Category Archives: Debates

Who is afraid of anuradha bhasin ?

Attacks on the media have become more “sophisticated”, such as stopping advertisements, which adds to the threat of violence.

Anuradha bhasin

In the first week of October came news from Jammu that the government-allotted apartment where Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of Kashmir Times has lived for twenty years, had been ransacked. The act was allegedly perpetrated by the relative of a former member of the Legislative Council. The intruders tried not to be photographed in the act by Bhasin, but later she published them and wrote on social media about how her “jewellery, silverware and other valuables” were taken by them in “connivance with the [Jammu and Kashmir] Estates Deptt and some police personnel”. Bhasin had not been served a show-cause notice to vacate the flat.

Soon after the office of her newspaper, located in the Press Enclave area in Srinagar, was also sealed, again without giving its legal owner or editor any reason. “Today, Estates Deptt locked our office without any due process of cancellation & eviction, same way as I was evicted from a flat in Jammu, where my belongings including valuables were handed over to ‘new allottee’,” Bhasin wrote.

One is suddenly reminded of the various storms the oldest and most-circulated newspaper published from Jammu and Kashmir has faced all these years. In 1983, some 200 Hindu right-wing lumpen, armed with batons and sharp weapons, barged into the offices of Kashmir Times in Jammu and attacked the editor at the time, Ved Bhasin. This attack followed a news report published by the then forty-year-old newspaper, which had apparently “hurt” their sentiments. The grand old man of English journalism, as Ved Bhasin was known in Jammu and Kashmir, survived the attack and continued his work with renewed vigour.

(Read the full article here)

We Urgently Need a Rainbow Left – One Hundred Years of Indian Communism

 

 

Bolivia’s Movement for Socialism, image courtesy The Nation

The world today desperately awaits the emergence of a new, rainbow Left that is liberated from the disastrous hold of the twentieth century. Indeed, attempts to find or forge such platforms are visible in different parts of the world. Falteringly and with setbacks to be sure, but there is no doubt that serious attempts are underway. And many of these attempts are powered by a different kind of imagination that is unencumbered, to a large extent, by the suffocatiing grip of the last century.

One hundred years ago, on 17 October 1920, the emigre Communist Party of India was formed in Tashkent with MN Roy as its chief initiator. This date of the party’s formation is, of course, contested by the current CPI, which dates its formation from 26 December 1925, when the first ‘Indian Communist Conference’ was held in Kanpur. The date became a matter of contention, especially after the split  in the CPI and the formation of the CPI(M) in 1964 – and at the core of that contention were two related issues. One opinion at the time of the Kanpur Conference had argued for a home-bred and ‘nationalist’ ‘Indian Communism’, in opposition to which the other section saw itself as a contingent or  a chapter of an international movement. The second question became more of an issue in the later years, after Stalin’s death and the revaluation of his role and the manner in which the Comintern came to play a subordinate role to Soviet foreign policy. In between these two lies the phase of the ‘Bolshevization’ of all socialist and communist parties across the world, which ensured that the CPI too, no longer remain an independent party in the sense in which some were arguing at the time of its formation.

Continue reading We Urgently Need a Rainbow Left – One Hundred Years of Indian Communism

India is Hungry: Who is Listening?

Hunger is a matter of structural anomalies. It cannot just be explained away by who holds the reins of power.

Starvation Deaths Continue to Occur in UP

Image Courtesy: Sabrang India

The “good news” is that India now stands at the 94th position on the Global Hunger Report 2020’s ranking of 107 countries. India has improved several notches over its 102nd rank last year, but is still firmly in the category of countries with a “serious” hunger problem. Only a handful of countries are doing worse than India, such as Rwanda (ranked 97), Afghanistan (99), Mozambique (103) and Chad (107).

The “good news” cannot hide the fact that that with an overall score of 27.2 India has performed worse than its neighbours, Pakistan (ranked 88), Bangladesh (75), Nepal (73) and Indonesia (70).

Seen any way, India has spent yet another year failing to tackle its massive chronic hunger problem. According to official figures, more than 14% of the population is undernourished and the child stunting rate is over 37.4%. One supposes this fits in with the strong belief in some quarters that India is a Vishwa Guru—teacher to the world—and can boldly claim to be a superpower in future.

The situation is such that news of starvation deaths is not uncommon despite excess of food grains stored in the godowns of the Food Corporation of India. Thousands of tonnes of these food grains go waste every year for a number of equally unjustifiable reasons.

(Read the full article here)

Petition to Ban Toxic News Channels

The following petition initiated by Prof Apoorvanand ; Bhasha Singh, Journalist/Activist ; Jitendra Kumar, Senior Journalist ;  Mahendra Mishra, Editor, Janchowk and Subhash Gatade appeals to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DICCI) and The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) to boycott toxic new channels.  The petition can be signed here :

It is a welcome sign that two prominent business houses, namely Bajaj Auto and Parle have taken the WELCOME DECISION to not advertise on TV channels spreading hatred. We urge all the advertisers to BOYCOTT HATE MONGERS, because the history is witness that the hate ruins the whole society and does not spare anyone, however rich and high and mighty a person may be. Let us remind ourselves the unforgettable words of Pastor Martin Niemoller that he spoke on emerging from the Nazi prison: “… When they came for me, there was none left to protest”. Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

These corporates need to recall that not long ago when Black Lives Matter movement was at its peak in the West, more than 1,000 companies had decided to boycott a section of social media platforms for their dubious stand on race.

We are aware of the background: The qualitative changes – for the worse – that have taken place in the Indian media, especially the electronic variant during last few years. The ownership of the large media houses has become limited to a few big players. And these big corporates are not concerned with the concerns of the common people, and use the media for their own and their political masters’ vested interests by focusing on non-issues and indulgence in sensationalism, false propaganda and hatred – thereby actively participating in the destruction of social unity in diversity among Indians that has existed despite any and every difference of class, caste, gender, region, religion, language, ideology or any other.

Without going back to the times when the lynching became the new political weapon – with the accused being welcomed by the ruling party leaders and even minister – during the last few months, we saw that in order to deflect attention from the catastrophe that had befallen on the people in general but migrant labour in particular because of the COVID-19 pandemic and to advance the agenda of demonizing Muslims – a la Jews in Nazi Germany – how ‘Tablighi Jamat’ was willfully portrayed falsely as the ‘corona jehadi’ and what not. Then, we witnessed the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput being transformed into an endless ‘issue’, and the less said about the latest Hathras gang-rape, the better – the bizarre brazenness of hate-speech and hate-driven crime is unmistakably on the rise!

HIGH TIME THAT BOYCOTT OF HATE MONGERS BECOMES A COLLECTIVE PRACTICE!

A history of conservative strike on books

Even in a future in which books are outlawed, ideas cannot be vanquished.

Nazi's Boook burning

“You may burn my books and the books of the best minds in Europe, but the ideas those books contain have passed through millions of channels and will go on,” wrote Helen Keller, in An Open Letter to German Students in 1933. Keller’s How I Became a Socialist was on the list of books to be burned. “History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas. Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them,” she wrote.

Today you cannot perhaps have campaigns like Nazi’s book burnings, nor can books disappear off the shelves as they did in the United States during the McCarthy era. Yet the powers that be have thought of ingenious ways to stop people from reading books.

A recent order by the department of education in Britain needs to be seen in this context. It has ordered schools in England to stop accepting funds from groups or organisations which have expressed the desire to end capitalism. Anti-capitalism is seen by the department as an “extreme political stance”, similar to opposing freedom of speech, anti-Semitism and endorsing illegal activities.

( Read the full text here)

Hathras and Beyond: the Upper Caste Counter-Revolution

If the post-Mandal Dalit Bahujan upsurge was an expression of the democratic revolution, the advent of Adityanath’s BJP government constituted the beginning of a counter-revolution that is on the way to consolidating itself in Uttar Pradesh.

Police at the Delhi-UP order, image courtesy The Print

The facts of the case are well known, even though the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh is trying, ever so hard, to produce a different narrative by resorting to the usual Hindutva tactic of assigning it to an international conspiracy. It is typical of the utterly farcical and shoddy nature of the Indian police (and maybe indicates the regime’s over-confidence) that it in the name  of collecting evidence of the conspiracy, it has done a cut-and-paste job from an American site, even forgetting to delete references to ‘NYPD’ and ‘white supremacism’! Incidents of gang-rape and murder have since also happened elsewhere in the state, notably in Balrampur and Bulandshahr. We are witnessing the heinous episode of the Hathras gang rape and murder when the memory of the Unnao rape case in which then BJP leader Kuldeep Sengar was accused, is still fresh in our minds. The victim’s father died in police custody, having already been very badly beaten by Sengar’s brother and their goons, a video of which was proudly circulated on social media. Some other members of the family were killed in an  accident when a truck with a blackened number plate hit their car. In a second rape case, in the very same Unnao, two years later, a 23-year old woman who had been raped and was on the way to a hearing of the rape case, was caught and set ablaze by five men and died soon after that. In the first case, the rape-accused was a ‘popular’ figure – a Rajput leader – in whose support demonstrations were organized after he was arrested. In the second case, the girl was a Lohar (a blacksmith jati) while those who brutalized and killed her were Brahmins.

Are these really coincidences? That the rapist in these ‘paradigmatic’ cases is always an upper caste (Rajput or Brahmin) and the woman always lower caste, or at any rate powerless in class terms? And are these really about sex? The answer to the second question has of course been provided to us by long years of meticulous and painstaking research by feminists the world over: rape is always about power. It is about caste, community, race and gender based power – gender is certainly not unimportant in this particular kind of display of power but sex is not the issue here.

It is the first question that merits closer attention here. The fact that in these type of cases the rapist is almost always an upper caste man is doubly interesting. We already know, in a very generic and commonsense way, that this is how the caste power of the upper-castes and powerful landed interests is asserted over the Dalit Bahujan castes. I am reminded of  some short stories by Mohandas Naimishray, where he talks of this mode of asserting power as a regular practice.  In’ Apna Gaon’, ‘Saali chamari, thakur se zuban ladati hai!’ (you Chamar bitch, you dare to talk back to a Thakur!) is how the Thakur curses the hapless Dalit woman before five Thakur men pounce upon her in a description that is not unlike what we read ever so often in accounts of gang rapes in newspapers. In another story, ‘Reet’ (custom), he describes the age old practice of newly wed Dalit women being forcibly taken away to the Thakur’s place on the  very first night, where they would be raped. In this story, Bulaki’s wife too is taken away by the Thakurs on the first night. 

‘The landlord did what he liked with her, tormenting her body and bruising it. After all, who did he have to fear! In the morning, she was thrown out like joothan [left over food] for her family members.’

The Democratic Revolution

I recount these literary narratives from some of the most poignant fiction that emerged from Dalit literature in Uttar Pradesh in the 1990s, simply in order to underline that naked, untramelled power over the lower castes, is what the Thakurs and other upper castes lost with the democratic revolution of the 1990s. And it was the democratic revolution of the post-Mandal 1990s that made possible the emergence of writings such as Naimishray’s or Om Prakash Valmiki’s widely-acclaimed autobiography, Joothan (1997). It is literature that is not really fictional but in some sense, docu-fiction. Look at this world that Dalit literature of that period presents before us – and then look at what is happening in Yogi Adityanath’s UP today and you will immediately get what is going on there.

For the intervening period in the state saw a major reversal of power relations, especially with the rise of the Bahujan Samaj Party  (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP). The rise of the Dalit Bahujans and of the BSP and SP, especially Mayawati’s stints in power, actually saw the reversal of the power dynamic in the rural areas as well. So powerful was the immediate impact of that upsurge that within a year of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the BJP lost power in the state, and only won state elections in 2017, three years after coming to power at the centre, in 2014, when the counter-revolution really began. The Congress too wilted in the face of the Dalit Bahujan upsurge and had all but disappeared for almost three decades.

I should perhaps state here, in parenthesis, that the term ‘democratic revolution’ here should not be understood in the Marxist sense of a ‘bourgeois-democratic revolution’ – for there is nothing democratic about the bourgeoisie, nor anything essentially bourgeois about democracy. That was but a specific and momentary historical conjunction of the two in nineteenth century Europe, whereafter democracy was quickly yoked into the service of liberalism that was the ideology of capitalism par excellence. The democratic revolution, rather, is to be understood as the process whereby the demand for and claims to equality are made and rapidly extended to different arenas of social life, leading to ‘the end of a society of a hierarchic and inegalitarian type, ruled by a theological-political logic’. (Laclau and Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy). 

In a very important sense, the democratic revolution of the 1990s reconfigured power equations, even if the demand for equality was not specifically raised and theorized in the context of that upsurge. The very ferocity of the upper caste counter-attack, in the form of the anti-Mandal agitation, ensured that the question of power was foregrounded. However, neither ‘self respect’ of yore, nor ‘social justice’ of this period are really demands for equality. Nonetheless, it is true that the demand for reservations in education and employment was no longer made in the language of ‘safeguards’ as Ambedkar had been forced to do, but was being raised in conjunction with Ram Manohar Lohia’s ‘picchda maange sau mein saath‘ (backwards demand 60 percent in employment – that is to say, in proportion to their percentage in the population). To the extent that it did pose a serious challenge to the deeply hierarchic and inegalitarian society, sanctioned by Hindu dharmashastras, it was a profoundly democratic revolution.

The Revolution Derailed

In retrospect, it does seem that the democratic revolution seemed destined to be derailed partly because it could not seize, head-on, the full meaning of its own claims. For a large part, the movement remained fixated on the superficial semiotics of power in purely caste terms. The giant statues built by Mayawati, often derided by critics, are emblematic of this fixation. A more radical claim of equality, in contrast, would have proceeded to the next stage of breaking the economic power of the landlords, Thakurs in particular, simultaneously finding ways of strengthening Dalit economic power.  The call for the formation of a Dalit bourgeoisie, despite the power of its innovativeness, seemed to have remained so trapped within the logic of neoliberalism, that any idea of redistribution was beyond its horizon of vision. The hostility of its chief enunciator, Chandra Bhan Prasad, to Marxism, ensured that it remains simply at the level of a ‘get rich quickly’ mantra for those who are in a position to do so. However, this is not just about Chandra Bhan Prasad but of the entire range of parties that were vehicles of the democratic revolution. All of them remained trapped within the larger world of neoliberal thinking and had practically no economic vision of their own. Having arisen in the era of the collapse of socialism and the larger disenchantment with Marxism and the sense that neoliberalism was the only game in town, all these parties totally shunned the economic question.

There was another reason for the derailment of the revolution that had started becoming apparent soon after the victory of the SP-BSP alliance in UP in 1993. As the panchayat polls drew nearer, it became clear, as Naimishray himself had explained to me once, that the pact between  the two parties was merely political; at the social level there wasn’t any real connection, and the social conflicts had started playing out as soon as the question of local power came up on the agenda. The unfortunate and difficult realization for those who believed in Kanshi Ram’s agenda of Bahujan unity was that it was the powerful among the OBCs who were the immediate and proximate oppressors of the Dalits. This was evident not just in UP but across different states. It was in this context that Mayawati embarked upon her programme of wooing the powerful Brahmins and even Rajputs (the ‘sarvajan’ slogan) – rather than say, the  utterly powerless non-Jatav Dalits and the non-Yadav, non-Kurmi OBCs. The lure of power was also beginning to become its own justification.

The Counter-Revolution

In a sense, the Unnao rape accused, Kuldeep Sengar provides quite a telling illustration of what happens all too often to revolutions. His being a Rajput did not prevent him from retaining his local power by aligning himself, now with the BSP and now the SP, getting elected and serving as MLA of both these parties respectively. Had he turned over a new leaf? Certainly not. If I had the space, I could show how the character of the CPI(M) and the Left Front changed rapidly after accession to power in 1977, as erstwhile enemies joined the new arrangements of power. Sengar was not doing either BSP or SP a favour. He knew that his remaining MLA would be the key to his power in a context when both the BJP and the Congress has ceased to be claimants of power.

That was the interregnum when the erstwhile powerful groups were being forced to negotiate with the parties of the revolution – and these parties mistook it as their strength. They thought they had broken  the back of the powerful upper castes, whereas the latter were simply biding their time and waiting for the right opportunity to present itself before them.

That opportunity came in 2014. Both the SP and BSP had already revealed their feet of clay and in any case, election studies figures show, they had already started losing votes and supporters even among their own social base. All this happened quite sometime before the 2014 election that then became the occasion, with Narendra Modi at the helm, for the upper castes in UP to hit back. Now confident that these parties would not even be able to mop up their own base, the BJP moved rapidly to become the party of counter-revolution. The party’s unprecedented and breathtaking performance in UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections set the stage for the recapture of the state in 2017. The decision to make Yogi Adityanath – not a BJP insider – the chief minister was a shocker for many, even among many of those sympathetic to the party. But in retrospect, both the 2014 and 2017 victories were not simply BJP victories; they were part of this upper caste, especially Thakur bid to recapture the state.

What is happening in the state should not therefore be read simply in party terms. Any party in control of the situation, especially one with a Hindutva platform, should have been keen and able to show to the whole world that it acts in favour of the most poor and oppressed Dalits. That would win lasting support from these sections and forever doom the prospects of Dalit parties and organizations. But the BJP under Yogi Adityanath is clearly not going to go that way, for the simple reason that this is the time for the counter-revolution to consolidate itself.

The moral of the story is this: Social and political spaces never lie in a limbo or a state of ‘equilibrium’ of any sort and the minute you relax your guard, the adversary takes the upper hand. Especially if age-old power configurations are disturbed. And leaving battles half-fought can lead to the most disastrous consequences, as we are seeing in UP today.

Unpacking Religious Nationalism

Review of ‘Religious Nationalism – Social Perceptions and Violence : Sectarianism on Political Chessboard‘- Ram Puniyani (Media House 2020)

“Blatant dictatorship – in the form of fascism, communism, or military rule – has disappeared across much of the world. Military coups and other violent seizures of power are rare. Most countries hold regular elections. Democracies still die, but by different means.

Since the end of the Cold War, most democratic breakdowns have been caused not by generals and soldiers but by elected governments themselves.”

(How Democracies Die, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt)

The contrast had never been so sharper.

Continue reading Unpacking Religious Nationalism

How to see in the dark? An open letter to the women in cinema collective

Dear friends in the WCC

I am writing to you at a time so dark that unless we hold hands and feel the warmth of each others’ palms, we may even lose our sense of reality. This is my way of holding your hand and gaining strength from your presence.

Continue reading How to see in the dark? An open letter to the women in cinema collective

And Now, Pathetic patriarchy

Finally. Decades have passed in which we slumbered on eased by the magic mantra that women’s empowerment will emerge like a butterfly from the cocoon of women’s self-help groups, whispered in our ears by the state in Kerala. In the meantime, what we saw was often the opposite. Indeed, the more women became central to family sustenance and public care-giving in society, the deeper the misogyny penetrated, the wider it spread.

Continue reading And Now, Pathetic patriarchy

Capitalism, Development and Western Hegemony – Looking Beyond to the Pluriverse

 

 

Many words are walked in the world. Many worlds are made. Many worlds make us. There are words and worlds that are lies and injustices. There are words and worlds that are truthful and true. In the world of the powerful there is room only for the big and their helpers. In the world we want, everybody fits. The world we want is a world in which many worlds fit…Our words, our song and our cry is so that the dead will no longer die. We fight so that they may live. We sing so that they may love. – Fourth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (1996), Zapatista National Liberation Army. Cited as epigraph in Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary.

The New Grave-Diggers of Capital?

‘The world we want is a world in which many worlds fit’. This neatly sums up the idea of the ‘pluriverse’. Reading it, I was reminded of an interview of ‘Subcommandante Marcos’, ‘leader’ of the Zapatistas, some years ago. In that interview, Subcommandante Marcos (then anonymous) recounted that he and his colleagues at the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico, who joined him in the Chiapas mountains in 1984, were Marxists and had basically gone there to organize the indigenous people. And for Marxists that bascially meant to ‘raise their awareness’ about capitalism and exploitation.

Editors: Ashish Kothari, Ariel Salleh, Arturo Escobar, Federico Demaria, Alberto Acosta

Continue reading Capitalism, Development and Western Hegemony – Looking Beyond to the Pluriverse

State of the judiciary and reforms required : Prashant Bhushan

Democracy Dialogues Lecture Series Organised by New Socialist Initiative – 3 rd Lecture

Topic: State of the Judiciary and Reforms Required
Speaker: Prashant Bhushan, eminent Supreme Court lawyer and civil rights activist
Date and Time: Sunday, September 20, 2020 at 6 PM IST

Zoom and Facebook Live details in the poster below.

Image may contain: one or more people, text that says 'Democracy Dialogues 3rd Lecture State of the Judiciary and Reforms Required Time: 20 Sep 2020 06:00 PM India Join us on Zoom!! Meeting ID: 848 2963 1643 Passcode: 799603 f fb.com/newsocialistinitiative.nsi Live link: Prashant Bhushan Public Interest Lawyer and Civil Liberty Activist New Socialist Initiative A World for the Workers! A Future for the World'

[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.

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, Professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta delivered the second lecture on THE STRUCTURAL CONTRADICTIONS OF INDIAN DEMOCRACY AND THE RISE OF THE BJP on 16 th August 2020 ]

Ethics of Selective Outrage – On Converting Mosques and Museums: Aejaz Ahmad and Irshad Rashid

Guest post by AEJAZ AHMAD and IRSHAD RASHID

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.

Continue reading Ethics of Selective Outrage – On Converting Mosques and Museums: Aejaz Ahmad and Irshad Rashid

How to really compensate for injustice committed

It is disheartening when the Constitution is not followed in letter and spirit, but the balm of monetary compensation will not fix the problem.

Dr Kafeel Khan Speech allahabad hc

Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K, he knew he had done nothing wrong but one morning, he was arrested.

These opening lines of Franz Kafka’s classic novel, The Trial, published just over a century ago, in 1925, still ring true. 

Joseph K, the novel’s protagonist, is cashier at a bank. On his 30th birthday, two unidentified agents arrest him for an unspecified crime. The plot of the novel revolves around his efforts to deduce what the charges against him are, and which never become explicit. Joseph K’s feverish hopes to redeem himself of these unknown charges fail and he is executed at a small quarry outside the city—“like a dog”—two days before his 31st birthday.

Kafka, a major figure of 20th century-literature died of tuberculosis in 1924, when he was barely 40 years old. He had wanted all his manuscripts, including of the unfinished The Trial, destroyed after his death, but close friend and executor of his will, Max Brod, ignored the instruction and the world gained a strong literary indictment of an apathetic and inhuman bureaucracy and how completely it can lack respect for civil rights. 

Kafka’s novel resonates with us today for it is not difficult to spot people who have been wronged by our system. Their endless wait for justice, especially those charged with petty crimes, or those who spend the prime of their lives behind bars on concocted charges, is on open public display. 

( Read the full article here )

राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति 2020 – पिछले तजुर्बों से बेख़बर एक दस्तावेज़ : राजेन्द्र चौधरी

Guest post by RAJINDER CHAUDHARY

राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति 2020 के दो मुख्य भाग हैं, स्कूली शिक्षा और उच्च शिक्षा. हम इन दोनों क्षेत्रों का मूल्यांकन करेंगे. किसी भी नीति की तरह इस शिक्षा नीति में भी कुछ स्वागत योग्य कदम हैं, कुछ कमियाँ हैं, कुछ बातें छूट गई हैं और कुछ खतरनाक पहलू हैं. हम तीनों पक्षों को चिन्हित करने का प्रयास करेंगे. दुर्भाग्य से इस नीति के दो अलग अलग अंग्रेजी प्रारूप सरकारी वेब साइटों पर उपलब्ध हैं. एक 60 पृष्ठों का और एक 66 पृष्ठों का है. दोनों की अंतर्वस्तु में भी महत्वपूर्ण अंतर है पर इन प्रारूपों में तिथि नहीं दी गई, इस लिए यह तय करना संभव नहीं है कि कौन सा नया है और कौन सा पुराना है. इस विमर्श हेतू हमने 66 पन्नों वाले दस्तावेज़ का प्रयोग किया है. 

काफी समय से एकविषयक कालेज जैसे बीएड कालेज, इंजीनियरिंग कालेज या बिना विज्ञान संकाय या केवल विज्ञान संकाय के +2 स्कूल तो चल ही रहे थे पर हाल ही में एक विषयक विश्वविद्यालयों का चलन बढ़ा है. जैसे स्वास्थ्य, खेल, संस्कृत, बागवानी विश्विविद्यालय इत्यादि. ऐसे एकविषयक संस्थानों में छात्रों को समग्र विकास का मौका नहीं मिलता. उनका दृष्टिकोण बहुत सीमित हो जाता है. इस लिए बहुविषयक शिक्षा संस्थान विषयों एवं छात्रों दोनों के समग्र विकास के लिये आवश्यक हैं. इस कमी को नयी शिक्षा नीति में रेखांकित किया है और दूर करने का निर्णय लिया गया है. यह स्वागत योग्य कदम है. स्कूल को छात्रों तक सीमित न रख कर एक ‘सामाजिक चेतना केंद्र’ के तौर पर विकसित करना, कम्पार्टमेंट परीक्षा के साथ स्कूली छात्रों को अंक सुधार हेतु मौका देना, सार्वजानिक एवं स्कूल पुस्तकालयों का विस्तार एवं इन के लिए आवश्यक कर्मचारियों की व्यवस्था, मातृभाषा में शिक्षा को बढ़ावा देने का संकल्प, छात्रों को अपनी रूचि के अनुसार ज़्यादा विविध विषयों में से चुनाव चुनाव का मौका, जैसे कदम स्वागत योग्य हैं. 

Continue reading राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति 2020 – पिछले तजुर्बों से बेख़बर एक दस्तावेज़ : राजेन्द्र चौधरी

Secularism and the Myth of ‘Hindu’ Tolerance

‘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.

Continue reading Secularism and the Myth of ‘Hindu’ Tolerance

NEP 2020 – elitist and corporatized education under Hindu Rashtra

This study of the National Education Policy 2020, apart from my own  analysis, draws on extensive commentary on the final document and its earlier drafts, by education policy experts and teachers, including my own union,  JNU Teachers’ Association, which undertook a detailed critique of the Draft NEP 2019.  This needs to be said because neither educationists nor academics were consulted in the process of making the initial policy, nor were states, despite the fact that education is a concurrent subject. We begin therefore with the procedure of finalizing the NEP 2020.

Faulty procedures of formulating and finalizing the policy

No consultative process

All previous education policies have undergone massive consultation processes, as Niraja Gopal Jayal outlines, but not this one. At the press conference announcing the policy, Gopal Jayal points out, it was claimed that an “unprecedented collaborative, inclusive, and highly participatory consultation process” was conducted, but it is clear from the single slide that was shown, that states were not consulted at all.

Continue reading NEP 2020 – elitist and corporatized education under Hindu Rashtra

The ‘Ecopolitical’ Imperative and the Janta Parliament

 

Janta Parliament, Environment session – courtesy Let India Breathe

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, goes an old Chinese saying.  In the present context, that single step – and an absolutely essential step – for reclaiming the soul of India, is the coimng together of the social movements, non-party groups and the political parties – and this was accomplished in the six-day Janta Parliament held from 16-21 August as an online event. Organized by Jan Sarokar – a forum of 31 organizations and loose platforms ranging from Left aligned women’s organizations, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, to loose networks like Not In My Name – the people’s parliament managed to bring together many political parties together as well in the event. As a kind of base paper, Jan Sarokar had prepared a comprehensive 75-page document entitled ‘People’s Policy for Post-COVID 19 Times‘ covering important and urgent policy initiatives on practically every aspect of economic and social life. Attended by representatives of the Congress, the Left parties, the RJD and AAP among others, the people’s parliament session ended with the representatives of the parties present affirming support to the perspectives emerging out the resolutions adopted, which they felt could form the basis for a Common Minimum Programme not only for the political parties but also between parties and social / people’s movements. Continue reading The ‘Ecopolitical’ Imperative and the Janta Parliament

Why Bloomsbury withdrawing ‘Delhi Riots 2020’ is not about freedom of expression: Nivedita Menon and Aditya Nigam

This post is jointly written by NIVEDITA MENON & ADITYA NIGAM

Bloomsbury India has withdrawn the book Delhi Riots 2020 in the face of massive outrage at its publication. While we commend Bloomsbury’s decision to withdraw, we also note that its statement explaining this act ends with the the following sentence:

‘Bloomsbury India strongly supports freedom of speech but also has a deep sense of responsibility towards society.’

The implication here is clear for those who want to see it. The publication of the book was a matter of ‘freedom of speech’, while its withdrawal comes from a ‘deep sense of responsibility towards society’.

At the outset let us state that we do not question the publication of books with which we do not agree, because intellectual and political differences of opinion, and the freedom to express these are the life blood of a democracy. We have not at any point questioned other publications by Bloomsbury, or by other publishing houses, that express views that support the current regime (which has consistently throttled such freedom of expression, and by whom many of us personally are under serious attack). Nor have we raised objections to the flood of hastily turned out books by many publishers that produce intellectually unsustainable arguments that bolster the politics of the anti-constitutional, Brahminical Hindu Rashtra.

So let us spell out what is reprehensible about Delhi Riots 2020 and why it should not have been published in the first place.

Continue reading Why Bloomsbury withdrawing ‘Delhi Riots 2020’ is not about freedom of expression: Nivedita Menon and Aditya Nigam

Corporate Social Media in India: Sell Hate, Enjoy Profit

The bias that social media platforms such as Facebook display reflects their own world-view as much as it does the regimes they support.

Corporate Social Media in India

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.

There is at least one thing in common between what Rwanda went through and what India witnessed in 1992: both tragedies demonstrated how the media can prepare and provoke ordinary people into unleashing untold miseries on their neighbours. Continue reading Corporate Social Media in India: Sell Hate, Enjoy Profit

Muscular Law Reform in Times of a Pandemic: Pratiksha Baxi

Guest Post by PRATIKSHA BAXI

In May 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs constituted a Committee to recommend reforms in criminal laws in India with NLU Delhi.  The National Level Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws (henceforth, the NLUD Committee) is to review and recommend changes to the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act in 90 odd days. On 26 June 2020, responses were solicited from experts on ‘questionnaires highlighting issues in the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and Indian Evidence Act’ for which experts were invited to register. The Committee has uploaded a questionnaire, extended time for experts to reply and announced concessional consultation with non-experts. 68 Bare Acts, and 89 Law Commission Reports, along with some links and some op-eds by committee members are uploaded on the website, as resources for experts. The Open Consultation can be accessed for a period of two months starting from 17 July 2020  to 16 September 2020. This process is virtual since the process of reviewing and revising criminal law is being performed during a pandemic.

Continue reading Muscular Law Reform in Times of a Pandemic: Pratiksha Baxi