Category Archives: Centre watch

How Did UP Decide : Identities, Interests and Politics – Prof Zoya Hasan

Prof Zoya Hasan, Professor Emerita, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Distinguished Faculty, Council for Social Development, New Delhi, will be delivering a Special lecture  in the Democracy Dialogues Series, organised by New Socialist Initiative, at 6 PM, (IST) Sunday, 24 th April, 2022.

She will be speaking on ‘‘How did UP Decide: Identities, Interests and Politics”

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Abstract

How did UP Decide: Identities, Interests and Politics

Uttar Pradesh has just seen an intensely contested assembly election which resulted in a second straight victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party in this politically crucial state. This momentous outcome is the subject of intense debate among analysts and indeed the public at large. There was a premise this time, particularly in UP, that communal polarisation wasn’t working because of acute economic discontent which could trigger electoral change. However, the large-scale discontent over many economic issues, including jobs, did not translate into a decision to vote out the government. Many analysts have attributed BJP’s reelection to welfare measures and free rations to the poor during the lockdown. This cannot explain BJP’s persistent success which extends beyond this election. The welfarist argument ignores the compelling logic of long term communalism and the systematic construction of the Hindu vote in UP politics since the time of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement centered in UP and the communal campaigns in the last five years, its impact is reflected in the election results.This construction of the Hindu vote also trumped the caste-based politics of the regional Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party through a mobilization of upper caste and  non-dominant backward and lower caste communities. Communal polarization and identity politics is the keystone of their strategy and the decisive factor driving electoral choices. 

Silence of the Powerful

Why the Corporate Czars are Silent over increasing attacks on Social Fabric and rising Communalism 

Celebrity actors and players share an interesting commonality in this part of South Asia.

Their moral compass normally veers towards the ‘righteousness’ of the rich, powerful and the influential.

Lynching of innocent people on the streets for their faith, social and governmental hounding of lovers belonging to different communities, call for genocide of religious minorities from public forums and similar hate filled acts, nothing normally impinges on their conscience.

Corporate elites are qualitatively no different.

Occasionally, there are feeble voices of disagreements also.

What Kiran Mazumdar Shaw – founder of India’s largest biopharmaceutical company Biocon – did was exactly this only. She expressed her indignation about growing religious divide in the country and underlined how it would be detrimental to India’s global leadership in ITBT ( Information Technology and Bio Technology)

Definitely her statement which was couched in ‘economic terms’ was very mild, but it did not stop attacks by right-wing trolls.

( Read the full article here)

Challenges to India’s Democracy : Prof Zoya Hasan

Prof Zoya Hasan, Professor Emerita, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Distinguished Faculty, Council for Social Development, New Delhi, will be delivering the 16 th lecture  in the Democracy Dialogues Series, organised by New Socialist Initiative, at 6 PM, (IST) Sunday, 27 th March, 2022.

She will be speaking on ‘Challenges to India’s Democracy

Prof Zoya Hasan has written and edited many books on state, political parties, ethnicity, gender and minorities in India and society in north India and has been a visiting Professor to the Universities of Zurich, Edinburgh and Maison des Sciences de L’Homme, Paris.

Her most recent publications include Forging Identities : Gender, Communities And The State In India ( edited) ,  Agitation to Legislation – Negotiating Equity and Justice in India ,   Congress after Indira: Policy, Power and Political Change (1984–2009), Politics of Inclusion: Castes, Minorities and Affirmative Action, (2009) and a collection of essays titled Democracy and the Crisis of Inequality

Abstract

Challenges to India’s Democracy

The 75th anniversary of Indian Independence is a landmark event in the history of our democracy. It is for this reason a significant moment to assess the state of India’s democracy. As the largest democracy in the non-western world, India is a success story. Its success, however, has primarily been recognized as an electoral democracy, with regular free and fair elections registering high voter participation, and also peaceful transfer of power. Elections certainly are a climactic moment of the democratic process but by no means the only important one. Politics between elections is central for understanding the challenges facing Indian democracy, and it is important, therefore, to contextualize democracy.

Three years since the Bhartiya Janata Party government was re-elected has seen the consolidation of the process begun in 2014 – the establishment of a Hindu state. This process has been facilitated by the combination of majoritarianism and authoritarianism which has resulted in democracy becoming thinner, not accidentally, but deliberately. This does raise certain questions about the relationship between Hindu nationalism and democracy which seems to weaken the idea of democracy moderated by institutions. 

This paper tries to make sense of these shifts through a thematic exploration of the trajectory of Indian democracy since 2014 focusing on three overlapping developments -the consolidation of a majoritarian brand of politics, the decline of independent institutions and the shrinking space for political dissent and protests -which has undermined democracy. Each of these issues distinct and significant in its own right when taken together constitutes a major risk to Indian democracy. However, public protests in the last few years have emerged as a major bulwark against authoritarian rule and the erosion of democratic dissent. For the Opposition it’s a moment of reckoning but there are signs of churning among the Opposition as well.

Axing Scholarships, Denying Opportunities

When Government itself Does Not Have Any Qualms in rationalising Drona Mindset

( Photo Courtesy : Feminism in India)

[H]istory has come to a stage when the moral man, the complete man, is more and more giving way, almost without knowing it, to make room for the . . .commercial man, the man of limited purpose. This process, aided by the wonderful progress in science, is assuming gigantic proportion and power, causing the upset of man’s moral balance, obscuring his human side under the shadow of soul-less organization.

—Rabindranath Tagore, Nationalism, 1917

( Quoted in ‘Not for Profit – Why Democracy Needs Humanities, Martha Nussbaum, Princeton University Press, 2010)

A single story is sometimes enough to tell how an institution functions and how it needs to be overhauled.

Aruna’s long struggle to get overseas scholarship is one such story.

Son of landless agricultural labourers from Orissa, this bright student, belonging to a socially oppressed community, had applied to get a overseas scholarship via the National Overseas Scholarship – which awards scholarships to students from SC, ST, Denotified tribes etc – and even had lost two years in bureaucratic wrangling despite the fact that he had already got admission into Essex University.

Thanks to the timely intervention of a group of Ambedkarite thinkers from Nagpur, who filed a petition in the Delhi Highcourt on his behalf , which ultimately ruled in the student’s favour.

It would be cliche to say that Aruna’s struggle is an exception.

Story of Vishal Kharat is qualitatively no different who is still trying to get a scholarship for the last two years and has discovered to his dismay that the scholarship portal itself does not work properly.

Instances galore how this ambitious scheme which was launched in the wee hours of India’s independence when Nehru was the Prime Minister and a great scholar and freedom fighter Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a Cabinet Minister for education, has been left to go slowly into oblivion.

The latest decision by the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment, to not to fund scholarships for marginalised students keen to study India’s history, culture abroad, is just another indication of how it is being implemented.

We can recall that it was the year 2012 when UPA government led by Congress was in the saddle this scheme was extended to Humanities as well and every year 100 students from the socially deprived, oppressed communities started receiving it but with the change of power at the centre things started changing drastically

Like many of its earlier decisions, this decision to axe scholarship to study humanities abroad was taken without consulting the stakeholders involved in the process or without even giving a hint of how the government wants to proceed in this unique empowerment initiative. The fact that the final date to apply for this scheme is to expire on 31 st March and when there was hardly anytime left to young scholars who are keen to study abroad, to search for alternate path to fulfill their dreams.

The rationale being provided by the powers that be appears unconvincing.  

It talks of utilising rich availability of repositories, records as well as books available in Indian institutions and various experts on this subject of India’s culture, civilisation etc and divert the resources thus saved to study other subjects like Science, technology.

It is rather difficult to believe this claim but even if for the sake of discussion we concede, can it be said with certainty that the existing faculty and these institutions would be sensitive to the issue or the concerns of emerging talents from the oppressed, exploited sections of our society, and would be accommodating as well! Fact is that even Higher Educational Institutions are not free from exclusions, discrimination  on the basis of caste, gender, community and despite constitutional provisions for affirmative action existing since decades, the character of the academia in most of these institutions is very much exclusive mainly dominated by the so called upper castes.

Cases of discrimination faced by students from such Institutions keep piling up leading even to many unfortunate incidents – rightly called as ‘institutional murders’ of many such talents.

The stories of suicides of  the likes of of RohithVemula, ( HCU, Hyderabad) ; Payal Tadvi ( Medical College, Mumbai,) or Fathima Latheef ( IIT Madras) and many of their ilk cannot be seen as exceptions.

A related point is the status of academic freedom in India.

With the ascendance of right-wing politics world over the very idea of academic freedom has come under attack globally – including India

Thanks to the majoritarian turn in the Indian politics where religious minorities are being further marginalised and invisibilised – the ambience which exists here within the academia itself is a pale shadow of its earlier situation. It is becoming increasingly difficult nay impossible to have a critical, open minded discussion on themes, topics which are found not palatable to the ruling dispensation which is a prerequisite for any healthy educational institution.

We have before us cancellation of international seminars on innocuous themes even like Scientific Temper or teachers being hauled to courts after taking up discussions about ‘Kashmir within the class ‘ or for engaging in open ended discussion about nationalism inside class or students-teachers being charged with sedition for protesting about highhandedness of the government.

Secondly, with the rightwing holding reins of power with a brutal majority, has also led to radical changes in the content of humanity studies playing mythology over facts e.g. there are allegations how the draft history syllabus pushed by the UGC presents a theory of the origin of caste system which relates to the advent of the ‘Muslim rule’ here.

Can we ever accept that these bright students opting for scholarships abroad who have themselves experienced caste, community or class based deprivation, discrimination in their younger days, would be ever ready to easily gulp down such trash as intellectual discourse.

Definitely not.

This decision to axe funds to socially oppressed sections to study humanity abroad very much gels with the overt concerns of the people in power which are evident in the New Education Policy 2020 which envisions restoring the the role of India as a ‘Vishwa Guru’ and interestingly remains silent on caste and other discriminations and even does not talk about reservations. It clubs SC / ST, OBC and minority communities as an acronym SEDGs – Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups.

What needs to be underlined that this step by the Ministry has raised concerns among the members of the international academic community, and scholars of India spread all over the world as well  and in an open letter addressed to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment they have demanded that the government withdraws this immediate changes in the policy.

It emphasises how ‘[t]he argument that one need not go abroad to study India is intellectually flawed and will only serve to isolate Indian scholarship from the rest of the world.’ and these amendments attest to a lack of understanding of how interdisciplinary research is conducted today, where natural sciences, law, history, sociology and the humanities work together beyond national boundaries.

Another important point which it make that how it will further negatively impact women recipients of this scholarship who are already ‘disproportionately under-represented in scientific and technological disciplines and tend to more easily find opportunities in the Social Sciences and Humanities’

Last but not the least it also displays the great hiatus between the outwardly, strong image of the ruling dispensation and how paranoid, insecure it is about deeper fault lines of the Indian society.

Perhaps it worries that with increasing interest of the academia of the west in what is happening to the largest democracy in the world, and the study of caste and its attendant asymmetries receiving special attention by them, and also dalit activists, scholars there pursuing it at various levels there, these exclusivist hierarchies have rapidly attracted attention. Not some time ago the California State University system added caste to its non-discrimination policy, prohibiting caste-based discrimination or bias across its 23 campuses.

The ruling dispensation knows very well that the more students from dalit, adivasi and other deprived sections of society go out to study abroad, it will have to be ready to face many such embarassing moments because whereas it itself is keen to invisibilise caste once for all, and even clubbed all these sections – the SC / ST, OBC and minority communities as an acronym SEDGs – Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups; the reality as it exists would continue to haunt it.

Doctored History : From Ancient Times till Today – Prof Irfan Habib

The 14 th Lecture in the Democracy Dialogues Series  organised by New Socialist Initiative was delivered by Prof Irfan Habib, Famous Historian, Public Intellectual and Marxist Thinker, on Sunday  30 th January 2022 at 6 PM (IST).
Prof Habib spoke on ‘Doctored History : From Ancient Times till Today’


About the Speaker :

Prof Irfan Habib ( Professor of History at the Aligarh Muslim University, Retd) is a well-known historian and author of the The Agrarian System of Mughal India ( 1963), An Atlas of the Mughal Empire ( 1982), Essays in Indian History : Towards a Marxist Perception ( 1985) , The Economic History of Medieval India : A Survey ( 2001) ,  Medieval India : The Study of a Civilisation ( 2008), a multivolume study titled ‘People’s History of India’ etc and has edited many books

The lecture was live on facebook.com/newsocialistinitiative.nsi.

Please write to us at democracydialogues@gmail.com if you are interested in getting updates about coming lectures.

– New Socialist Initiative

p.s. Here is a playlist of  lectures in the series :

 : https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtXBfoS5KZ78UFI_aYzROjUss8ZzhUKxy.

Why Hindutva Loves to hate Ashoka the Great

Ashokan lions adorn Indian currency and the Dharmachakra features in the tricolour. Neither symbol has any sanctity for the ideologues of the ruling dispensation.

ashoka

Thousands of kings and emperors shone for a brief moment in history, then quickly disappeared. But in ‘The Outline of History: The Whole Story of Man’, H.G. Wells writes, “Ashoka shines and shines brightly like a bright star, even unto this day.” The famous British historian EH Carr also wrote, “What is history? It is a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts, an unending dialogue between the present and the past.”

Yet, history is a continuous ‘us versus them’ for some individuals and outfits in India. Their interaction with the past typically degenerates into a vicious monologue aimed to vitiate the present and control the future. Nowhere is their vandalism of history more visible than what the Hindutva brigade is doing to the last great Mauryan ruler, Ashoka (304-232 BCE). Often compared with a medieval Mughal ruler—whom the Hindutvadis detest and distort in equal measure—they are now transforming the Ashokan period beyond recognition into a symbol of cruelty and bigotry.

Ashoka is widely known to have filled with remorse after the tremendous bloodshed in the battle of Kalinga. After that, he is known to have devoted his life to “conquest by Dhamma or right/moral life”. It is less known that Ashoka was among the earliest rulers to launch public utilities such as hospitals, encouraged tree-plantation, dug public wells and ordered the construction of rest houses along roads. His commitment to public reason is considered phenomenal, as he, two hundred years before Christ, organised the earliest open general meetings in the world.

( Read the full article here)

वैष्णवजन की खोज में : अपूर्वानंद

न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनिशिएटिव की तरफ से आयोजित ‘डेमोक्रेसी डायलॉग्स सीरीज ‘  का 12 वां व्याख्यान अग्रणी लेखक, स्तम्भकार, दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय में हिंदी विभाग से सम्बद्ध  प्रोफेसर अपूर्वानंद 6 बजे शाम, रविवार, 28 नवम्बर 2021 को प्रस्तुत करेंगे। 

विषय : ‘वैष्णवजन की खोज में’ 


वैष्णवजन  की  कल्पना को राजनीतिक और सामाजिक पटल पर स्थापित करने का श्रेय गाँधी को है। इस बात पर  ध्यान जाना चाहिए  कि उपनिवेशवाद विरोधी आंदोलन में या राष्ट्र की स्वतंत्रता  के संघर्ष में गाँधी ने  वैष्णवजन को संभवतः इस आंदोलन के लिए  आदर्श आंदोलनकारी के रूप में पेश किया। वह कैसा जन है? पीर और पराई , इन दोनों से उसका रिश्ता क्या होगा? और क्यों  एक सच्चा जनतांत्रिक जन वैष्णवजन ही हो सकता है? हमारे संविधान की प्रस्तावना में हम भारत के लोग जिस यात्रा पर निकले हैं क्या वह इस  वैष्णवजनत्व की तलाश की यात्रा है?”

हिंदी तथा अंग्रेजी  अख़बारों तथा अन्य प्रकाशनों में  तथा  टीवी की चर्चाओं में अपनी निरंतर सशक्त उपस्थिति दर्ज करते रहने वाले प्रोफेसर अपूर्वानंद सार्वजनिक जीवन में न्याय, समता  और तार्किकता के पक्ष में अपने सक्रिय हस्तक्षेप के लिए जाने जाते हैं .

आप ने कई किताबें भी लिखी  हैं, जिनमें से कुछ के शीर्षक इस प्रकार हैं : ‘सुंदर का स्वप्न ‘ ( वाणी प्रकाशन, 2001 ) , ‘साहित्य का एकांत’ ( वाणी प्रकाशन , 2008 ), The Idea of University ( Context, 2018 ) , Education at the Crossroads ( Niyogi Books, 2018 )

व्याख्यान फेसबुक पर live होगा  : facebook.com/newsocialistinitiative.nsi

अगर आप zoom पर जुड़ना चाहते हैं तो हमें democracydialogues@gmail.com पर लिखें 

Mission 2024, the Congress and Beyond

Representational image, courtesy Sabrang

As the decisive battle of 2024 draws closer by the day and restiveness grows, alignments and realignments will also become more apparent. The tragedy is that while the image of Narendra Modi and his regime has taken a severe beating, there is still no visible alternative in sight. As a matter of fact, the entire opposition seems to be going from one crisis to another. A few state parties do give some hope and the possibility of a federal front with chief ministers of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra and possibly, a couple of Congress chief ministers making common cause, does hold some promise in the short run. The point though is, whichever way one looks at it, there is little doubt that in any future permutation and combination, the Congress may not have a leading role to play but it will still have a significant presence. Its present state of dysfunction, therefore, is a matter of worry and concern for a very large number of people outside the normal periphery of Congress supporters and traditional voters. A party without a President and without a functioning Working Committee is not likely to instill hope in its ability to provide any kind of leadership in the near future.

Continue reading Mission 2024, the Congress and Beyond

Why BJP Wants Meat Banned in Mathura

The BJP is imposing harmful dietary restrictions and refusing to accept that more Indians want to consume meat, fish and eggs for their nutritional benefits.

Mathura
Representational use only

.

In 1902, the prolific British writer HG Wells delivered a philosophical speech titled “The Discovery of the Future” at the Royal Institution in London. Wells is often remembered for his “predictions”, for example, the approximate date when the second world war would begin. In this speech, he envisioned something else with equally significant ramifications—the collapse of the capitalist system. Wells also anticipated that a world of peace and plenty would follow in its wake.

What if someone, following Wells example, attempts a similar extrapolation for India? If anybody could foresee such things, what would they find lies ahead for the “biggest democracy” in the world?

In the absence of Wells, perhaps present-day events can be a map or guide to the future. For example, during recent Janamashtmi celebrations, Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced that his government would ban meat and liquor in Mathura city. He said the meat-sellers and liquor dealers of the area could switch to selling milk. According to his government, a meat and liquor ban would help combine “modern technology” with the cultural and spiritual heritage of the region.

( Read the full article here)

Nationalism : Then and Now – Professor Mridula Mukherjee

The 10 th lecture in the Democracy Dialogues Series organised by New Socialist Initiative was delivered by Prof Mridula Mukherjee ( Retd.) on Sunday, 12 th Sepember at 6 PM ( IST). She spoke on ‘Nationalism : Then and Now’

Prof. Mridula Mukherjee, was associated with Centre for Historical Studies, JNU for a long time and was also Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, ( NMML), New Delhi.

Well known as a historian for her work on the role of peasants in the Indian independence movement, she has authored two important books on the theme, Peasants in India’s Non-Violent Revolution ( Sage 2004) and Colonising Agriculture : Myth of Punjab Exceptionalism ( Sage 2005). She has also coauthored books with Prof Bipan Chandra, Prof Aditya Mukherjee on ‘India’s Struggle for Independence’ ( Penguin 2000) and ‘India After Independence‘ ( Penguin 2008). The monograph ‘RSS, School Texts and Murder of Mahatma Gandhi‘ which she has coauthored with Prof Aditya Mukherjee and Prof Sucheta Mahajan has been widely appreciated.

In this lecture Prof Mridula Mukherjee discussed Nationalism and its origins as a modern ideology, how nations are historical constructs with each nation having its own distinctive historical evolution and the emergence of two kinds of nationalism and how the present notion of aggressive, chauvinistic nationalism is in sharp contrast to the once evolved by the freedom struggle and how the task of preventing the appropriation of nationalism and its creative linking to progressive agenda is the need of the hour.

Please write to us at democracydialogues@gmail.com if you are interested in getting upadates about the series.

The lecture series is available on  facebook.com/newsocialistinitiative.nsi as well.

( Here is a playlist of earlier lectures in the Democracy Dialogues Series :

Missing footsoldiers seek positivity amid raging pandemic

While Rome never burned, Nero never played the fiddle…

RSS

Pragya Singh Thakur, the Lok Sabha Member of Parliament from Bhopal, would never have imagined that the leading Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar would mark her return to her constituency after a 70-day gap with a sarcastic article published on its front page. The headline read, “He Digvijayi Sadhvi Pragya! Shukriya, Aap Ko Bhopal ki Yaad to Aayi—O World Conqueror, Many Thanks, You Remembered Bhopal at Last.”

The daily was giving vent to the feelings of the lakhs of citizens of the capital of Madhya Pradesh. Some had even organised a social media campaign revolving around their “missing” MP.

The last time Thakur was in the city was 2 March, to participate in a condolence meeting for a BJP leader. Thereafter, she was away from the city. The intervening period had proved extremely harsh for residents due to the deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already claimed hundreds of lives

The anger of citizens was palpable. That is why the daily asked her, “When Bhopal was sick and desperate for help, you were not to be seen. When the city needed oxygen and Remdesivir, you were still not here.”

The absence of an elected leader belonging to the ruling dispensation when people need her the most raises a pertinent question. Was this an exception? Forget the fact that the BJP-Sangh Parivar repeatedly claim they are “disciplined soldiers”, a number of those associated with right-wing organisations have gone missing in action. 

( Read the full article here)

covid-19 mismanagement : Can india ‘do’ a brazil ?

Brazil’s Parliamentary Enquiry is probing the way the Bolsonaro-led government handled the pandemic leading to the deaths of 4,00,000 Brazilians.

Covid mismangement

Jail Bolsonaro, the far right President of Brazil, is a worried man these days. The next round of elections for the post of President is merely a year away and there is a strong possibility that his bete noire Lula – former President of Brazil between 2003 and 2011 – can be in the ring to challenge him. The Supreme Court of Brazil has annulled Lula’s two bribery convictions, and if he plans the 75 year old charismatic Lula can give him a tough challenge.

The worrisome aspect is the unfolding Parliamentary Enquiry, which seeks to focus on the way the Brazil government handled the pandemic, what his critics call ‘disastrous and potentially criminal response to Covid that has killed 4,00,000 Brazilians and the nightmare still continues.

An indication of the fact that this enquiry is not going to be a formality can be gauged from the way one of its key members, Sen Humberto Costa, who was a former health minister, put it; he said, “It is a true health, economic, and political tragedy, and the main responsibility lies with the president,” and he believes there is enough evidence to conclude that Bolsonaro committed “crimes against humanity”. Costa is not alone in his assessment of Bolsonaro, many other analysts have also used similar label for him.

( Read the full text here)

Post-Election Musings -Federalism to the Fore: Nakul Singh Sawhney

Guest post by NAKUL SINGH SAWHNEY

Some observations and takeaways from State Assembly elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Assam in May 2021 – from an original Facebook post. The observations are in the form of informal reflections but they point towards certain developments that might open up new, anticipated spaces for the struggle for a democratic India.

Federalism: The Election verdicts of May 2, 2021, from Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Kerala scream ‘federalism’. The election results are so vastly different in the State Assemblies and Lok Sabha. The election outcomes of Delhi, Maharashtra, Haryana, West Bengal, Kerala are important examples of this phenomenon.

India is a country that naturally lends itself to federalism and greater state autonomy. While the Congress, by and large, didn’t allow for it, the BJP is hell-bent on a deeply centralized structure and crushing any aspiration for regional autonomy. If progressive forces don’t take up the question of federalism and state autonomy, then it runs the risk of slipping into the hands of crude chauvinists and xenophobes like Shiv Sena of yesteryears or secessionists like Khalistanis.

Continue reading Post-Election Musings -Federalism to the Fore: Nakul Singh Sawhney

Hey Ram ( Rajya) !

Teachers as Cannon Fodder During Covid 19 ?

covid 19 ram rajya

There is in every village a torch – the teacher; and an extinguisher – the priest.” -Victor Hugo

Hugo, the great French writer and activist, had famously described the role education or a teacher plays in a backward society, where education was still a preserve of the few.

Perhaps we Indians can associate with it more since this has been a society where education was denied to the vast majority of people for hundreds of years just because they were born into so-called unclean families. How the mere exposure to rudimentary education could transform someone like a Muktabai – a girl born to one of the depressed caste families – challenges these age-old denials with vehemence.

It can be said with a degree of certainty that Hugo would not have envisaged a situation when the Priest himself assumes power or where a monk himself becomes the ruler.

The biggest state within the Indian Union, namely Uttar Pradesh, with a population of more than 200 million people, provides a glimpse of this phenomenon unfolds in the field of education. The state is presently governed by monk-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath; a man who till he became Chief Minister was a member of Parliament and had the sole experience of running a religious mutt.

Reports mention that 135 teachers and teaching assistants died owing to their duties in Panchayat elections in the state. A teachers’ association said how right from the days of training teachers for election duty to the actual elections, thousands of teachers and teaching assistants had contracted COVID-19.The counting of votes for these elections will occur on May 2.

( Read the full article here)

Living with the Virus ?

Whether people of the world will have to learn to live with the virus?

As India and many parts of the world seem to be engulfed by the second or third wave of the Coronavirus epidemic – which looks more dangerous – this idea is being pushed from different quarters.  Newspaper articles or surveys or studies have appeared in different publications which seem to be pushing this narrative.

Sample conclusions of a study done jointly by Emory and Penn State University which say “One year after its emergence, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has become so widespread that there is little hope of elimination.” This appeared in an article in USA Today . A famous journal Nature also shared a survey which talked to Scientists and around 90 per cent of the Scientists polled talked of how Covid is likely to be endemic in pockets of the global population.(do)

Continue reading Living with the Virus ?

If Comment is Free, Why are Dissenters Being Locked Up?

THE STATE LOOKS THE OTHER WAY ONLY WHEN RIGHT-WING FOOTSOLDIERS TARGET INNOCENT PEOPLE AND PROVOKE VIOLENCE.

If Comment is Free, Why are Dissenters Being Locked Up?

A foreigner, returning from a trip to the Third Reich,

When asked who ruled there, answered:

Fear…

The Regime, Bertolt Brecht.

Those occasions on which judicial verdicts bring cheer are getting rarer. As everyone who supports gender justice rejoices over the victory of senior journalist Priya Ramani in the defamation case filed against her by ex-minister MJ Akbar, it is also time to get excited over another judgement passed in another court.

In an ambience in which dissent is increasingly criminalised, this judgement by a Delhi court, which grants bail to two people accused of posting “fake” videos related to the ongoing farmer movement, is also a breath of fresh air.

The prosecution argued that these videos—which seemed to express discontent among police officers against the government—could create disaffection against the government. Instead of agreeing, the judge hearing the case handed out a tutorial to the government as to when the law on spreading disaffection is actually to be applied.

The law, the prosecution was told, can be invoked only when there is a “call to violence”. The judge underlined that the law to punish sedition is an important instrument to maintain peace and order, and it cannot be invoked to quieten disquiet while pretending to muzzle miscreants.

Any student of law knows that the judge’s declarations resonate with two historic judgements delivered by the highest court of the country, namely the Kedarnath Singh vs State of Bihar ruling from 1962 and the Balwant Singh and Bhupinder Singh vs State of Punjab government case from 1995, which specifically emphasise that the charge of sedition can be used only when violence is invoked or where there are attempts to create disorder.

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मौजूदा किसान आन्दोलन पर वक्तव्य : रवि सिन्हा

Guest Post by Ravi Sinha

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किसानों के इस आन्दोलन को उसके तात्कालिक उद्देश्यों और सम्भावनाओं मात्र के सन्दर्भ में देखें तो भी यह ऐतिहासिक है. अपनी अंतिम और सम्भावित सफलता से स्वतन्त्र इसकी उपलब्धियाँ अभी ही ऐतिहासिक महत्त्व की साबित हो चुकी हैं. लेकिन इस आन्दोलन के अर्थ और इसकी सम्भावनायें और भी बड़ी हैं. भारत की दुर्दशा के इस घोर अँधेरे में, जहाँ अधिनायकवादी फ़ासिस्ट शक्तियों के ख़िलाफ़ प्रतिरोध की सम्भावनााओं को एक के बाद एक कुचल दिया जाता रहा है, यह आन्दोलन एक मशाल बनकर सामने आया है. किसानों से शुरू होकर यह आन्दोलन सिर्फ़ किसानों का नहीं रह गया  है. पंजाब और हरियाणा के किसानों के द्वारा दिल्ली को घेरने से शुरू हुई यह मुहिम अब दिल्ली की सत्ता को घेरने वाली चौतरफ़ा मुहिम का रूप लेती जा रही है. हम किसानों के इस आन्दोलन को सर्वप्रथम इसलिए समर्थन देते हैं और उसमें इस लिये शामिल हैं कि उनकी माँगें जायज़ हैं और इस सरकार द्वारा ज़बरदस्ती लाये गये तीनों क़ानूनों को लेकर उनकी आशंकायें वास्तविक हैं. और हम इस आन्दोलन को इसलिये सलाम करते हैं और इससे प्रेरणा लेते हैं कि यह अँधेरे में रौशनी की मशाल बनकर सामने आया है.

 अगर हम आंदोलन की तात्कालिक माँगों और उद्देश्यों की विस्तृत चर्चा यहाँ नहीं करते हैं तो इसका अर्थ यह नहीं कि इनके जायज़ और ऐतिहासिक महत्त्व के होने में हमें कोई संदेह है. अब यह जगज़ाहिर है कि ये तीनों क़ानून उस शैतानी योजना का हिस्सा हैं जिसके तहत कृषि क्षेत्र को कारपोरेट पूँजी के प्रत्यक्ष आधिपत्य में ले जाने की तैयारी है. यह न केवल किसानों की रही-सही आर्थिक सुरक्षा को समाप्त करेगा, सरकार को उसकी जिम्मेदारी से मुक्त करेगा और न्यूनतम समर्थन मूल्य तथा राज्य-संचालित मंडियों की व्यवस्था को तोड़ देगा, बल्कि यह पूरे देश की आम जनता की खाद्य-सुरक्षा – जितनी भी है और जैसी भी है – को ख़तरे में डाल देगा. साथ ही ये क़ानून भारत के संघीय ढाँचे के विरुद्ध भी हैं, और केन्द्र द्वारा राज्यों के अधिकारों का अतिक्रमण हैं. यह सब आप सभी को मालूम है और इन कारणों से ही इस आंदोलन का सूत्रपात हुआ है.

Continue reading मौजूदा किसान आन्दोलन पर वक्तव्य : रवि सिन्हा

Pandemic Lowers India’s Level of Democracy

THIS GOVERNMENT HAS STIGMATISED THE VERY IDEA OF PROTEST, YET IT IS STRUGGLING TO MANAGE THE MASS UPSURGE AGAINST THE FARM LAWS.

Parliament Closed

For nearly a month, lakhs of farmers have staged sit-ins on various points along the border shared by the national capital and neighbouring states. Their peaceful movement, which is drawing support from farmers across the country, is meant to persuade the government to repeal the farm-related laws that it pushed through Parliament in September.

The farmers have refused to accept the government’s claim that the new laws would benefit them. They insist that these laws would dismantle state procurement and open up agriculture to contract farming, which would only help big corporations. They have also been insisting that corporations will amass essential food commodities and manipulate stocks and prices, for the government has also revoked stocking limits.

The three laws were initially introduced as ordinances this summer while the Covid-19 pandemic was raging and the country was still segregated into red, green and amber zones. Thereafter, they were passed in Parliament without discussion or debate. The manner of their introduction—rather, imposition—threw all democratic norms to the winds and so farmers see no reason to trust the intention behind them either.

Farmers do not look forward to a time when large retail chains would dictate terms and impose conditions on them. They rightly say that these laws would usher in an attack on the right to food security of working people and escalate food prices, which would hurt all consumers.

The immediate response of the government to the concerns of farmers was to repress and distort their movement. Not a day has passed without fresh abuse hurled at them. Starting from “Khalistani” to “Urban Naxal” to “anti-national” to “fake farmers”, every trick in the book has been tried to stigmatise them. Nor have the authorities made serious efforts to stop those who are maligning this historic peaceful protest.

( Read the full article here)

Farm Laws, Farmer Protests and Agrarian Crisis : Dr Jaya mehta

 

Dr Jaya Mehta, economist and activist, has been associated with the Joshi-Adhikari Institute of Social Studies, author of many books who coordinated an all India study of the Agrarian Crisis delivered a special lecture on ‘Farm Laws, Farmer Protests and Agrarian Crisis’ on 27 th December 2020.
Abstract of talk :
The reforms in agricultural marketing contained in the three farm laws were first announced by the finance minister on 15th May 2020 as Prime Minister’s relief package for the people. When Covid and lock-down had created crisis in the entire economy, migrant workers were walking hundreds of kilometers to reach home and the majority of households desperately needed state support and protection, the Modi government chose to withdraw state intervention and deregulate market forces in agriculture to leave people in complete disarray. After the controversial monsoon session of parliament, the reforms to deregulate market became laws.

Continue reading Farm Laws, Farmer Protests and Agrarian Crisis : Dr Jaya mehta

Fascism, Democracy and the Left : Com Dipankar Bhattacharya

 

The 6th lecture in the Democracy Dialogues series organized by the New Socialist Initiative was delivered by Com Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary of CPI (ML) Liberation on 20 th December 6 pm (IST) where he spoke on ‘Fascism, Democracy and the Left’

Abstract  : ‘Fascism, Democracy, and the Left’

With the rise of the Modi government, BJP has managed to establish a vicious grip on Indian polity. Parliamentary democracy and the constitutional vision of a secular democratic Indian republic have come under fierce attack. Instead of remaining busy with studying historical parallels we should treat the present phase as the rise of the Indian model of fascism and resist it with all our might. While we can locate the present Indian developments in the context of global economic and political trends in the post-Soviet world, there are strong roots in Indian history and society. One should revisit Ambedkar and the warnings he had issued right at the time of adoption of India’s Constitution.
The Left vision and role in politics has been historically identified with ideas and experiments of building socialism, but the challenge for socialism to offer a superior model of democracy has remained fatally neglected. In the face of a fascist offensive, the Left in India must emerge and assert as the most consistent and reliable champion of democracy.

Continue reading Fascism, Democracy and the Left : Com Dipankar Bhattacharya

किसान आंदोलन की माँगों और 8 तारीख के भारत बंद के समर्थन में जारी बयान

( न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनीशिएटिवदलित लेखक संघअखिल भारतीय दलित लेखिका मंचप्रगतिशील लेखक संघजन संस्कृति मंचइप्टासंगवारीप्रतिरोध का सिनेमा और जनवादी लेखक संघ द्वारा किसान आंदोलन की माँगों और  तारीख के भारत बंद के समर्थन में जारी बयान  )

Image : Courtesy Reuters

तीन जनद्रोही कृषि-क़ानूनों के खिलाफ़ किसानों के ऐतिहासिक आन्दोलन का साथ दें!

केन्द्र सरकार के कार्पोरेटपरस्त एजेण्डा के विरोध में अपनी आवाज़ बुलन्द करें!

दिसम्बर के भारत बंद को सफल बनाएं!

 भारत का किसान – जिसके संघर्षों और कुर्बानियों का एक लम्बा इतिहास रहा है – आज एक ऐतिहासिक मुक़ाम पर खड़ा है।

हज़ारों-लाखों की तादाद में उसके नुमाइन्दे राजधानी दिल्ली की विभिन्न सरहदों पर धरना दिए हुए हैं और उन तीन जनद्रोही क़ानूनों की वापसी की मांग कर रहे हैं जिनके ज़रिए इस हुकूमत ने एक तरह से उनकी तबाही और बरबादी के वॉरंट पर दस्तख़त किए हैं। अपनी आवाज़ को और बुलंद करने के लिए किसान संगठनों की तरफ़ से 8 दिसम्बर को भारत बंद का ऐलान किया गया है।

सरकार भले ही यह दावा करे कि ये तीनों क़ानून – जिन्हें महामारी के दिनों में पहले अध्यादेश के ज़रिए लागू किया गया था और फिर तमाम जनतांत्रिक परंपराओं को ताक़ पर रखते हुए संसद में पास किया गया – किसानों की भलाई के लिए हैं, लेकिन यह बात बहुत साफ़ हो चुकी है कि इनके ज़रिए राज्य द्वारा अनाज की खरीद की प्रणाली को समाप्त करने और इस तरह बड़े कॉर्पोरेट घरानों के लिए ठेका आधारित खेती करने तथा आवश्यक खाद्य सामग्री की बड़ी मात्रा में जमाखोरी करने की राह हमवार की जा रही है।

लोगों के सामने यह भी साफ़ है कि यह महज़ किसानों का सवाल नहीं बल्कि मेहनतकश अवाम के लिए अनाज की असुरक्षा का सवाल भी है। अकारण नहीं कि किसानों के इस अभूतपूर्व आन्दोलन के साथ खेतमज़दूरों, औद्योगिक मज़दूरों के संगठनों तथा नागरिक समाज के तमाम लोगों, संगठनों ने अपनी एकजुटता प्रदर्शित की है।

 जनतंत्र और संवाद हमेशा साथ चलते हैं। लेकिन आज यह दिख रहा है कि मौजूदा निज़ाम की ओर से जिस ‘न्यू इंडिया’ के आगमन की बात की जा रही है, उसके तहत जनतंत्र के नाम पर अधिनायकवाद की स्थापना का खुला खेल चल रहा है।

आज की तारीख में सरकार किसान संगठनों के साथ वार्ता करने के लिए मजबूर हुई है, मगर इसे असंभव करने की हर मुमकिन कोशिश सरकार की तरफ़ से अब तक की जाती रही है। उन पर लाठियां बरसायी गयीं, उनके रास्ते में तमाम बाधाएं खड़ी की गयी, यहां तक कि सड़कें भी काटी गयीं। यह किसानों का अपना साहस और अपनी जीजीविषा ही थी कि उन्होंने इन कोशिशों को नाकाम किया और अपने शांतिपूर्ण संघर्ष के काफ़िलों को लेकर राजधानी की सरहदों तक पहुंच गए।

किसानों के इस आन्दोलन के प्रति मुख्यधारा के मीडिया का रवैया कम विवादास्पद नहीं रहा। न केवल उसने आन्दोलन के वाजिब मुद्दों को लेकर चुप्पी साधे रखी बल्कि सरकार तथा उसकी सहमना दक्षिणपंथी ताक़तों द्वारा आन्दोलन को बदनाम करने की तमाम कोशिशों का भी जम कर साथ दिया। आंदोलन को विरोधी राजनीतिक पार्टी द्वारा प्रायोजित बताया गया, किसानों को खालिस्तान समर्थक तक बताया गया।

दरअसल, विगत कुछ सालों यही सिलसिला आम हो चला है। हर वह आवाज़ जो सरकारी नीतियों का विरोध करती हो – भले ही वह नागरिकता क़ानून हो, सांप्रदायिक दंगे हों, नोटबंदी हो – उसे बदनाम करने और उसका विकृतिकरण करने की साज़िशें रची गयीं। किसानों का आंदोलन भी इससे अछूता नहीं है।

यह सकारात्मक है कि इन तमाम बाधाओं के बावजूद किसान शांतिपूर्ण संघर्ष की अपनी राह पर डटे हैं।

हम सामाजिक-सांस्कृतिक संगठन किसानों के इस अभूतपूर्व आन्दोलन के प्रति अपनी एकजुटता प्रगट करते हैं। हम जनता तथा जनता के संगठनों, पार्टियों से अपील करते हैं कि वे इस आन्दोलन के साथ जुड़ें और 8 दिसम्बर के भारत बंद को सफल बनाकर केंद्र सरकार को एक स्पष्ट संदेश दें।

हम सरकार से यह मांग करते हैं कि वह अपना अड़ियल रवैया छोड़े और तीन जनद्रोही कृषि-क़ानूनों को रद्द करने का ऐलान करे।

 हम आंदोलनरत किसानों से भी अपील करते हैं कि वे शांति के अपने रास्ते पर अडिग रहें।

जीत न्याय की होगी ! जीत सत्य की होगी !! जीत हमारी होगी !!

न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनीशिएटिव   दलित लेखक संघ   अखिल भारतीय दलित लेखिका मंच   प्रगतिशील लेखक संघ   जन संस्कृति मंच   इप्टा   संगवारी   प्रतिरोध का सिनेमा   जनवादी लेखक संघ