Category Archives: Culture

Against Aachaaram: A Dossier from Malayalam – Announcement

This is to announce a new series of postings I will be doing, relating to aachaaram in Kerala.

Aachaaram is loosely translated as ‘customary practices’ or ‘customary rituals’, but in 19th century Malayali society, it referred to a massive, inter-connected, all-pervading web of practices, rituals, and ideas which bolstered the domination of the upper-castes — in Kerala’s context, this meant the Brahmin-sudra nexus — over the lower castes. It touched the most intimate and personal aspects of a person’s life; through it,  the allegiances and the labour of lower caste communities were extracted to benefit the upper castes. The lower-caste assertions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries here, through which modern democracy became a possibility at all, were directed against this web. Aachaaram, however, survived this phase through shrinking its spatial presence to savarna homes and temples; later, after the re-consolidation of brahmin-sudra power, towards the end of the 20th century, the rise of spiritual capitalism had led to aacharam’s resurrection as the vehicle of gendered savarna power — and as the provider of opening gambits for the Hindu fundamentalists — in Kerala .

In this series, I will post translations of selections/excerpts from the writings of the critics of aachaaram from early 20th century Kerala, with short reflections on each for the present. The many different readings of Hinduism that arose in that period when the Brahmin-sudra nexus was thrown into confusion, as well as the many different dreams of social liberation from different parts of the world that entered Malayali society then — from C Krishnan’s Buddhism to Marxism — produced powerful critical exposures that revealed aachaaram to be nothing but a vehicle and instrument of the power of certain groups over others. The effort made by these voices to point to the danger that it posed to a dream of a just society was largely ignored by the mainstream, especially the mainstream left.

The first of these is an excerpt from a conversation between the well-known social revolutionary, the avarna-born seer, spiritual leader, and philosopher, Srinarayana Guru and his disciples in which the annual pilgrimage to Sivagiri was planned, which I will post separately.

 

Will India Remember Dadri’s Akhlaq, as Germany Recalls Victims of Nazi Barbarism?

The German acceptance for stolpersteine plaques helps them honour victims of Nazism. One wonders if it will ever be possible to take up similar projects in this part of South Asia.

Germany Recalls Victims of Nazi Barbarism

Hier Wohnte Bernhard Marx

JB 1897

Deportiert 20.07.1942

Minsk

Ermordet 24.07.1942

‘Here lived Bernhard Marx

Year of Birth 1897

Deported 20.07.1942

Minsk

Assassinated 24.07.1942’

It was while walking past a desolate street in Bonn that we stumbled upon some brass plates on which the names of the members of a family were engraved. The name Bernhard, supposedly the head of this family, was engraved on the first plate, followed by three to his right: Erna Marx Geb Hartman, (born 1899), Helena (1929) and Julie (1938).

This was an ill-fated Jewish family from Bonn, deported to the dreaded Minsk concentration—rather extermination—camp that was brutally murdered just four days after they got there. The youngest, Julie was barely four when she died.

Estimates of how many died in this camp over a period of two years vary but at least 65000, mainly Jews, perished there until it was liberated by the Soviet forces.

The young researcher who was our host and guide to the city said that the brass plaques, raised on stone, are called stolpersteine. Stolper means to stumble in German and steine means stone. The idea behind erecting stolpersteine is to raise awareness about events that took place in the late thirties and early forties in this region, when millions of innocent people—Jews, Romas, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and political dissidents—were sent to the gas chambers or brutally killed by the Nazi regime.

( Read the full article here : https://www.newsclick.in/India-Remember-Dadri-Akhlaq-Germany-Victims-Nazi-Barbarism)

Modinama : Issues That Did Not Matter

In May 2019, the party of the Hindu Right, Bharatiya Janata Party, under Narendra Modi, won a spectacular electoral victory.

The victory seemed to defy common sense – why did conversations of life and livelihood not dominate the election? Why did the thuggery of the Hindutva vigilantes seem inconsequential to vast numbers of ordinary, decent people? Why is an aggressive, masculine fundamentalism so normalized in our society today?

In other words, why didn’t the issues that matter, seem to matter? The question goes deeper than electoral arithmetic. It asks if Modi and the BJP have not only changed the electoral map, but also begun to corrode social norms.

This book, based on Modi’s first five years as prime minister, is a warning for the next five.

SUBHASH GATADE

Subhash Gatade is a left activist and author. He is the author of Charvak ke Vaaris (Hindi, 2018), Ambedkar ani Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (Marathi, 2016), Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India (2011) and The Saffron Condition (2011). His writings for children include Pahad Se Uncha Aadmi (2010).

978-81-934666-9-8

LeftWord Books, New Delhi, 2019

Language: English

128 pages, 5.5″ x 8.5″

Price INR 195.00 Book Club Price INR 137.00

(https://mayday.leftword.com/catalog/product/view/id/21450)

 

Why I Celebrate the Wedding of Nusrat Jahan: Zakia Soman

Guest post by ZAKIA SOMAN 

The wedding of Nusrat Jahan the TMC MP to Nikhil Jain is refreshing news. It is heartening to see two young Indians from different faith backgrounds uniting and celebrating their marriage in the times of religious hate and division.

The mixing of politics and religion has led to a climate where marrying a person from another faith has become extremely difficult specially for young people. The case of Hadiya may have been highlighted in the media but it is certainly not the only instance where a couple had to undergo tremendous hardships for falling in love. The self-appointed guardians of religion who seem omnipresent in family, community, police, judiciary, government, media would walk great lengths to prevent inter-faith marriages from taking place. Continue reading Why I Celebrate the Wedding of Nusrat Jahan: Zakia Soman

Gujarat Today Could be What ‘Hindu Rashtra’ Will Look Like for Dalits

The recent spate of attacks on dalits in the state is an indicator of the fact that the unfolding project of RSS’s Hindu Rashtra has entered a new phase where the community is being construed as the ‘new other’.

Hindu Rashtra

When I was born, I was not a child

I was a dream, a dream of revolt

that my mother, oppressed for thousands of years,

dreamt.

Still it is untouched in my eyes

Covered with wrinkles of thousand years, her face

her eyes, two lakes overflowing with tears

have watered my body….

– Sahil Parmar (Noted Gujarati Poet)

 

‘You are Welcome to Enter … Village of Hindu Rashtra’!

It was around two decades ago that headlines in a few national newspapers reported the ‘arrival’ of Hindu Rashtra in parts of Gujarat. A few inquisitive journalists had even displayed photographs detailing the nascent phenomenon then.

The shock generated by the news died down in a short while.

Hardly anybody then could have a premonition that it won’t take much time for the idea of Hindu Rashtra to gain wider acceptability across India with a commonsense gaining ground rather getting consolidated where religious minorities were increasingly understood as ‘the other’.

Could it be said that the recent spate of attacks on dalits — leading to at least three deaths in the past one month in the same state, coupled with growing instances of life of insecurity of many concerning their lives or their continued deprivation by the dominant castes, is an indicator of the fact that the unfolding project of Hindu Rashtra has entered a new phase where dalits are being construed as the ‘new other’, one who could wreck the project of ‘Hindu Unity’ from within.

Perhaps it is too early to draw any such conclusion, but portents are there for everyone to see.

( Read the full article here : https://www.newsclick.in/Hindu-Rashtra-Gujarat-BJP-RSS-Dalits)

Statement of Academics on Rabindra Bharati University Incident of Harassment

Dear Friends,

As some of you might be aware, our friend and colleague, Dr. Saraswati Kerketta (Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography, Rabindra Bharati University), has recently been a victim of caste-based attack in the university. We write this statement to unequivocally condemn the attack.

We, the concerned faculty members/research scholars across institutions in India and abroad, are deeply disturbed by this incident of caste-based attack on Dr. Kerketta. Dr. Kerketta is a young faculty member from a Scheduled Tribe background, and the sole faculty member appointed in a substantive position in her department, thereby taking on the tremendous task of running the department on her young shoulders. This brazen instance of caste-based harassment meted out to her by a group of students who claim to be affiliated to a political party has hurt and disturbed us immensely as citizens of India. The nature of attack meted out to her – for instance she has been followed by the students up till home after the incident – also showcases the gendered nature of her vulnerability. The incident has been followed by mass resignation on the part of other faculty members from various positions in the university, thereby showing indirect proof of the same.

Continue reading Statement of Academics on Rabindra Bharati University Incident of Harassment