Category Archives: Bad ideas

Counting Lights

This is a simple exercise in basic arithmetic that will help us reach some rather basic results, the results might be a little unexpected but simple arithmetic is known to have indulged in such pastimes on other occasions as well.

There are around 3000 Blue line buses that ply on the streets of Delhi, and aside from terrorising the general populace off the streets, sending around 150 citizens of Delhi to meet their respective makers they are also known to occasionally ferry passengers.

It is now public knowledge that most, if not all, these buses are owned, benami, by local politicians and, as the expression goes, their near and dear ones. The fact that these killers are allowed to hold an entire city of close to 14,000,000 to ransom is not entirely due to their being politically correctly related, though that helps, it is mostly because of a well organised system of preventing diligent government servants from the discharge of their duty.

The government servants being thus prevented are gentlemen who have promised to be “with us for us always” [the motto of Delhi Police, for the information of non-Delhi people] (I am personally extremely happy that they are being prevented from discharging their duties towards me). The fellows want so dearly to serve us but are systematically prevented by the drivers and owners (Ds & Os) of the aforementioned vehicles. What can the poor fellows do, every time they want to rise to our defence the Ds & Os or their representatives show them some magical papers and the potential do gooders freeze in mid stride!

Continue reading Counting Lights

Judging Women

The honourable judges of the honourable judiciary are on an honourable roll…

Anuradha Roy of Permanent Black sent out the following:

On the 9th of February 2008, remarks by two eminent judiciary members the Chief Justice of Karnataka, Cyriac Joseph and State Human Rights Commission Chairperson Justice S.R.Nayak, stating that immodest dressing was the cause of increasing crimes against women were reported in the press.

The Hon’ble Chief Justice further elaborated his statement by mentioning that “Nowadays, women wear such kind of dresses even in temples and churches that when we go to places of worship, instead of meditating on God, we end up meditating on the person before us” and that the “provocative dresses that women wear in buses” put the “men travelling in the buses” in awkward situations and hence “women must dress modestly.”

The Chairperson, State Human Rights Commission, speaking on ‘Human Rights and the Lawyers Role’, gave his opinion on the Mumbai New Year molestation issue, when two women had their dresses torn off by a mob
of men outside a nightclub: “Yes, men are bad… But who asked them (the women) to venture out in the night…Women should not have gone out in the night and when they do, there is no point in complaining that men touched them and hit them. Youth are destroying our culture for momentary satisfaction.”

Anuradha sent this out without comments. I understand her mood. I’m done too. No witty commentary, no smart asides. I’m just plain exhausted.

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Taslima Nasreen and the Spirit of Islam

It is said that after he announced his Prophethood Hazrat Mohammed suffered severe persecution in Mecca. The vitriol and calumny extended from the verbal to the physical. There was one woman who would always throw filth on him whenever he passed by her house. He would unfailingly take the same route everyday and she would equally invariably throw filth on him. He never protested. One day as he passed her house, she was missing. He inquired after her and learning that she was sick he went up to her room, and finding her bed-ridden, tended to her. I grew up listening to a lot of stories from my grandmother about the Prophet Mohammed. Told in an anecdotal form, the stories largely avoided his image as a conqueror and concentrated instead on his personality, specially his grace under hardship. I narrate this story especially to remind my compatriots about what they might do when faced with hostility, or criticism.

I write this particularly in the context of Taslima Nasrin, whose vise expires this week and she still does not know whether it will be extended or not. Taslima Nasrin must be given an opportunity to stay on in India, and must be provided that opportunity not as a grace or favor but because she is, as a South Asian, as a fellow human, fully entitled to it. My appeal rests not merely on a liberal idea of freedom of expression, or on making this a litmus test for India’s pluralism. India’s pluralism, where it exists in practice, is not dependent on appeals or testimonials from intellectuals. Our pluralism does not, and has not, precluded violent confrontations between different social groups. However, we also have countervailing traditions of coming to a working adjustment with each other, which, as an aside, partly explains why the word ‘adjust’ is so popular in all Indian languages.

Continue reading Taslima Nasreen and the Spirit of Islam

Climaterror, boredom and media

The pressing, in fact the overpowering need to keep people perpetually agog with false excitement, generated by the fear of impending doom, played out in all its gory details over the last three days across the gossip channels that go in the name of News Channels and Glamour sheets that try to pass of as Newspapers.

26th January had come and gone, Sarkozy had come and gone without giving us the nuclear fuel that would have overnight made the greatest democracy into the second or third or fourth or the nth most happening country in the world.

Continue reading Climaterror, boredom and media

But Prabhat Patnaik is an Honourable Man

[This is my response to the article by Prabhat Patnaik circulating over on the Net. His original article can be read at the end of this response. We have reproduced it in full. – AN]

This piece could be read as a letter addressed to one of my former, esteemed, ideologue-theoreticians. As young students in the 1970s and 1980s, we often went to listen, starry-eyed, to this soft-spoken theorist expound on what we thought were complex issues of our times and come back mesmerized. Yes, Prof Prabhat Patnaik (PP) was one of our idols. Today he fell and smashed himself. And then something strange happened: the broken pieces rearranged themselves to reveal a frightful other face – the face of comrade stalin.

Since Patnaik has referred to all critics of the CPM as “anti-Left intellectuals”, and has also specifically referred to the letter signed by some of us (including me), I think it would not be wrong to assume that the entire article is also addressed, among thousands of others, to me (though I may be pardoned for assuming that a nacheez like me should even exist on his radar!). Since all those who had signed the statement may have their own responses to PP – and some might not legitimately wish to stoop to the level this once-saintly figure has – I must speak for myself here.

Sometime ago, former West Bengal finance minister and marxist economist Ashok Mitra had written a piece on the happenings in Nandigram. It appeared in Ananda Bazar Patrika and was subsequently translated into English and widely circulated. In that piece, Mitra had suggested “prominent economist and party comrade of the stature of Prabhat Patnaik is hounded” by the party leadership in Alimuddin Street. In a way, we sort of knew it; rather, we hoped it would be true. An intellectual like Prof Patnaik cannot possibly be a cog in the stalinist machine, even though he may have stepped in to sign dubious statements not so long ago. We had assumed that given the political history of stalinist Marxism with intellectuals who were maligned, denigrated, humiliated and finally put before the firing squad, Patnaik had made his ‘existential choice’ a la Georg Lukacs. Lukacs, one of the most brilliant philosophical minds, decided to remain in the ranks (the ‘camp of the people’, in Patnaik’s words) and become the voice of stalinism for decades thereafter. Need we recall the whole list of such people – intellectuals – who were thus repeatedly destroyed? And do we need to tell you that so far only fascism or Nazism has been able to compete with the communist record.

Continue reading But Prabhat Patnaik is an Honourable Man

The Sword and the Monk’ s Cowl: Curfew in Kolkata

“Instead of society having conquered a new content for itself, it seems that the state has only returned to its oldest form, to a shamelessly simple rule by the sword and the monk’s cowl. “

-Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon

We live in strange times. Really strange times. Just as the news from Kolkata was getting better, it got worse again.The sudden spectre of ‘communal rioting’ has reared its head, as if from nowhere in West Bengal. The All India Minorities Forum, a little known entity led by a busy body called Idris Ali materialized yersterday on the streets of Kolkata demanding the deportation of the exiled Bangladeshi writer, on the grounds that she had once injured the sensitivities of Muslims. Crowds attacked police, pitched street battles continued, the Army was called in. Curfew was declared, and on television, Biman Bose, a CPI(M) and ‘Left’ Front hatchet man, declared – “… if her stay creates a problem for peace, she (Nasrin) should leave the state” (see NDTV report at the end of this posting)

Continue reading The Sword and the Monk’ s Cowl: Curfew in Kolkata

A little Biology, A little Arithmetic, A lot of Politics: Sudhanva Deshpande on Nandigram, again

Dear Sudhanva,

*A Biology Lesson*
The discussion on Nandigram is heading in interesting directions across lists and blogs, (even as the Army walks the talk in Kolkata tonight) and I find this situation of accumulating discursive intensity actually very productive. Let a hundred rejoinders blossom, and a few good schools of thought contend. So I welcome your rejoinder and criticism of my text. And I for one, stand chastised by your incisive criticism of my posts (responding to your earlier writing) on the reader-list, and on Kafila.

Continue reading A little Biology, A little Arithmetic, A lot of Politics: Sudhanva Deshpande on Nandigram, again

All those who do not sleep tonight

Dear all, (apologies for cross posting on Reader List)

Sometimes I wonder whether, when I use the phrase ‘rentier cultural apparatchiki’ it actually describes faces, real people, or is it just an abstract category, that one deploys in anger and sadness.

Well, em, here are some faces, some names – people we meet, say hello to, read the books of, see the art of, watch the films of…

As the weather turns in Delhi, we will meet them more often, there will be soirees, readings, screenings, exhibition openings, so much fun in the winter whirlwind, and they will turn up – two by two, or one by one,
and in the silence between us will hang the heavy weight of the name of a place called Nandigram.

Read these names, read them carefully –

Irfan Habib, Prabhat Patnaik, Utsa Patnaik, Shireen Moosvi, Jayati Ghosh, Indira Chandrasekhar, Rajen Prasad, Arjun Dev, D.N. Jha, Vivan Sundaram, M.K. Raina, C.P. Chandrasekhar, and Saeed Mirza.

Continue reading All those who do not sleep tonight

Enough is Enough: Stop CPM’s Criminal Campaign

West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, has termed  the ‘recapture’ mission launched  by the CPM to regain its hold over areas of Nandigram  which had slipped out of its control after March 14, 2007, ‘unlawful and unacceptable’ . The ardour of Deepavali has been dampened in the whole state by the events in Nandigram. Several villages in Nandigram are oscillating from the deepest gloom to panic, Gandhi said on the evening of 9 October. He said that he had been receiving phone calls from responsible people in Nandigram   telling him that several huts were ablaze and people were forced to flee their home and take shelter elsewhere.. He said that the most appropriate description of the situation  in Nandigram  came from the Home Secretary who called Nandigram a WAR ZONE. The Governor said that no government or society can allow such war zones to exist without ‘immediate and effective action’.  Gopal Kirshna Gandhi made it clear that he did not trust the political leadership of the state when he directly asked the administration to remove ‘new unauthorized man made blocks’at the four entry points in Nandigram. The governor also expressed his displeasure over the manner in which Medha Patkar and her colleagues were prevented from entering Nandigram when the CPM activists pulled and pushed her, tried to drag her out of her car by punching her on her face.. He said,’The treatment meted to Smt Medha Patkar and other associates of hers last evening was against all norms of civilised political behavior’.

Newspapers have reported the governor carefully listing all the 13 villages which have now been recaptured by the CPM. It has been reported that the statement came hours after the request by a team of the CPM members of the parliament to see that his sympathy and concern are meant for ‘sufferers on both sides’. The CPM state secretariat member Benoy Konar promptly condemned the governor for being partial . He said that he had insulted his post. ‘When our supporters were out of their homes during Durga Puja, his festive spirit was not dampened. He has insulted his post’, Konar added.

Continue reading Enough is Enough: Stop CPM’s Criminal Campaign

Kaurnanidhi knows his Ramayana Well – MSS Pandian

MSS PANDIAN, well known scholar, writes on DMK, Ram and the BJP. 
 

For M Karunanidhi, DMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister, Lord Ram is not a historical persona but a figment of human imagination. He has not only invited BJP leader L K Advani for a public debate on Ram’s historical status but also – as if turning the knife into the wound – has advised him to read Valmiki’s Ramayana with all the care it deserves. It is common knowledge in Tamil Nadu that Karunanidhi knows his Ramayana well.

Karunanidhi’s remarks have provoked Advani and his cohorts to breathe brimstone and fire. But they have not succeeded one bit in turning the Hindus of Tamil Nadu against Karunanidhi. Their desperation is evident when Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, BJP spokesperson, claimed during a press meet that Karunanidhi has lost his head. Perhaps, he meant Karunanidhi’s followers too.

But for a minuscule fraction of rationalists, the majority of the cadres and sympathisers of the DMK are practising non-Brahmin Hindus. They regularly visit temples, worship, and go on pilgrimages. If they stand by Karunanidhi despite his open disavowal of Ram, they have their own reasons. For one thing, there is nothing novel in Karunanidhi’s comments on Ramayana. From the days of the Self-respect Movement founded by Periyar E V Ramasamy in the 1920s, Ramayana and Ram have been subjects of vigorous public debate in Tamil Nadu.

Read the full story in Times of India

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

The Art of Fleeing, Capital and Molecular Socialism

Compared to the 19th and early to mid 20th centuries, capitalism, today has acquired an entirely new shape and character, often broadly referred to under the rubric of ‘globalization’. Among marxists of different hues there seems to be a remarkable unity in considering ‘globalization’ as a fresh assault of imperialist capital that represents a new wave of re-colonization of the third world. It is seen as a global conspiracy emanating from a single source.

Clearly this reading emanates from an understanding of capital as an all-powerful, singular, sovereign entity, virtually like God. Everything presumably is a consequence of the logic of capital. Ironically, barring a few exceptions, the votaries of ‘working class struggles’ cannot – or do not – see any role of such struggles in the way the present has shaped up, including one of its most significant effects – the apparently terminal crisis of the labour movement. Continue reading The Art of Fleeing, Capital and Molecular Socialism