The Unapologetic Indian Muslim: Sabiha Farhat

Guest Post by SABIHA FARHAT

These are tough times for muslims in India.  But now that I look back and shed my ‘liberal’ prejudices – muslims were never acceptable as ‘who they were’ in Indian society.  I had always blamed my mother for not giving me proper lunch box to carry to school.  But the truth is that even in class 5, no student ate from my tiffin and gradually I started going to the play field in recess rather than enjoying a meal under the big Peepal tree.  After that I took tiffin only when I prepared it myself, that was class 11 & 12.  But even then the girls would hardly eat from my lunch box.  We did sit together but no one touched my food.  Was I the Untouchable?

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Individuality and a Liberal Error – A Response to Pratap Mehta: Huzaifa Omair Siddiqi

Guest post by HUZAIFA OMAIR SIDDIQI

It has often been broadcast that we live in a post-truth age. In fact we live in an age better envisioned as one of post-certainty, where everything and every fact is liable to be pronounced uncertain and doubtful. The problem with the mainstream liberal discourse is its inability to catch up to the inevitable demise of certainty in the political sphere. What was most certain, according to Descartes, was the being of one’s own ego. In this age of post-certainty, this is the last certainty which the liberal discourse still seems to stick to, in the name of ‘individual rights’, without ever understanding the real essence of the question of individuality.

Muhammad Iqbal was the public intellectual of the last century who made this question of individuality his very own guiding question. This guiding question, how does individuation happen, was part of his desire to formulate his basic question, how does the community of individuals come into being? Pratap Bhanu Mehta, in his opinion piece in The Indian Express has sought to diagnose the tragedy of Iqbal as one which in its sacrifice of the rights of the individual, attempted to pursue the consolidation of the truly spiritual community. Mehta, one of India’s finest public intellectuals, cannot be questioned within this paradigm of liberal thinking.

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Take back the Poison-Rain: Ambikasutan Mangad’s Swarga

Swarga_300_RGBWhen I first encountered Enmakaje, it was already much praised in Kerala as the powerful little book that aroused the Malayali’s moral conscience towards the unspeakable tragedy wrought by the unbelievably-callous aerial spraying of the insecticide Endosulphan in north Kerala, over some of the most lush, verdant areas of the State. It was criticised by some for what I thought was a very interesting experiment with form: it begins as fiction, slowly shades into a historical account of the beginnings of the anti-Endosulphan struggle in north Kerala, and then shades back, in the end, to fiction again. For me, Enmakaje was much more than an activist tale. It was a determined effort to renew the Malayali self, through a prayerful weaving and imaginative retelling of the many stories that have shaped us. Reading of Neelakantan’s and Devayani’s stories, one remembers these stories, but differently. For example, what if Raman and Seetha left Ayodhya forever, renouncing its sickening power games? What if Adam and Eve voluntarily renounced Paradise? What if Vararuchi’s wife had rebelled in the origin-story of Kerala, of the Parayi petta panthirukulam?

Juggernaut has just published my translation of this gem of a book, and the title of the English version is Swarga: A Posthuman Tale . Below is an excerpt from the book.

 

It was past midnight.

Jayarajan started from his sleep and sharpened his ears for sounds from outside.

He shook Neelakantan, who was fast asleep, awake. Neelakantan woke to darkness assailing his open eyes. He was frightened.

‘What is it?’

In a trembling voice, Jayarajan said, ‘Something is happening outside. I can hear noises.’

Neelakantan’s throat was parched. He asked in a loud voice, ‘Who is there outside?’

Jayarajan noticed his fear in the dim light of the lantern.

‘Not human beings. Something like a storm and strong winds . . . I can’t make out much . . .’

Neelakantan’s breath returned.

‘Oh, that! Must be the wind . . . I’ve been scared ever since you came in . . . it’s just that I didn’t show it. You lie down, I’ll see you off tomorrow morning; put you on the first bus back. It is not at all safe for you to come and stay here again.’

Jayarajan got up.

‘Come, let’s go out for a bit.’

Neelakantan yawned. His voice was lazy. ‘The rain and wind will go their own way. You should lie down.’

Jayarajan took his hand and made him get up.

‘I’ve seen quite a bit of rain and wind too . . . but something extraordinary is happening outside.’

Neelakantan began to listen, alert now. There was a whole symphony of unpleasant sounds rising outside.

Taking care not to wake Devayani, they opened the door and stepped out.

They saw the most unbelievable sights on top of the Jadadhari Hill.

The huge trees were shaking hard, writhing, in the wind. From the clouds above, golden-coloured lightning-snakes descended, falling on the tops of the massive trees and enveloping them. As if from the impact of the lightning, the tall trees bowed as low as the ground, seeking to shake off the golden serpents . . .

In the next moment, the wind came hurtling like a demon’s hand, swooping up the trees. The branches clung and cleaved to each other as if in a paroxysm of desire, and shivered as though in the throes of an orgasm. And then, the lightning-serpents returned, and the whole cycle began again.

Startled, Jayarajan asked, ‘What is happening up there?’

For a few moments, Neelakantan had no words. He kept watching the hill’s frenzied dance and then said, ‘Terrible thunder and lightning. And the wind and rain besides. All of it together, that’s all.’

But even as he said those words, he knew how inadequate they were. Human language was too limited to describe this miraculous phenomenon. It was too vast to be comprehended by puny human consciousness.

‘Look, it is raining on top of the hill,’ Jayarajan pointed out. ‘Some of it is falling here too. But just see – there is not even a sign of rain or wind anywhere near here. Here the trees are still as if they have stopped breathing. It is a miracle . . . let me call chechi.’

‘No, she will be scared.’

Jayarajan remembered Devappa’s words. ‘On the night of the Kozhikkettu in Bhagyathimaarkandam, no one goes out!’

‘Two years ago, on a night like this, I heard the jungle sway like this around midnight. I thought it was a storm and did not go out.’

‘I think,’ Jayarajan said and stopped.

‘What?’

‘Is this really Siva’s dance of destruction, the thandava? Isn’t this the Jadadhari Hill?’

Neelakantan asked, ‘Are you a believer?’

‘No. What about you?’

‘I haven’t been to temples or shrines after I began to see things differently . . . In my view, Siva is Nature itself. Siva exists in every leaf, every flower. The thandava that you mentioned–’

‘The dance of destruction of Siva, who swallowed the divine serpent Vasuki’s deadly venom! This is it! Is this thandava- Jadadhari Hill’s, Nature’s – that means Siva’s – own attempt to shake off the terrible chemical poison, so like Vasuki’s venom, the Kalakoota?’

‘You tie up everything to your consciousness of the environment!’

Jayarajan pointed out: ‘See, the wind’s grasping fist now eases. The lightning retreats. The rain and thunder depart. The trees stand up straight once again.’

Neelakantan nodded, his eyes wide open and filled with the magic in the air. Yes, the dance of destruction was now ebbing.

Excerpted with permission of Juggernaut Books from Swarga by Ambikasutan Mangad, translated by J Devika available in bookstores and on Juggernaut.

 

Reclaiming Punjab University-Student Protests Erupt in Chandigarh: Prerna Trehan

Guest Post by Prerna Trehan

While walking through the lawns between the Library and the Chemistry Department , one is confronted with the sudden and  scary sight of policemen brandishing canes.

One of the policemen says, threateningly : “Go inside, before we start shooting bombs” (of tear gas). Behind him two policemen leap at a bewildered group of boys raining lathis and choicest of abuses.

This scene could be right out of the woeful alleys of Palestine, Syria or even Kashmir. However, the events that it describes  took place yesterday in Panjab University, nestled in India’s first planned city, Nehru’s vision of modernity-Chandigarh.

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Remembering M. Rasheed – A Grandchild’s Political Farewell: Bobby Kunhu

Guest post by BOBBY KUNHU

Rasheed, a political activist, award winning journalist and activist was one of the founders of the Trotskyite movement in India and the RSP in Kerala. He passed away on the 6th of January, 2017

M. Rasheed

It is very unusual for a grandchild to write public obituaries for grandparents – but Comrade M. Rasheed was a person of unusual politics and his death definitely warrants an unusual response requiring the obituary also to be unusual. Given that the significance of Comrade Rasheed’s life was his unwavering integrity to ideals that he fell into the bad books of his father and walked out of the political party he co-founded, given that he never shied from expressing his opinion on anyone – it would only be right in writing this as a critique of the human being he was – and I am sure he would not have expected anything less from me. Continue reading “Remembering M. Rasheed – A Grandchild’s Political Farewell: Bobby Kunhu”

Remembering Chandu, Friend and Comrade: Kavita Krishnan

Chandrashekhar (Comrade Chandu)

Guest Post by Kavita Krishnan

It’s been twenty years since the assassin’s bullets took Chandu away from us, at 4 pm on 31 March 1997.

I still recall my sheer disbelief when a phone call from my party office at my hostel that evening informed me ‘Chandu has been killed.’ Chandrashekhar as well as youth leader Shyam Narayan Yadav had been shot dead while addressing a street corner meeting in Siwan – ironically at a Chowk named after JP – Jaiprakash Narayan, icon of the movement for democracy against the Emergency. A rickshaw puller Bhuteli Mian also fell to a stray bullet fired by the assassins – all known to be henchmen of the RJD MP and mafia don Mohd. Shahabuddin.

In the spring of 1997, as JNU began to burst into the riotous colours of amaltas and bougainvillea, Chandu bid us goodbye. He had served two terms as JNUSU President (I was Joint Secretary during his second stint) and had decided to return to his hometown Siwan, as a whole-time activist of the CPI(ML) Liberation. He had made the decision to be a whole-time activist a long time ago. Chandu’s friends know that for him, the decision to be an activist rather than pursue a salaried career was no ‘sacrifice.’ It was a decision to do what he loved doing and felt he owed to society.

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