What does turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque mean for global political practice?
In an unusally brazen move Turkey’s top court recently ruled in favour of transforming Hagia Sophia, a museum of global tourist attraction, into a mosque. Originally a cathedral built in pre-Islamic Turkey but converted into a mosque when Ottomans invaded Constantinople in 1453, with the liquidation of the Ottoman Empire, Attaturk transformed it into a museum in 1934 as a secular gesture to herald what is called modern secular Turkey. This was more recently followed by transforming another historic Chora Church, that went exactly through the same iteration, into yet another mosque.
I recently finished watching Sursamalaya’s “Folk Stories” on Youtube, a documentary series made during the lockdown.
“Folk Stories” depicts the art and life of folk artists from many lesser known genres of Assam. It has released one season as of now and is amply promising, for many reasons. One of them is the accessibility offered, in short crisp episodes, to the social and cultural landscape of Assam beyond the genres of Bihu, Borgeet and Sattriya popularly known to the mainstream.
In the first episode, we meet Mehu Bora from Golaghat who builds traditional instruments like tokari (stringed instrument), dotara (stringed instrument), bahi (flute), pepa (hornpipe) etc.
Sur Samalaya Resource Centre for Arts was established in 1990 by renowned folk artist Dijen Gogoi. What began with a small workshop on instrument-making, later took off to train many local youth in producing almost 100 indigenous musical instruments belonging to various communities of North East India. The Research and Documentation cell of Sursamalaya looks into research, publication and documentation on indigenous cultures, under the ambit of which the series “Folk Stories” has come into fruition. Continue reading Sursamalaya’s Documentary Series “Folk Stories” – Assam Beyond Bihu, Borgeet and Sattriya: Dipanjali Deka→
‘Secularism’ has now become a bad word and it is quite fashionable to attack, criticize and ridicule it. Just about anyone, regardless of whether s/he has spent even a minute thinking about it, can attack it. A television channel recently even decided to have a vote on whether we should ‘have’ secularism or not, I understand, after an utterly ill-informed debate. It is almost as if the blame for everything that is wrong with Indian society can be laid at the door of this monster called ‘Secularism’. Modern Hindu ideologues have of course, mastered this art of blaming every evil practice of Hindu society on to some ‘Other’: From untouchability and sati to child marriage, purdah and the everyday violence of caste oppression – everything apparently happened because of ‘Islam’ and Christianity’. Later, Marxism and secularism were added to the list. And while we are at it, let us remember that the great Bal Gangadhar Tilak led what was perhaps the first mass nationalist anticolonial mobilization, against raising the Age of Consent of girls for sexual intercourse from 10 to 12 years! Much of that righteous indignation continues to be the hallmark of the new defensiveness that the 21st century ‘raging Hindu’ exhibits.
For everything wrong in the behaviour of these adult men with walrus moustaches, an explanation exists in some founding childhood trauma for which their adulthood can never be held responsible! ‘Secularism’ now is the name of the insistence that wants to hold the modern Hindu responsible for his acts today, rather than let it remain suspended in a permanent state of childhood. I suspect, the term ‘secularism’ today, in Hindu Right discourse, is no longer about the ‘separation of religion and politics’ or ‘sarva dharma samabhava‘ (equal respect for all religions) and ‘dharma-nirpekshata‘ (neutrality between religions) at all, but the ghost-house where all the pathologies of this traumatized child(hood) are played out.
We are publishing below the following statement in support of and solidarity with Dr Maroona Murmu, signed by more than eighty faculty members of Presidency University, was issued yesterday.
We, the undersigned teachers of Presidency University, Kolkata, are shocked to know about the recent attacks on Dr. Maroona Murmu, Associate Professor of History, Jadavpur University, Kolkata.
Dr. Murmu is an accomplished scholar, an activist, and an intellectual. She is an important voice of our time insofar as she regularly writes and speaks about the rights and plights of the Adivasi community. She is a unique personality to have graced the academia with her rare ability to combine scholarship with activism.
We are aware that the academic space in West Bengal, as elsewhere in the country, is, even today, predominantly Brahminical. Students and teachers hailing from SC, ST, and OBC communities regularly face discrimination due to their caste and tribal backgrounds. The suicides of Chuni Kotal, Rohith Vemula, and Payal Tadvi amply demonstrate the fatal consequences of such discrimination. As various instances from academic institutions from across the country suggest, not only students but teachers from such communities also face victimization regularly. We are also aware that only a tiny percentage of such instances of discrimination make it to the news.
The bias that social media platforms such as Facebook display reflects their own world-view as much as it does the regimes they support.
A few gave the appearance of being truly psychopathic individuals. The mass of others were ragged and illiterate peasants easily roused to hatred of the Tutsi. Perhaps the most sinister people I met were the educated political elite, men and women of charm and sophistication who spoke flawless French and who could engage in long philosophical debates about the nature of war and democracy. But they shared one thing in common with the soldiers and the peasants: they were drowning in the blood of their fellow countrymen.
Fergal Kane, a journalist with the BBC, wrote these chilling lines in his book, Season of Blood: A Rwandan Journey, winner of the Orwell prize in 1995. The organised and planned killing in Rwanda, one of the darkest episodes of the 20th century, resulted in the death of eight lakh Tutsi.
It is a strange coincidence that a year and a half before these unfortunate developments, the biggest democracy in the world went through its own cataclysmic moment, when Hindutva supremacist forces demolished a 500-year-old mosque after a long and bloody campaign. Even after the demolition large-scale communal riots broke out all over India, in which thousands died and whose scars are still difficult to heal.
Our Professor turned 54 on August 16, while in the custody of NIA. Prof. Hany Babu M.T. from the Department of English, University of Delhi was arrested on July 28 by the NIA in a series of ongoing harassment of academics, and activists who have been vocal against the government and its policies. This act of suppressing dissenting voices in academic spaces by the State threatens the very fabric of the Indian democracy. Prof. Babu has been a strong advocate for social justice, and has worked strenuously in the anti-caste movement. As a professor of linguistics, his classes have always been about demanding an equal space for the varying languages in India and looking at English as an emancipatory language. His teachings have made, and continue to make students critically approach caste supremacy hidden within the rubric of the Indian language structure. He has always highlighted the need for equality amongst language, and language speakers. Continue reading To Sir, With Love – Birthday Greetings for Professor Hany Babu From His Students→
This post should be read as a sequel to my earlier post of 16 July, which had discussed the discourse of “Hindu Unity” and questions before the struggle against the Right. That post had ended with the claim that the struggle against the Hindu Right is not so much about what we understand as “secularism” as it is about the reconstruction of a larger Bahujan counter-tradition, the search for which was already on.
I should begin with a caveat, or more correctly, an amendment to a position I adopted in the earlier post. In that piece, I had used the terms “anti-majoritarian” discourse and “anti-majoritarianism” to refer to the the larger discursive formation against the Hindu Right. I used that expression largely because I went along part of the way with Abhay Dubey who uses it in his book, to which that piece was a response. However, that expression assumes that there is only one “majority” or only one way of imagining majority in this country. More importantly, it concedes a certain “natural pre-givenness” to the project of Hindu unity as though that were a self-evident fact. The only thing that makes the project of Hindu unity appear so “natural”, it needs to be underlined, is that it is backed by “tradition” and “religion” in a way that say a class notion of majority is not. If we assume that the dominant tradition is the sole tradition, then this term could make sense but as the stirrings of a renewed search for a Bahujan counter-tradition, especially in North India, come into view, it gives us a sense of another possible way of imagining “majority”. It should be underlined here that this renewed search today does not emerge out of the blue from nowhere but draws on the work of earlier medieval thinkers and social/ religious reformers not just in the North (for instance Kabir, Ravi Das and Nanak) but also from Phule, Ayyankali, Sri Narayana Guru, Periyar, Iyothee Thass and many others in the South in more recent times. There is one difference however: rather than use the negative descriptor “Non-Brahmin”, the present search is more explicitly about the production of a Bahujan identity. Ambedkar of course, remains a continuous reference point in this discourse.
Agha Sahab ( Agha Ashraf Ali), passed away at the age of 94 on the 7th of August, 2020.
I was lucky to know Agha Sahab closely because of his intimate connection with Jamia Millia Islamia and our long standing family friendship. He would come down to Delhi in the winter and spend a lot of time at my parents home, drinking tea in the winter sun. But I got to know him as a friend when I started visiting Srinagar from 1999 onwards, for programmes being conducted being by the NGO I worked with . My trips would remain incomplete if I did not visit him.
[Democracy Dialogues Lecture Series ( Webinar) Organised by New Socialist Initiative]
Date and Time: Sunday, August 16, 2020, at 6 PM IST (8.30 AM EST in the US)
Topic: The Structural Contradictions of Indian Democracy and the rise of the BJP
This talk explores the deep social transformations that have made the dominance of the BJP possible. It will take a longer view of the trajectory of Indian democracy and explore the profound changes in social and economic identities underway that have prepared a propitious ground for the rise of the BJP.
The Speaker: Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta
Internationally renowned scholar and political scientist Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta taught at Harvard, at New York University and at JNU. He was the Vice Chancellor of the Ashoka University till recently and served as the President of the premier think tank, Centre for Policy Research. Educated at Oxford and a Ph.D. from Princeton University, Prof Mehta is a columnist at Indian Express, a leading public intellectual and a bold and thoughtful voice for reason and justice. Among many honours and prizes to his credit, he is recipient of the Infosys Prize, the Adisheshiah Prize and the Amartya Sen Prize.
[New Socialist Initiative Presents
Democracy Dialogues – Lecture Series
The idea behind this series – which we call ‘Democracy Dialogues’ – is basically to initiate as well as join in the on-going conversation around this theme in academic as well as activist circles.
We feel that the very idea of democracy which has taken deep roots across the world, has come under scanner for various reasons. At the same time we have been witness to the ascendance of right-wing forces and fascistic demagogues via the same democratic route. There is this apparently anomalous situation in which the spread and deepening of democracy have often led to generating mass support for these reactionary and fascistic forces.
Coming to India, there have been valid concerns about the rise of authoritarian streak among Indians and how it has helped strengthen BJP’s hard right turn. The strong support for democracy here is accompanied by increasing fascination towards majoritarian-authoritarian politics. In fact, we would like to state that a vigorous electoral democracy here has become a vehicle for hindutva-ite counterrevolution.
The inaugural lecture in the series was delivered by Prof Suhas Palshikar on 12 th July 2020. The theme of Prof Palshikar’s presentation was TRAJECTORY OF INDIA’S DEMOCRACY AND CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES]
अगर हम प्रोफेसरों के पदों की बात करें तो यूजीसी के मुताबिक अनुसूचित जाति से आने वाले प्रत्याशियों के लिए आरक्षित 82.82 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजाति तबके से आने वाले तबकों के लिए आरक्षित 93.98 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 99.95 फीसदी पद आज भी खाली पड़े हैं। असोसिएट प्रोफेसर के पदों की बात करें तो स्थिति उतनी ही खराब दिखती है: अनुसूचित जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 76.57 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजातियों के लिए आरक्षित 89.01 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 94.30 फीसदी पद खाली पड़े हैं।
क्या हम कभी जान सकेंगे कि मुल्क के चालीस केन्द्रीय विश्वविद्यालयों में नियुक्त उपकुलपतियों के श्रेणीबद्ध वितरण- अर्थात वह किन सामाजिक श्रेणियों से ताल्लुक रखते हैं- के बारे में ?
शायद कभी नहीं !
विश्वविद्यालय अनुदान आयोग के केन्द्रीय विश्वविद्यालय ब्युरो में ऐसे कोई रेकॉर्ड रखे नहीं जाते।
किसी बाहरी व्यक्ति के लिए इन सूचनाओं का अभाव बेहद मामूली लग सकता है अलबत्ता अगर हम अधिक गहरे में जाकर पड़ताल करें तो हम पूछ सकते हैं कि सर्वोच्च पदों की यह कथित ‘जातिविहीनता’ का सम्बन्ध क्या इसी तथ्य से जोड़ा जा सकता है कि इन चालीस विश्वविद्यालयों में- सामाजिक और शारीरिक तौर पर हाशिये पर रहने वाले तबकों से आने वाले अध्यापकों की मौजूदगी नगण्य है। फिर वह चाहे अनुसूचित जाति, जनजाति हो या अन्य पिछड़ी जातियां हो या विकलांग तबके से आने वाले लोग हों। इन तबकों की इन पदों से साद्रश्यता के अभाव का अन्दाज़ा इस बात से लगाया जा सकता है कि इन श्रेणियों से आने वाले तबकों के लिए आरक्षित प्रोफेसरों के 99 फीसदी पद आज भी खाली पड़े हैं।
दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय के एक कालेज में, एडहॉक/तदर्थ अध्यापक के तौर पर कार्यरत लक्ष्मण यादव द्वारा विश्वविद्यालय अनुदान आयोग को सूचना अधिकार के तहत जो याचिका दायर की गयी थी, उसी के औपचारिक जवाब के तौर पर ऐसे कई सारे अचम्भित करने वाले तथ्य सामने आए हैं। अगर हम प्रोफेसरों के पदों की बात करें तो यूजीसी के मुताबिक अनुसूचित जाति से आने वाले प्रत्याशियों के लिए आरक्षित 82.82 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजाति तबके से आने वाले तबकों के लिए आरक्षित 93.98 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 99.95 फीसदी पद आज भी खाली पड़े हैं। अगर हम असोसिएट प्रोफेसर के पदों की बात करें तो स्थिति उतनी ही खराब दिखती है: अनुसूचित जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 76.57 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजातियों के लिए आरक्षित 89.01 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 94.30 फीसदी पद खाली पड़े हैं। असिस्टेंण्ट प्रोफेसर पद के लिए आरक्षित पदों के आंकड़े उतने खराब नहीं हैं जिसमें अनुसूचित जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 29.92 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजातियों के लिए आरक्षित 33.47 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 41.82 फीसदी पद खाली पड़े हैं। (देखें- मीडिया विजिल की रिपोर्ट)
A caste-based society will overcome legal codes that make equality the norm unless people actively bring change.
Will we ever know the category-wise distribution of vice chancellors of the forty central universities located across the country? Thanks to the rules governing these universities, and those of the University Grants Commission, there is no such record.
This form of “castelessness” at the top is coupled with marginal representation of teachers from socially and physically marginalised sections. Be it the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes the Other Backward Classes or persons with disabilities, they are hardly ever appointed to teaching posts in central universities. A marker of the invisibilisation of these social groups is the fact that up to 96.65% of the posts of professor meant for candidates from these categories were unfilled on 1 January 2020.
This was discovered by a Delhi University teacher, who sought the information from the UGC under the Right to Information Act. More than 82% posts of professors meant for Scheduled Caste candidates, 93.98% posts meant for Scheduled Tribes and 96.65% posts meant for OBCs still remain vacant. The situation for associate professors is equally dismal, though there are fewer vacant posts of assistant professors for OBCs.
Any news can go viral these days but this explosive disclosure, which raises questions about recruitment procedures and their inherent biases was barely noticed. An explanation is that such news has lost its novelty. Perhaps everybody is aware of the metamorphosis of central universities into a new kind of Agraharam or abode of elite castes.
यह मानने के पर्याप्त आधार हैं कि राम मंदिर के भूमि पूजन के लिए चुना गया यह समय एक छोटी रेखा के बगल में बड़ी रेखा खींचने की क़वायद है, ताकि नरेंद्र मोदी और उनकी सरकार की बढ़ती असफलताएं जैसे- कोविड कुप्रबंधन, बदहाल होती अर्थव्यवस्था और गलवान घाटी प्रसंग- इस परदे के पीछे चले जाएं.
अयोध्या में राम मंदिर के भूमि पूजन से पहले लगा प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी और अन्य नेताओं का एक होर्डिंग. (फोटो: पीटीआई)
बीते दिनों जनाब उद्धव ठाकरे द्वारा अयोध्या में राम मंदिर के प्रस्तावित भूमि पूजन को लेकर जो सुझाव दिया गया है, वह गौरतलब है.
मालूम हो कि आयोजकों की तरफ से जिन लोगों को इसके लिए न्योता दिया गया है, उसमें महाराष्ट्र के मुख्यमंत्री का नाम भी शामिल है, उसी संदर्भ में उन्होंने इस बात पर जोर दिया है कि ‘ई-भूमि पूजन किया जा सकता है और भूमि पूजन समारोह को वीडियो कॉन्फ्रेंसिंग के जरिये भी अंजाम दिया जा सकता है.’
उनका कहना है कि इस कार्यक्रम में लाखों लोग शामिल होना चाहेंगे और क्या उन्हें वहां पहुंचने से रोका जा सकता है? कोरोना महामारी को लेकर देश-दुनिया भर में जो संघर्ष अभी जारी है और जहां धार्मिक सम्मेलनों पर पाबंदी बनी हुई है, ऐसे में उनकी बात गौरतलब है.
गौर करें कि ऐसा आयोजन जिसका लाइव टेलीकास्ट भी किया जाएगा, कोई चाहे न चाहे देश में जगह जगह जनता के अच्छे-खासे हिस्से को सड़कों पर उतरने के लिए प्रेरित करेगा.
और अगर दक्षिणपंथी जमातें इस बारे में अतिसक्रियता दिखा दें तो फिर जगह जगह भीड़ बेकाबू भी हो सकती है और केंद्र सरकार और गृह मंत्रालय द्वारा जारी गाइडलाइंस की भी धज्जियां उड़ सकती हैं.
अभय दुबे की पुस्तक हिन्दू एकता बनाम ज्ञान की राजनीति पर जारी बहस में एक योगदान।
दि प्रिंट में 8 जुलाई 2020 को योगेंद्र यादव का लेख ‘भारतीय सेक्युलरिज्म पर हिन्दी की यह किताब उदारवादियों की पोल खोल सकती थी मगर नज़रअंदाज़ कर दी गई है’, अभय दुबे की पुस्तक को केंद्र मे रखकर लिखा गया है. उन्होनें लिखा: “अगर अभय की किताब के तर्क उन सेकुलर बुद्धिजीवियों के कान तक टहलकर नहीं पहुंचे जिनके लिखत-पढ़त की उन्होंने आलोचना की है तो इसकी वजह को पहचान पाना मुश्किल नहीं. वजह वही है जिसे अभय ने अपनी किताब में रेखांकित किया है कि भारत के अँग्रेज़ीदाँ मध्यवर्ग की सेकुलर-लिबरल विचारधारा और देश के शेष समाज के बीच सोच समझ के धरातल पर एक खाई मौजूद है.” योगेंद्र के लेख के जवाब में, दि प्रिंट में ही 15 जुलाई को राजमोहन गांधी का लेख ‘भारत में धर्मनिरपेक्षता की विचारधारा पराजित नहीं हुई है, इसके पैरोकारों को आरएसएस पर दोष मढ़ना बंद करना होगा’ पढ़कर संतोष और असंतोष दोनों हुआ. संतोष इसलिए कि योगेंद्र के आग्रह पर बुद्धिजीवियों ने बहस को आगे बढ़ाने की पहल तो की. इसी कड़ी में 16 जुलाई 2020 को काफ़िला में छपा आदित्य निगम का लेख ‘डिसकोर्स ऑफ हिन्दू युनीटी इन द स्ट्र्गल अगेन्स्ट द राइट’ को भी देखा जा सकता है.
क्या कोई जानता है 21वीं सदी की शुरुआत में चकवारा के दलितों के एक अहम संघर्ष को? जयपुर से बमुश्किल पचास किलोमीटर दूर चकवारा के दलितों ने गांव के सार्वजनिक तालाब पर समान हक पाने के लिए इस संघर्ष को आगे बढ़ाया था। अठारह साल का वक्फा गुजर गया जब दलितों ने इस संघर्ष में जीत हासिल की थी, जिसमें तमाम मानवाधिकार संगठनों एवं प्रगतिशील लोगों ने भी उनका साथ दिया था। (सितम्बर 2002)
विश्लेषकों को याद होगा कि इस संघर्ष में तमाम लोगों को डॉ. अम्बेडकर द्वारा शुरू किए गए ऐतिहासिक महाड़ सत्याग्रह की झलक दिखायी दी थी जब मार्च 1927 में हजारों दलित एवं अन्य मानवाधिकारप्रेमी महाड़ के चवदार तालाब पर जुलूस की शक्ल में गए थे और वहां उन्होंने पानी पीया था। जानवरों को वहां पानी पीने से कोई मना नहीं करता था, मगर दलितों को रोका जाता था। (ज्यादा जानकारी के लिए देखें: Mahad – The Making of the First Dalit Revolt – Dr Anand Teltumbde, Navayana)
चकवारा में बाद में क्या हुआ इसके बारे में तो अधिकतर लोग नहीं जानते होंगे।
The attitude of respect and reverence towards fellow men is yet to develop in India.
Does anybody still remember the Dalits of Chakwara, a village around 50km from Jaipur in Rajasthan, who had launched a struggle to gain access to the pond in their village? It is more than 18 years since the Dalits, supported by human rights organisations, won that fight for water. Their undertaking had echoes with the historic struggle launched by Dr BR Ambedkar in March 1927 at Chavdar tank at Mahad to assert the equal rights of Dalits to water. It is well known to most people that while animals were allowed to use the water of this tank in present-day Raigad district of the state, the Dalits were not. Anand Teltumbde has described the events of this satyagraha in his book, Mahad: The Making of the First Dalit Revolt, published by Navayana in 2016.
But what happened at Chakwara after the Dalits started using the village pond is hardly known: the upper castes slowly stopped using the water from the pond once the Dalits gained access to it, saying it had become “impure”. Enraged by the assertion of the Dalits and keen to humiliate them for it, they dug up the village sewer and directed the waste water to their own village pond. There is no change in the status quo there.
Around 700km away, in Viramgam near Ahmedabad in Gujarat, a village cemetery used by Dalits was recently flooded with sewer water, a stark reminder that the gap of two decades has not changed the caste scenario in the country. The executioners of this sinister plan in Viramgam were the residents of two housing societies in which the well-off and educated middle classes live. For more than the last six months, the graves of the socially-disadvantaged Vankar, Chamar, Rohit, Dangasia, Shetwa and other communities have been surrounded by dirty water. The district administration did not intervene on behalf of the Dalits despite their repeated complaints. The fact that dignity after death is being denied to marginalised communities did not seem to rouse the administration.
Legendary Civil Rights leader John Lewis died on 17 th July 2020.
An analyst wrote ”Lewis, a titan of the civil rights movement, died on Friday at the age of 80, severing a vital link with the generation that rose in the 60s to resist the US’s version of racial apartheid. The news was met with a depth of grief normally reserved for former presidents. Lewis transcended party politics and was truly admired and beloved.”
A state trooper beats John Lewis (kneeling, right) with a club in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. Lewis sustained a fractured skull in the assault. Photograph: unknown/AP
A CNN documentary entitled John Lewis: Good Trouble, quotes him: “I tried to do what was right, fair and just. When I was growing up in rural Alabama, my mother always said, ‘Boy, don’t get in trouble … but I saw those signs that said ‘white’, ‘colored’, and I would say, ‘Why?’
“And she would say again, ‘Don’t get in trouble. You will be beaten. You will go to jail. You may not live. But … the words of Dr King and the actions of Rosa Parks inspired me to get in trouble. And I’ve been getting in trouble ever since. Good trouble. Necessary trouble.”