their choice is tantamount to denial of a basic academic right. Threatening and manhandling academicians guided by the spirit of enquiry towards generation of dialogue will prove detrimental to the quality of collegiate education in our nation. We collectively issue the following statement of solidarity with Ramjas’ students and teachers in this moment of crisis: