They represented two foundational but antagonistic visions of “what we as a society, what we as a state should embody”
( Review of ‘Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, and The Risk of Democracy’ By Aishwary Kumar Navayana, Rs 599)
In the early 1990s D.R. Nagaraj published The Flaming Feet, a compilation of his essays in which he admired both Gandhi and Ambedkar. Coming close on the heels of the phenomenon of Dalit assertion, it argued that “there is a compelling necessity to achieve a synthesis of the two”. But that has not been the only attempt to examine how the ideas of these two leaders interacted, challenged each other, and how they extended or revisited the meanings of different concepts.
The book, Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, and the Risk of Democracy by Aishwary Kumar, takes forward the conversation around the two “most formidable non-Western thinkers of the twentieth century, whose visions of moral and political life have left the deepest imprints”. For the author they “exemplified two incommensurable ways of forging a relationship between sovereignty and justice, force and disobedience”, or represented two foundational but antagonistic visions of “what we as a society, what we as a state should embody”.
Focusing mainly on Hind Swaraj — a monograph written by Gandhi on a ship to South Africa from London (1909) — and Annihilation of Caste, which happens to be the undelivered speech by Dr Ambedkar when he was invited by the Jat Pat Todak Mandal, Lahore (1936) — the organization rescinded the invite when it came across the ‘radical’ proposals he had put forward in the draft — this around 400-page book discerns “an insurrectionary element at the limit of politics” in the works of these two stalwarts. It is “an insurrection that sought to extract the political itself — and the social question — from the doctrinal prescriptions and certitude of its European past”
Of all reasons to oppose CAA, NPR and NRC, most worrying is the Islamists across the borders feeling enthused.
Seattle City Council, one of the most powerful city councils in the United States, recently made history. It became the world’s first elected body to pass a resolution asking the Indian government to repeal the CAA, stop the National Register of Citizens and uphold the Indian Constitution. It also sought ratification of United Nations treaties on refugees. The said resolution is being seen to be “leading the moral consensus in the global outcry against the CAA”.
Seattle is definitely not an exception.
Many concerned voices have spoken against the highly controversial discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019, which excludes Muslims [and Jews] and enforces a selective citizenship criteria based on faith. This new law effectively reduces the status of millions of Muslims in India to illegal migrants. A similar resolution was tabled by members of the European Union Parliament last month. It stands postponed right now, but that will be a short reprieve, for the members have resolved to take it up again shortly.
For the first time in independent India’s history the Indian diaspora—which is normally projected as pro-Prime Minister Narendra Modi and which does participate in rallies in his support—has been protesting against the bill along with Indian students studying in the West. These protests have been going on for close to two months in different cities and towns in different cities in the West.
Couple this development with the resistance within the country spreading to new areas and broadening to include more sections of society, as people gradually wake up to the CAA’s grim portents. Definitely, there is growing discomfort against the Modi-Shah regime. Perhaps it is a sign of desperation that in order to legitimise this law the government has been peddling half-truths even in Parliament. Prime Minister Modi quoted selectively from the Nehru-Liaquat pact to buttress his case. He used the same Nehru-Bordoloi letter to defend the CAA, which his party had earlier used to slam the Congress. Gopinath Bordoloi was the first Chief Minister of Assam after Independence.
Three incidents of firing in four days – two in Jamia Millia Islamia and one in Shaheen Bagh – quickly followed open calls to violence (‘goli maro saalon ko‘) by Union minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur and the demonization of Shaheen Bagh protesters by BJP MP Pravesh Verma (‘the protesters will enter your homes and rape and kill your daughters’ if Modi and Shah aren’t there). In the case of the Shaheen Bagh shooter, Kapil Gujjar, the Delhi Police (which has till date not managed to find out the JNU attacker Komal Sharma’s affiliation) was quick to link him to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – an allegation expressly denied by his father. All these episodes, so obviously set up, basically aimed at provoking the protesters into committing some violence that the lapdog television channels would then play up, in their usual hysterical style (some of them may even have appeared on air in police uniform!), to vitiate the atmosphere.
On the very first shooting, one such channel did indeed keep doing precisely that till long after the identity of the shooter (in the clip above) had been clearly established. The clips were circulating almost instantaneously and you can hear the gunman shouting Delhi Police zindabad, and there was little chance of mistaking him for an anti-CAA protester. The channel knew exactly what it was doing and at whose behest but kept on at it till 9 o’clock at night.
From Nehru to Patel and Ambedkar, the saffron party has appropriated freedom-fighters or tarnished legacies. Gandhi, however, poses a different problem.
Death ends all enmity’ (Marnanti Vairani) goes a maxim in Hinduism.
The story also goes that when Ravana was on death bed, Ram had even asked Laxman to go to him and learn something which no other person except a great scholar like him could teach him, declaring that though he has been forced to punish him for his terrible crime, ‘you are no more my enemy’.
It is a different matter that Hindutva supremacists — who are keen ‘to transform Hinduism from a variety of religious practices into a consolidated ethnic identity’ — are believers in the exact opposite.
For them, once the enemy is dead, the enmity flares up without any limits. They have no qualms that their adversary is no more to defend himself/ herself.
It has been more than five and half years that they are in power at the Centre and we have been witness to complete vilification, demonisation and obfuscation of many of their adversaries, all great leaders of the anti-colonial struggle. Of course, few were found to be ‘lucky’ enough that were promptly co-opted/appropriated by them, of course, in a sanitised form.
The arrest of yet another alleged bomb-maker with right-wing links should lead to action at last.
When Crimes shoot up, they become invisible.
When pain becomes unbearable, cries are no longer heard.’
Can the provocations of a cabinet minister, who openly raises controversial slogans, be considered a “breach of peace” or are they merely attempts to “gauge people’s mood”, as the minister would have us believe? For more than a month, plenty of controversial slogans have been raised on the streets of India. People are being instigated to “kill the traitors to the country” by members of the ruling dispensation, who are issuing open threats in public as the masses are getting angrier against the CAA, NRC and the NPR.
As expected, till date, either no action has been taken by the law and order machinery or there is only an expectation of perfunctory action. This new normal is symptomatic of the rapid erosion of the rule of law in the country. A new normal wherein the chief minister of a state has no qualms in talking of taking “revenge” against protesters while his state’s police unleash unjustified violence on protesters and bystanders alike. Each of their tactics has, for this reason, received widespread condemnation. Even though the strong-arm tactics of the state are failing to pass the test of logic or reasonableness, there is still no change in the ruling dispensation’s attitude.
Amidst the bustle of talk and announcements on stage, there is a surprise at Shaheen Bagh. A young, slim girl student in ankle length boots, dark pants and shirt is invited to take the podium. She begins her speech by saying that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has put her in a dilemma. She studies in Jharkhand where many of her close friends are Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members. Their opinions matter to her personally. At the same time, when she comes to Shaheen Bagh she is gripped by the dangers and stakes involved in the CAA.
Joint Statement by Feminists Urging the President of India
to Commute Death Sentence to Life Imprisonment
As individuals and groups who have been engaged in the struggles for women’s rights, safety and justice, it is often presumed that we would support the demand for death penalty for sexual assault. But for decades, even as we have consistently fought to make the world safer for women through changes in policy and law, and social awareness by breaking the silence on these heinous crimes, we have consistently argued against the death penalty for sexual assault, as well as, all other crimes.