Category Archives: Bad ideas

The Attack on Taslima Nasrin in Hyderabad

Dear All (apologies for cross posting on Kafila.org and the Sarai Reader List)

The recent attack on Taslima Nasreen has again shown how fragile the freedom of expression is in India today. It breaks whenever a sentimental reader or viewer has their ‘sentiments challenged’. Are all these worthy gentlemen who go about obstructing screenings and readings suffering from some early childhood trauma that makes it difficult for them to countenance growing up and acquiring the ability to listen to contrary point of view? How long are we to be held hostage to their infantile suffering?

What is worse is the fact that the people who attacked her, and have made public threats to kill her – activists and elected representatives belonging to MIM, a leftover of the Nizam’s hated Razakars, were arrested and then let off on bail. So, the message that the state sends out to these goons is – “threaten to kill, be taken to a police station to have a cup of tea, have your picture taken, be splashed in the media, go home and make some more threats.”

see – http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=90746

Continue reading The Attack on Taslima Nasrin in Hyderabad

Time And The Revolutionary Imagination

“If the socialist revolution in the ‘twenty Latin Americas’ cannot be unified, then neither can its timing. The national fragmentation of the Latin American revolution is matched by the way its political calendar is fragmented into quite unconnected rhythms and upheavals. In each country the process has its own time clock: whether armed or not, the class struggle will always be at a different moment in Caracas and Buenos Aires, and again different in Guatemala city. Vanguards can see far and wide: it is this that makes them the vanguard…Vanguards decide on their present action in view of the ‘far-off socialist ideals’ with which, by theoretical anticipation, they become contemporary. But it is pointless for them to set their watch to Caracas time in Buenos Aires (or Hanoi time in San Francisco for that matter). The people who make history are living by the time not of a continental, or world, revolution, but of the material living conditions of the area, the town or the country, which their horizon is bounded by. ” Regis Debray[i]

“In the Austro-Hungarian monarchy there are examples of all the economic forms to be found in Europe, including Turkey…What exists in the International as a chronological development – the socialism of artisans, journeymen, workers in manufacture, factory workers, and agricultural workers, which undergoes alterations, with the political, social or the intellectual aspect of the movement predominating at any given moment – takes place contemporaneously in Austria.” Otto Bauer.[ii]

‘Staging’ a Revolt

A little over forty years ago, in May 1967, the extraordinary event called ‘Naxalbari’ took place in a northern Bengal village (whose it name it bears), ante-dating the May 1968 upsurge in Europe by a full year. A peasants armed struggle to begin with, Naxalbari represented a utopian burst of revolutionary energy as rebels from within the CPI(M) challenged the cautious pragmatism of the party leadership that has, ironically, increasingly come to mark radical political practice since then. Formally, the main plank of the movement was its complete rejection of all parliamentary politics and a call for armed seizure of power. Located within the global conjuncture of the rise of Left-wing radicalism of the 1960s, the revolt was formally inspired by Maoism and the ongoing Cultural Revolution in China.

Continue reading Time And The Revolutionary Imagination

Shahid Amin on Memory, Media and the Historian’s Practice

[We bring you this piece by well known historian of the Subaltern Studies group, on the media’s hyperactivity on the ‘disclosures’ made by Lady Pamela Mountbatten, as he reflects on the historian’s responsibility. This article was first published in Daily News and Analysis.]

Publishing hype and a contentious presidential election have fortuitously brought two very dissimilar lady residents of the Viceregal House to media attention in the last week. On the same day when we read the details about Pratibha Patil’s victory, an interview was televised with the youngest daughter of Lady and Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy and Vicereine of Raisina Hill. Transcripts of the interview, occasioned by the publication of India Remembered: A Personal Account, co-authored by Lady Pamela Hicks, nee
Mountbatten and her daughter, have been carried in several newspapers.

Media-persons have been burning their phone lines trying to get sound bytes from historians about whether or not, ‘in actual fact’, the Edwina-Nehru intense, platonic relationship allowed the Last Viceroy to influence slyly our remarkable first PM. For there were moments, as the author recalls in the interview, when Panditji and the Lady were allowed by the Earl and his daughters to be left alone, “sitting on a sofa in the study or something”.

Continue reading Shahid Amin on Memory, Media and the Historian’s Practice

A Modest Proposal to End All Controversies on Freedom of Expression in India

(apologies for cross posting on Commons Law and Reader List)

As we know well by now from the freedom loving sentiments (that are expressed loudly and frequently) by all sections of the guardians of social order in India, (that is Bharat, that is Hindustan), the real reason why certain insignificant documentary independent and student films, contemporary art exhibitions in university campuses and performances are banned, and their heinous perpetrators arrested has to do with the general populations right to sleep undisturbed each night and not to see anything other than cricket matches, news about cricket matches, election analyses, kaun banega crorepati, Abhishek Bacchan’s wedding, and yoga on TV.

Why should anyone in their right mind want to see, read, listen to or even think about anything else?

Consider the folly that some students in Kottayam have recently contemplated, making a film on of all things ‘Homosexuality’ .

Or, of the students in the Fine Arts Department of M.S.University in Baroda who went ahead and organized an exhibition of student work that contained offensive erotic imagery.

Both of these moves have been met with swift and timely responses. The offending students in Kerala have been expelled by the Christian educational institutition where they were enrolled, and the offending art student in Vadodara, one Chandramohanm has been arrested by the local police at the urging of Hindutva minded citizens.

There are only two things we need to learn from incidents of this nature. The first is as follows –

Actually, all that people need to do is to insist that only the self appointed guardians of public morality (of all stripes and shades) have the right to appear in any broadcast, exhibition, film or other forms of mediated communication. We need every channel to broadcast morally cleansed reality TV all the time. How else will this nation boldly venture where none other has gone before – into that heaven of bliss and freedom known as ennui for the billions.

Continue reading A Modest Proposal to End All Controversies on Freedom of Expression in India

Sangharsh Hamara Nara Hai

Protest is a form of speech that a society employs to communicate with itself.

You do not protest in public, shout and scream, chant slogans and hold placards on an ordinary day. You do it but rarely. You do it when you are outraged.

And when you do protest, you want to be heard.

I have been interested lately in protest, though I must say there’s a lot more to say about Jantar Mantar.

I wonder why those who protest are no longer being heard, leading them, sometimes, to wonder if they are being pushed to the wall, a wall they’ll have to break down with a gun.

But I wonder, equally, if the protestors are listening only to themslves. Communication, after all, is not about one-way speaking. Communication is also about listening. Continue reading Sangharsh Hamara Nara Hai

A cruel and unusual punishment

(Or how I came to love the Press)
As I stepped out of B.’s house last night, I pulled my jacket close to ward of the cold and veered vaguely to the right as I looked for my car. I felt in the pocket for the car’s central-locking remote, and on finding it, pressed the un-lock button on the device. I heard my sister’s trusty Wagon-R tick-tock in recognition out on the left. On the left course! I had parked the car on left. I usually parked on the right under the streetlight, but this time my space had been taken. So I had parked on the left. I corrected course and lurched decisively to the left – the source of the sound, and the site of the parked car.

My ear it seems, had picked up the sound – measured it in terms of intensity – and my brain had decoded it and accorded it a positional characteristic. So this car was approximately 20 degrees behind my left ear. I looked – there it was, I walked up to it and drove home.

Continue reading A cruel and unusual punishment

The Lumpen Bourgeoisie

The kidnapping of little Anant and his release for ransom highlight once again the great ease with which police fabricate accounts that suit their purposes. (Means: They Lie). Turns out that the case they claimed shamelessly to have cracked was resolved on the terms set by the kidnappers. (Most probably, the two arrests made subsequently are arbitrary and it seems pretty certain the ransom has not been “recovered” as claimed). The holes in the police versions are being relentlessly revealed by the mainstream media, concerned as it is with law and order, especially when it comes to “posh” areas like NOIDA ( a small – tiny – prize awaits anyone finding an English paper that did NOT use this adjective once during the whole Anant episode), and posh people like CEOs of MNCs. I need do no more on this front, except just to mutter “What about Afzal?” before I move on to another aspect of the coverage on the incident.

The Servant Angle. Or, as the French might put it, Cherchez le Servant. No opportunity is too slight for the police and the media to drill this lesson home: Verify Your Servants. They Are Out to Get You.

Continue reading The Lumpen Bourgeoisie