Category Archives: Debates

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)

Marx in Brussels

The most remarkable development during his time in Brussels was the penning down of the Communist Manifesto, which firmly established Marx as well as Engels as the intellectual leaders of the working class movement.

Marx in Brussels

Karl Marx

Lived in Brussels from February 1845 to March 1848

He celebrated New Year’s Eve 1947/48 together with the “Deutscher Arbeiterverein” and the “Association Democratique” in this place

The plaque put on a building which housed a restaurant ‘Le Cygne, The Swan’ now is the only memory left of the days when history was ‘made’ here. According to legend, it is the same place ‘[w]here the First International had convened’  and Marx and his lifelong friend and comrade Engels ‘[h]ad written the Communist Manifesto’.

No doubt it was the same place when Marx, Engels, Mozes Hess – who was another early luminary of socialism and who supposedly had influenced Engels about communism – and other associates of the surging workers movement pondered over many of those ideas which have been memorialised in the opening sentences of the Manifesto, “A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism….”

May be the historic slogan ‘Workers of the World Unite, You have nothing to lose but your chains’ which later reverberated throughout the world – whose echoes are still heard – had its ‘humble’ beginning in one of those very rooms, where Marx and his close associates used to educate workers about their exploitation.

Scores of people sitting in this particular restaurant which was serving them sumptuous food and choicest drinks were completely oblivious of all those details. Few of them rather looked at us with a sense of disbelief and dismay, when they witnessed us taking photos of the nondescript wall which had the plaque put on it. Perhaps they looked more satisfied that they are enjoying food at a place which is situated on the Grand Place or Grote Markt, which is the central square of Brussels and is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe and is also part of UN Heritage.

( Read the full article here : https://www.newsclick.in/karl-marx-in-brussels)

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)

 

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)

Draft New Education Policy 2019 through a Gender and Sexuality Lens

Recommendations on Draft New Education Policy (DNEP) by a collective of women’s groups, queer groups, NGOs, students, and academics working in the field of gender, sexuality and education.

We, a collective of women’s groups, queer groups, NGOs, students, and academics working in the field of gender, sexuality and education, across India strongly recommend and reiterate that for all the recommendations given here, the policy and thereafter, the Government of India and State Governments must ensure that there is a proactive strengthening of democracy within educational institutions. The right to expression, liberty, equality and diversity are rights enshrined in the Constitution of India. We welcome that the DNEP 2019 as it states that it will promote constitutional values in education. However, for the implementation of this objective, changes in the content of the curriculum will not suffice. Constitutional values must be protected in the processes and institutional structures of schools and higher education bodies.

We commend the policy for introducing the following provisions:

  1. DNEP 2019 addresses the issue of early childhood education, especially the timely recommendation of making Years 3 to 8 as a foundational stage. This becomes critical as early education and experiences are the most formative in a child’s life, and a holistic pre-school education continues well beyond traditional schooling years.
  2. It is the first policy to uphold the Honourable Supreme Court’s 2014 directives around transgender inclusion in education.
  3. The policy has taken cognizance of many children who continue to dropout at different levels, and the even more serious problem of enrolled children not attending school regularly.
  4. It seeks to strengthen departments/ centres of education at universities.

Having said this, the subsequent list of recommendations is laid down to strengthen the DNEP 2019 from the lens of gender and sexuality, especially for the most marginalised communities. We feel that gender and sexuality related rights could only be ensured if there is a larger enabling environment, in which diversity of thought and practices are respected. These, we feel, would be critical in developing a robust educational policy for the country, which would address the fundamental intersectionalities that individuals and communities face in their lives. Continue reading Draft New Education Policy 2019 through a Gender and Sexuality Lens