All posts by Shivam Vij

Shivam Vij is a writer and journalist based in New Delhi.

Nationalism in India: Rabindranath Tagore

From RABINDRANATH TAGORE‘s lectures on Nationalism, 1917

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Our real problem in India is not political. It is social. This is a condition not only prevailing in India, but among all nations. I do not believe in an exclusive political interest. Politics in the West have dominated Western ideals, and we in India are trying to imitate you. We have to remember that in Europe, where peoples had their racial unity from the beginning, and where natural resources were insufficient for the inhabitants, the civilization has naturally taken the character of political and commercial aggressiveness. For on the one hand they had no internal complications, and on the other they had to deal with neighbours who were strong and rapacious. To have perfect combination among themselves and a watchful attitude of animosity against others was taken as the solution of their problems. In former days they organized and plundered, in the present age the same spirit continues—and they organize and exploit the whole world. Continue reading Nationalism in India: Rabindranath Tagore

The Sunset of the Century: Rabindranath Tagore

rabindranath-tagoreThe eve of India’s 66th Independence Day is a time as good as any to read this poem by RABINDRANATH TAGORE, even as India gets ready to sing to martial tune another Tagore poem, Jana Gana Mana. This English translation was published at the end of Tagore’s 1918 book, Nationalism.

THE SUNSET OF THE CENTURY

(Written in the Bengali on the last day of last century)

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The last sun of the century sets amidst the blood-red clouds of the West and the whirlwind of hatred.
The naked passion of self-love of Nations, in its drunken delirium of greed, is dancing to the clash of steel and the howling verses of vengeance. Continue reading The Sunset of the Century: Rabindranath Tagore

The Curious Case of Hamid Ansari

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You may think he is a spy or a saboteur. If he is one, would he have spent months trying to reach Kohat from Mumbai and then get caught in just two days?

Sitting in Mumbai, Hamid Ansari fell in love with a Pakistani Pashtun girl over Facebook. He was a 26 year old management teacher, she was a B.Ed. student. After over a year of obsessing about each other over the internet, phone and phone messengers, she called him one day, crying. She had confided in her sister about this online affair, but the sister told the parents, who decided it was time to find her a husband. It was the last phone call. She soon disappeared from Facebook too. Continue reading The Curious Case of Hamid Ansari

Manmohan Singh must visit Pakistan

Dr Manmohan Singh with wife Gursharan Kaur at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on 1 January 2012
Dr Manmohan Singh with wife Gursharan Kaur at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on 1 January 2012

By SHIVAM VIJ: Which Indian or Pakistani premier has not desperately wanted to be the one to clinch peace between the two countries? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reportedly been keen, for years now, to go on a state visit to Pakistan.

Before the political climate could be conducive to Manmohan’s visit to Islamabad, 26/11 took place. Pakistan’s refusal to give Dr Singh even breathing space on the 26/11 investigations, followed by the LoC tensions in January and August this year, means that in his 10 years of prime ministership, Manmohan Singh will never have visited the country of his birth. Continue reading Manmohan Singh must visit Pakistan

The media monster of the juvenile offender: Enakshi Ganguly and Anant Asthana

This is a guest post by ENAKSHI GANGULY and ANANT ASTHANA

July 17 was an important day. Supreme Court announced its judgment refusing to interfere with the Juvenile Justice Act. This was with respect to the eight petitions that were filed in the wake of the alleged involvement of a juvenile in the rape and murder of a 23 year young girl on December 16, 2012. The boy, who was found to be below 18 years, was described by the media as the most heinous of the rapists, a monster and a beast, and even the main accused—and this even before the police had filed the charge –sheets based on statements of the witnesses and evidence gathered. Should there be a fair judicial process that decides the case based on scrutiny of relevant facts or should we let media undertake a trial? Continue reading The media monster of the juvenile offender: Enakshi Ganguly and Anant Asthana

What Indian school children learn about the Partition

I wrote recently about the surprising political maturity with which NCERT textbooks teach Indian students about the Partition. These textbooks were prepared under the National Curriculum Framework of 2005. This is of course not limited to the Partition chapter or indeed just the history textbooks. But I was particularly moved to see the Partition chapter. As you read it you realise what school textbooks can do in shaping how future generations see themselves, their own history and identity. I think a lot of people in both India and Pakistan would like to read it. Here it is:

E-book: Sibaji Bandyopadhyay Reader

In the hope that more writers will make their books available online for free, Kafila is publishing an e-book version of Sibaji Bandyopadhyay Reader: An Anthology of Essays, published last year.

The Reader is an anthology of eight essays. The anthology focuses on a myriad of themes: politics of performance; nationalist appropriation and re-constitution of non-dualist Vedanta s tenets; double-take on remembering and forgetting; elusiveness of sexual identities; differences that engender terror. The essays take as their point of departure: a number of pre-modern Indian texts; a late nineteenth-early twentieth century archive of philosophical-cum journalistic writing in English published from Kolkata; specific art-works of Vivan Sundaram, Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak; the Pandora s Box that gets opened with the release of the film Fire ; Sigmund Freud s protracted struggles to establish fear, fright and anxiety as distinct conceptual categories; the grammar of terror that may be retrieved from the Mahabharata. Continue reading E-book: Sibaji Bandyopadhyay Reader

Katiyabaaz – the grid thief of Kanpur

Katiyabaaz Loha Singh in a still from the film
Katiyabaaz Loha Singh in a still from the film

By SHIVAM VIJ: A new documentary film, Katiyabaaz, presents a problem that I’ve been struggling with. Although the film is set in Kanpur, it’s a problem that faces many parts of South Asia. The film-makers, Fahad Mustafa and Deepti Kakkar, obstinately refuse to offer possible solutions. With catchy lyrics and music, the film celebrates Kanpur, its people, and this messed-up system. It’s a snapshot of who we are. It’s when you think about the film that it disturbs you.

The film’s anti-hero is a thief — Loha Singh helps a lot of people steal electricity in Kanpur. He connects the illegal wire that is known in north India as katiya. Katiya is the sort of simple solution to life’s problems that South Asians feel very smart about. It’s an example of jugaad, the shortcut to problem solving that’s now integral to pop management theories. Continue reading Katiyabaaz – the grid thief of Kanpur

The David Headley Lies Continue: There is Nothing ‘New’ About It

This release from the JUSTICE FOR ISHRAT JAHAN CAMPAIGN comes to us via Manisha Sethi.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” This is a quote often misattributed to the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. So widely is it believed to have been the key to Goebbelsian propaganda that it often employed by those whose politics is inspired by Goebbels’s Feuhrer.

This is exactly what we are seeing in this frenzied rush to pronounce Ishrat Jahan as a Lashkar operative by a section of media and commentators friendly to the ‘IB sources’.

Knowing full well that CBI’s mandate is only to enquire into the nature of the encounter – to probe whether Ishrat Jahan and three others were killed in cold blood – and realizing increasingly that the CBI investigation is leading to the unraveling of a plot so sordid that serious questions are going to be raised about the manner in which certain elements within the IB and agencies cynically used national security issues for vested interests, there is an attempt to pop up red herrings. False questions, planted stories, lies, fabrications – anything that will take the focus away from the guilt of those who conspired to abduct, drug and kill a teenaged college girl.

Continue reading The David Headley Lies Continue: There is Nothing ‘New’ About It

The shameful role of the Indian Supreme Court in the Emergency of 1975: Rajinder Sachar

This guest post by RAJINDAR SACHAR comes to us via the PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES.

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Nations which do not remember their immediate past are in danger of repeating their tragic mistakes. This thought came to me on June 26th, 2013 (the Emergency day of 1975) when on random questioning of age group of 35 in the country (who are said to make up about half the population) I found that most of them did not know of any particular significance of the day – and more tragic, fairly large number of people above the age of 35 fared no better. Continue reading The shameful role of the Indian Supreme Court in the Emergency of 1975: Rajinder Sachar

IB says Headley says it’s too hot…

…CBI says it’s the humidity.

While the implausibility of David Headley having named Ishrat Jahan as an LeT operative has already been called out, there’s another problem here. How does anyone cross-check IB’s claim considering none of us has access to Headley?

In other words, the IB can make any insinuation and say Headley said it and we’ll have to believe at as truth.

This is apart from the fact that the judicial process in the news is not about whether or not Ishrat Jahan was an LeT terrorist. It’s about whether she was murdered in cold blood by Gujarat police. To that extent the IB does have a point in arguing that it cannot be blamed for how a state government interprets its inputs. Technically, the IB cannot be held responsible for murder by Gujarat police. But does that mean the IB cannot or should not be held accountable for what inputs it sends across?

Anyway, I posted a series of satirical tweets the other day making fun of the use of David Headley to justify the murder of Ishrat Jahan. Here are some of them.

Continue reading IB says Headley says it’s too hot…

The unbearable lightness of drowning in your own myth: Tamer Söyler

This guest post by TAMER SÖYLER is the third of a three-part series on Istanbul’s Taksim Square protests.

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This is the final segment of a three-part account of the unrest in Turkey. The first part of the commentary discussed the unrest from the perspective of the political life course of Erdoğan. According to the protestors it was the Prime Minister as the key political figure who set the cat among the pigeons. Neither the opponents and nor the supporters of Erdoğan can make sense of Erdoğan’s turn to authoritarianism on the eve of critical election season. There are two possibilities: First, Erdoğan could have lost his emotional equilibrium and started to react to the events carelessly. Since the Prime Minister surrounded himself with advisors and party members who cannot dare to challenge him, he lost his bearings. Second, as an experienced politician Erdoğan must have a political strategy. Even if he is emotional his emotions are closely related to the concrete problems he faces. Continue reading The unbearable lightness of drowning in your own myth: Tamer Söyler

‘After falling in love, I saw the reality of caste’: E. Ilavarasan

Dalit youth E. ILAVARASAN, whose marriage to a Vanniyar girl had resulted in caste violence in Tamil Nadu last year, was found dead on a railway track yesterday. Given below is an interview Ilavarasan gave to KAVIN MALAR and was published in the Tamil edition of India Today magazine. This translation is by PRAKASH VENKATESAN.

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Did you realise you were going to be in the headlines in TN when you got married?

No. Certainly not. I thought ours would be just like any other marriage. Divya thought so too. We thought they (Divya’s parents) would be angry initially but can be eventually reconciled. We simply did not expect these things would happen. I now can really understand the horrendous nature of caste and the heinous things it is capable of after falling in love.

Why do you think Divya is suddenly saying now that she wants to go with her mother? Continue reading ‘After falling in love, I saw the reality of caste’: E. Ilavarasan

Women condemn Meenakshi Lekhi’s sexist slandering of Ishrat Jahan

Meenakshi Lekhi
Meenakshi Lekhi

Over 115 women have signed a letter seeking an apology from Ms. Meenakshi Lekhi for her sexist slandering of deceased Ishrat Jahan in a television channel. The letter has also been sent to the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women for appropriate action.

As the noose is tightening around the conspirators who cynically and coldly planned and executed the killing of teenaged Ishrat Jahan and three other people in 2004, there is a concerted campaign – the final, last ditch bid to save their skins – by tarnishing the image of this college student. There have been planted stories in the media linking her to a terrorist group –all of them false and concocted, even as the Gujarat High Court has clearly said that the CBI’s mandate is to simply investigate whether Ishrat and others were killed in cold blood. Continue reading Women condemn Meenakshi Lekhi’s sexist slandering of Ishrat Jahan

A letter to Chetan Bhagat from Indian Muslim Youth

Given below is the text of a letter that was initially written by a group of individuals and sent as a rejoinder to the article written by Chetan Bhagat titled,Letter from an Indian Muslim Youth published in The Times of India on 30 June 2013. The letter was sent to The Times of India The signatories include non-Muslims, because a large number of the emails read, ‘I am not a Muslim but I am equally disgusted by Chetan Bhagat’s letter’. Given below is the text of letter followed by more than 200 signatures:

A Letter to Mr. Chetan Bhagat from Indian Muslim Youth

3rd July 2013

Dear Mr. Bhagat, Continue reading A letter to Chetan Bhagat from Indian Muslim Youth

Will ACP Kisan Shengal of Mumbai ATS be prosecuted?: Yug Mohit Chaudhry

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Guest post by YUG MOHIT CHAUDHRY: On Friday, 8th September 2006, four bomb blasts occurred in Malegaon killing thirty-one persons and injuring three hundred and twelve others. The case was originally investigated by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS). After re-investigating the case, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has concluded that the ATS fabricated evidence against nine persons. This unprecedented acknowledgement raises important questions about how terrorist cases are investigated, police misconduct and the rule of law in India. It remains to be seen whether the government will take action against the ATS investigating officer, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Kisan Shengal, for fabricating evidence on a capital charge. Continue reading Will ACP Kisan Shengal of Mumbai ATS be prosecuted?: Yug Mohit Chaudhry

For Erdoğan, you are with him or against him: Tamer Söyler

This guest post by TAMER SÖYLER is the second of a three-part series on Istanbul’s Taksim Square protests for Kafila.

“Kandils (Islamic holy nights) are the times for equality, unity and solidarity.” Anticapitalist Muslims   Note: “Kandil” refers to the celebration of one of the five Islamic holy nights. While Erdoğan was accusing the protestors to be drinking beer and having some kind of a youth festival, anticapitalist muslims who were against the Taksim project from the very early on, wanted to give their support to the protestors. It was an interesting thing to witness. Socialists and communists were creating space for the members of the Anticapitalist Muslims to perform a public prayer in the square. This is already evidence enough that this is not secularists vs. pious.
“Kandils are the times for equality, unity and solidarity – Anti-capitalist Muslims,” this banner reads.
Kandil refers to the celebration of one of the five Islamic holy nights. While Erdoğan was accusing the protestors to be drinking beer and having some kind of a youth festival, anti-capitalist Muslims who were against the Taksim project from the very early on, wanted to give their support to the protestors. It was an interesting thing to witness. Socialists and communists were creating space for the members of the Anti-capitalist Muslims to perform a public prayer in the square. Clearly,the Taksim protests were not about secular vs. religious.

The first part of this commentary argued that as a part of his political strategy early Erdoğan had embraced a kaleidoscopic approach in governance by including various perspectives coming from citizens situated in different milieus. Erdoğan had given the impression to the citizens that his government was willing to hear the views of the citizens situated in all kinds of milieus. A simple strategy of inclusion proved to be extremely efficient for Erdoğan. Citizens who were not ideologically close to Erdoğan were quick to feel flattered by the symbolic gesture and did not hesitate to support Erdoğan. Continue reading For Erdoğan, you are with him or against him: Tamer Söyler

Can late Erdoğan learn from early Erdoğan?: Tamer Söyler

This guest post by TAMER SÖYLER is the first of a three-part series on Istanbul’s Taksim Square protests for Kafila.

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Photographs by Tamer Söyler

The 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, is said to have remarked: being President is like running a cemetery; you have got a lot of people under you and nobody is listening. As is the case with any good politician, Clinton is known for his bamboo-like character. During his presidency whenever he looked the weakest, he proved to come stronger out of the chaos. Clinton’s remarkable flexibility provided him the ability to bend as much as he needed to achieve his goals without breaking. The Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, proved again that he does not have Clinton’s sense of humour, his presidency or his flexibility.

Turkey is a parliamentary representative democracy. Erdoğan has been expressing his intention to transform the country into a presidential system and become the first president of the country. The government plans to put the question of a constitutional referendum to a vote in the year 2014. The people of Turkey are suffering from a great anxiety related to a fear of finding themselves in an authoritarian, charismatic presidential system. Protestors worry that without adequate mechanisms to enforce the separation of powers in the constitution, Erdoğan can easily transform Turkey into an authoritarian regime.
Continue reading Can late Erdoğan learn from early Erdoğan?: Tamer Söyler

From Koodankulam, an open letter to the Indian media

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Press release issued by the PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT AGAINST NUCLEAR ENERGY (PMANE), based in Idinthakarai in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu.

Dear friends,

Greetings!

Please allow us to bring the following to your kind attention in the larger interests of our country, people and most importantly, our democracy and freedom.

As the Fourth Pillar of our democracy, the media in India plays an important role in the smooth running of our country and the perpetuation of our democratic heritage.

We are sure that you have noticed the postponement of the commissioning of the Koodankulam nuclear power project (KKNPP) to July 2013 without giving any reasons or explanations. Continue reading From Koodankulam, an open letter to the Indian media

An appeal to help Pakistani Hindu refugees in Jaipur: PUCL

This is the text of a memorandum submitted recently by the PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES, Rajasthan, to the state’s chief secretary.

12th June, 2013

Sh. CK Mathew,
Chief Secretary,
Government of Rajasthan, Jaipur

Subject: Urgently providing temporary housing and other support to refugees from Sindh, Pakistan living in Paldi Meena, Jaipur

Dear Sir,

This is in continuance of our telephonic conversation regarding provision of temporary housing to the 23 persons belonging to six families who have come to Jaipur in the last five months from Umerkot, in Sindh province of Pakistan due to deteriorating conditions of the minorities and there existence in fear there. Some came in January 2013 and others came in March. They all arrived in India via the Thar Express which they boarded from Mirpur and first came to Jodhpur before moving to Jaipur. They are mostly on visitors and pilgrimage Indian visas. Continue reading An appeal to help Pakistani Hindu refugees in Jaipur: PUCL