Category Archives: Debates

A lesson in political theory from farmers’ unions

A little bemused, I heard a writer addressing the farmers’ protests recently say in all solidarity and sincerity – “What we have been writing about for long, you have demonstrated at ground level.”

On the contrary, I believe that this massive and electrifying protest against the farm laws is at the cutting edge of political theory and political practice, from which writers and academics must listen and learn.

Please listen to the statement by Kanwaljeet Singh on the Supreme Court judgement staying the farm laws, and setting up an “expert” committee to “negotiate” between the farmers and the government.

Speaking on behalf of the joint forum of farmers’ unions, Kisan Ekta Morcha, Kanwaljeet (of Punjab Kisan Union) makes what I think are two critical points regarding the law and how movements can relate to it. These thought provoking points have larger resonance and require wide ranging debate and consideration. Continue reading A lesson in political theory from farmers’ unions

Invention of Merit and the ‘Millstone of Caste’: Mohan Rao

Guest post by MOHAN RAO

“And yet there must be deliverance for we are all otherwise convicted at birth.”

I want to thank Srivats and Anveshi for inviting to be part of a discussion about the book, Caste as Merit, by Ajantha Subramaniam.* I am not a scholar on these issues and I must confess this scares me sometimes, for I wonder if we can discuss these issues at all? Some friends actually advised me not to take part in this discussion, because I was, ineluctably,  going to be labelled as Brahmin, talking about a book written by a Brahmin in the US! In my own estimation though, I remain a nastika, a non-believer, out of Brahminical bounds.

I would like to begin by showing a lithograph – and a story.

Continue reading Invention of Merit and the ‘Millstone of Caste’: Mohan Rao

Mohan Bhagwat’s Divisive Mantra on Automatic Patriotism

It is a mischievous denigration of constitutional principles and values which declare every human equal and bar discrimination.

Mohan Bhagwat

“A Hindu is an automatic patriot and can never be an anti-national.” Remember the line? It is of Mohan Bhagwat, the Sangh supremo, who was at his best last week, at the launch of the book, Making of a Hindu Patriot: Background of Gandhiji’s Hind Swaraj. The book on Gandhi’s journey from Porbandar in Gujarat to England and South Africa and back to India, by JK Bajaj and MD Srinivas, was released by the Centre for Policy Studies.

In this book is the controversial claim that during 1893-94, Gandhi was pressurised to change his religion by both his Muslim employer and Christian colleagues in South Africa, which he refused. And by 1905, the book says, he became a devout Hindu.

Sure, everybody has a right to express their views, the authors and Mohan Bhagwat included, but the veracity of their claim still needs to be tested. As for the alleged pressure on Gandhi, the claim seems to come from out of the blue, and I would take it with a pinch of salt.

(Read the full article here )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0

मौजूदा किसान आन्दोलन पर वक्तव्य : रवि सिन्हा

Guest Post by Ravi Sinha

Image may contain: 1 person, beard

किसानों के इस आन्दोलन को उसके तात्कालिक उद्देश्यों और सम्भावनाओं मात्र के सन्दर्भ में देखें तो भी यह ऐतिहासिक है. अपनी अंतिम और सम्भावित सफलता से स्वतन्त्र इसकी उपलब्धियाँ अभी ही ऐतिहासिक महत्त्व की साबित हो चुकी हैं. लेकिन इस आन्दोलन के अर्थ और इसकी सम्भावनायें और भी बड़ी हैं. भारत की दुर्दशा के इस घोर अँधेरे में, जहाँ अधिनायकवादी फ़ासिस्ट शक्तियों के ख़िलाफ़ प्रतिरोध की सम्भावनााओं को एक के बाद एक कुचल दिया जाता रहा है, यह आन्दोलन एक मशाल बनकर सामने आया है. किसानों से शुरू होकर यह आन्दोलन सिर्फ़ किसानों का नहीं रह गया  है. पंजाब और हरियाणा के किसानों के द्वारा दिल्ली को घेरने से शुरू हुई यह मुहिम अब दिल्ली की सत्ता को घेरने वाली चौतरफ़ा मुहिम का रूप लेती जा रही है. हम किसानों के इस आन्दोलन को सर्वप्रथम इसलिए समर्थन देते हैं और उसमें इस लिये शामिल हैं कि उनकी माँगें जायज़ हैं और इस सरकार द्वारा ज़बरदस्ती लाये गये तीनों क़ानूनों को लेकर उनकी आशंकायें वास्तविक हैं. और हम इस आन्दोलन को इसलिये सलाम करते हैं और इससे प्रेरणा लेते हैं कि यह अँधेरे में रौशनी की मशाल बनकर सामने आया है.

 अगर हम आंदोलन की तात्कालिक माँगों और उद्देश्यों की विस्तृत चर्चा यहाँ नहीं करते हैं तो इसका अर्थ यह नहीं कि इनके जायज़ और ऐतिहासिक महत्त्व के होने में हमें कोई संदेह है. अब यह जगज़ाहिर है कि ये तीनों क़ानून उस शैतानी योजना का हिस्सा हैं जिसके तहत कृषि क्षेत्र को कारपोरेट पूँजी के प्रत्यक्ष आधिपत्य में ले जाने की तैयारी है. यह न केवल किसानों की रही-सही आर्थिक सुरक्षा को समाप्त करेगा, सरकार को उसकी जिम्मेदारी से मुक्त करेगा और न्यूनतम समर्थन मूल्य तथा राज्य-संचालित मंडियों की व्यवस्था को तोड़ देगा, बल्कि यह पूरे देश की आम जनता की खाद्य-सुरक्षा – जितनी भी है और जैसी भी है – को ख़तरे में डाल देगा. साथ ही ये क़ानून भारत के संघीय ढाँचे के विरुद्ध भी हैं, और केन्द्र द्वारा राज्यों के अधिकारों का अतिक्रमण हैं. यह सब आप सभी को मालूम है और इन कारणों से ही इस आंदोलन का सूत्रपात हुआ है.

Continue reading मौजूदा किसान आन्दोलन पर वक्तव्य : रवि सिन्हा

Farming the Future, Farming As Future

Today is the last day of the dreadful year that 2020 was – not only because of the pandemic but it has been a year full of the most vicious attacks on dissent and protests. It has also seen wanton arrests of those who raised their voices against the myriad injustices of this regime. The year that began with the epic struggle against the CAA-NRC ends while another epic struggle – that of the farmers – is going on. This post is dedicated to them and to the future of the farmers in struggle.

In the video above, Narayana Reddy, a farmer talks about farming. Having run away from home at a young age and worked as a cleaner earning Rs 40 a month, Reddy gradually got better jobs and saved some money with which he bought land for farming. Listen to his brief account here and you will realize that this charismatic and much celebrated farmer started off farming exactly the way it was understood in those days – that is to say, with standard ‘Green Revolution’ techniques.  In five to six years, Narayana Reddy tells us, he became a spectacularly successful model farmer but something was amiss. Despite high yields, I was continuously losing money, he says. The story, with minor variations, was the same as that of Green Revolution farmers in Punjab: a few years of prosperity, accompanied by huge losses due to rising input costs (tractors, fuel, fertilizers, high-yielding variety seeds, pesticides, electricity run pumps), and rapidly deteriorating soil quality, depleting water table, disappearing of locally suitable crops.

There was no historical destiny or necessity in all this. Major US foundations like Ford and Rockefeller Foundations were involved in pushing this new way of doing ‘industrial’ agriculture developed by Norman Borlaug. I am not suggesting that this was a conspiracy but it was certainly something that took away control from the hands of the peasants and in the name of modernizing agriculture, made them dependent on big corporations (backed by the state) who were lurking behind this innocent-sounding rhetoric of increased productivity and prosperity. With the new farm laws, we are currently facing a fresh round of attacks on the autonomy and livelihooods of the farmers – and this time the government can’t pretend to any innocence in this regard.

So let us ask an elementary question: Why do people work and produce? The answer obviously is because they want to live well and live better in this world, here and now.

Continue reading Farming the Future, Farming As Future

Pandemic Lowers India’s Level of Democracy

THIS GOVERNMENT HAS STIGMATISED THE VERY IDEA OF PROTEST, YET IT IS STRUGGLING TO MANAGE THE MASS UPSURGE AGAINST THE FARM LAWS.

Parliament Closed

For nearly a month, lakhs of farmers have staged sit-ins on various points along the border shared by the national capital and neighbouring states. Their peaceful movement, which is drawing support from farmers across the country, is meant to persuade the government to repeal the farm-related laws that it pushed through Parliament in September.

The farmers have refused to accept the government’s claim that the new laws would benefit them. They insist that these laws would dismantle state procurement and open up agriculture to contract farming, which would only help big corporations. They have also been insisting that corporations will amass essential food commodities and manipulate stocks and prices, for the government has also revoked stocking limits.

The three laws were initially introduced as ordinances this summer while the Covid-19 pandemic was raging and the country was still segregated into red, green and amber zones. Thereafter, they were passed in Parliament without discussion or debate. The manner of their introduction—rather, imposition—threw all democratic norms to the winds and so farmers see no reason to trust the intention behind them either.

Farmers do not look forward to a time when large retail chains would dictate terms and impose conditions on them. They rightly say that these laws would usher in an attack on the right to food security of working people and escalate food prices, which would hurt all consumers.

The immediate response of the government to the concerns of farmers was to repress and distort their movement. Not a day has passed without fresh abuse hurled at them. Starting from “Khalistani” to “Urban Naxal” to “anti-national” to “fake farmers”, every trick in the book has been tried to stigmatise them. Nor have the authorities made serious efforts to stop those who are maligning this historic peaceful protest.

( Read the full article here)

Farm Laws, Farmer Protests and Agrarian Crisis : Dr Jaya mehta

 

Dr Jaya Mehta, economist and activist, has been associated with the Joshi-Adhikari Institute of Social Studies, author of many books who coordinated an all India study of the Agrarian Crisis delivered a special lecture on ‘Farm Laws, Farmer Protests and Agrarian Crisis’ on 27 th December 2020.
Abstract of talk :
The reforms in agricultural marketing contained in the three farm laws were first announced by the finance minister on 15th May 2020 as Prime Minister’s relief package for the people. When Covid and lock-down had created crisis in the entire economy, migrant workers were walking hundreds of kilometers to reach home and the majority of households desperately needed state support and protection, the Modi government chose to withdraw state intervention and deregulate market forces in agriculture to leave people in complete disarray. After the controversial monsoon session of parliament, the reforms to deregulate market became laws.

Continue reading Farm Laws, Farmer Protests and Agrarian Crisis : Dr Jaya mehta

Mass Politics and ‘Populism’ in the World of Indian Languages

Image courtesy Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy

The label ‘populism’ has acquired unprecedented currency lately and is used to indiscriminately describe such a wide range of poliical figures and political tendencies that it seems to have lost all conceptual meaning. In the best of times, it was always a slippery concept that has been linked to democracy at one end and fascism at the other. On the one hand, it is seen as the democratic ‘excess’ that escapes the attempt of liberal-representative institutions to rein it in; on the other, it is seen as being of a piece with the fascist resort to antipolitical demagoguery and the rhetoric of the (national) ‘underdog’ oppressed by an elite (usually with international links).
The way the term is used these days to describe everyone from a Donald Trump, a Recep Erdogan or a Narendra Modi on the one hand, to the late Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Rafael Correa or even Bernie Sanders or Podemos and Syriza, on the other, defies all logic. What possible common denominator can one find between such diverse figures and political formations? That common denominator is simply ‘the people’ or the ‘underdog’ that they invoke – even if in completely different ways.

Continue reading Mass Politics and ‘Populism’ in the World of Indian Languages

Fascism, Democracy and the Left : Com Dipankar Bhattacharya

 

The 6th lecture in the Democracy Dialogues series organized by the New Socialist Initiative was delivered by Com Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary of CPI (ML) Liberation on 20 th December 6 pm (IST) where he spoke on ‘Fascism, Democracy and the Left’

Abstract  : ‘Fascism, Democracy, and the Left’

With the rise of the Modi government, BJP has managed to establish a vicious grip on Indian polity. Parliamentary democracy and the constitutional vision of a secular democratic Indian republic have come under fierce attack. Instead of remaining busy with studying historical parallels we should treat the present phase as the rise of the Indian model of fascism and resist it with all our might. While we can locate the present Indian developments in the context of global economic and political trends in the post-Soviet world, there are strong roots in Indian history and society. One should revisit Ambedkar and the warnings he had issued right at the time of adoption of India’s Constitution.
The Left vision and role in politics has been historically identified with ideas and experiments of building socialism, but the challenge for socialism to offer a superior model of democracy has remained fatally neglected. In the face of a fascist offensive, the Left in India must emerge and assert as the most consistent and reliable champion of democracy.

Continue reading Fascism, Democracy and the Left : Com Dipankar Bhattacharya

From the Electron to the Higgs- The Long Twentieth Century of Particle Physics – :Dr Ravi Sinha

Guest Post by Dr Ravi Sinha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 9th lecture (in Hindi) in the Umang Library popular science series will happen this Sunday, December 13, at 5 PM IST. The series is aimed at creating awareness about science in the Hindi belt of India.

Abstract : From the Electron to the Higgs: The Long Twentieth Century of Particle Physics

In 1897 J J Thomson discovered the electron with a Cathode Ray Tube that could fit on a small table in his Cavendish Laboratory. In 2012 the Higgs particle was discovered at the Large Hadron Collider which is the largest scientific instrument ever built (it is a particle accelerator that sits in a tunnel 27 kilometres in circumference and required billions of dollars to build). If the 1897 discovery inaugurated particle physics, the 2012 one was the culmination of the chain of stunning discoveries of new particles spread across these 115 years. In this lecture we will tell the story of the major landmarks of this long century of particle physics which include discoveries of the proton, of anti-particles and of quarks. This is the epic story of the eternal quest of humankind for the most fundamental laws of Nature and the most fundamental constituents of matter. Like all the lectures in this series this lecture too will be accessible to high school students and to curious lay persons. Continue reading From the Electron to the Higgs- The Long Twentieth Century of Particle Physics – :Dr Ravi Sinha

किसान आंदोलन की माँगों और 8 तारीख के भारत बंद के समर्थन में जारी बयान

( न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनीशिएटिवदलित लेखक संघअखिल भारतीय दलित लेखिका मंचप्रगतिशील लेखक संघजन संस्कृति मंचइप्टासंगवारीप्रतिरोध का सिनेमा और जनवादी लेखक संघ द्वारा किसान आंदोलन की माँगों और  तारीख के भारत बंद के समर्थन में जारी बयान  )

Image : Courtesy Reuters

तीन जनद्रोही कृषि-क़ानूनों के खिलाफ़ किसानों के ऐतिहासिक आन्दोलन का साथ दें!

केन्द्र सरकार के कार्पोरेटपरस्त एजेण्डा के विरोध में अपनी आवाज़ बुलन्द करें!

दिसम्बर के भारत बंद को सफल बनाएं!

 भारत का किसान – जिसके संघर्षों और कुर्बानियों का एक लम्बा इतिहास रहा है – आज एक ऐतिहासिक मुक़ाम पर खड़ा है।

हज़ारों-लाखों की तादाद में उसके नुमाइन्दे राजधानी दिल्ली की विभिन्न सरहदों पर धरना दिए हुए हैं और उन तीन जनद्रोही क़ानूनों की वापसी की मांग कर रहे हैं जिनके ज़रिए इस हुकूमत ने एक तरह से उनकी तबाही और बरबादी के वॉरंट पर दस्तख़त किए हैं। अपनी आवाज़ को और बुलंद करने के लिए किसान संगठनों की तरफ़ से 8 दिसम्बर को भारत बंद का ऐलान किया गया है।

सरकार भले ही यह दावा करे कि ये तीनों क़ानून – जिन्हें महामारी के दिनों में पहले अध्यादेश के ज़रिए लागू किया गया था और फिर तमाम जनतांत्रिक परंपराओं को ताक़ पर रखते हुए संसद में पास किया गया – किसानों की भलाई के लिए हैं, लेकिन यह बात बहुत साफ़ हो चुकी है कि इनके ज़रिए राज्य द्वारा अनाज की खरीद की प्रणाली को समाप्त करने और इस तरह बड़े कॉर्पोरेट घरानों के लिए ठेका आधारित खेती करने तथा आवश्यक खाद्य सामग्री की बड़ी मात्रा में जमाखोरी करने की राह हमवार की जा रही है।

लोगों के सामने यह भी साफ़ है कि यह महज़ किसानों का सवाल नहीं बल्कि मेहनतकश अवाम के लिए अनाज की असुरक्षा का सवाल भी है। अकारण नहीं कि किसानों के इस अभूतपूर्व आन्दोलन के साथ खेतमज़दूरों, औद्योगिक मज़दूरों के संगठनों तथा नागरिक समाज के तमाम लोगों, संगठनों ने अपनी एकजुटता प्रदर्शित की है।

 जनतंत्र और संवाद हमेशा साथ चलते हैं। लेकिन आज यह दिख रहा है कि मौजूदा निज़ाम की ओर से जिस ‘न्यू इंडिया’ के आगमन की बात की जा रही है, उसके तहत जनतंत्र के नाम पर अधिनायकवाद की स्थापना का खुला खेल चल रहा है।

आज की तारीख में सरकार किसान संगठनों के साथ वार्ता करने के लिए मजबूर हुई है, मगर इसे असंभव करने की हर मुमकिन कोशिश सरकार की तरफ़ से अब तक की जाती रही है। उन पर लाठियां बरसायी गयीं, उनके रास्ते में तमाम बाधाएं खड़ी की गयी, यहां तक कि सड़कें भी काटी गयीं। यह किसानों का अपना साहस और अपनी जीजीविषा ही थी कि उन्होंने इन कोशिशों को नाकाम किया और अपने शांतिपूर्ण संघर्ष के काफ़िलों को लेकर राजधानी की सरहदों तक पहुंच गए।

किसानों के इस आन्दोलन के प्रति मुख्यधारा के मीडिया का रवैया कम विवादास्पद नहीं रहा। न केवल उसने आन्दोलन के वाजिब मुद्दों को लेकर चुप्पी साधे रखी बल्कि सरकार तथा उसकी सहमना दक्षिणपंथी ताक़तों द्वारा आन्दोलन को बदनाम करने की तमाम कोशिशों का भी जम कर साथ दिया। आंदोलन को विरोधी राजनीतिक पार्टी द्वारा प्रायोजित बताया गया, किसानों को खालिस्तान समर्थक तक बताया गया।

दरअसल, विगत कुछ सालों यही सिलसिला आम हो चला है। हर वह आवाज़ जो सरकारी नीतियों का विरोध करती हो – भले ही वह नागरिकता क़ानून हो, सांप्रदायिक दंगे हों, नोटबंदी हो – उसे बदनाम करने और उसका विकृतिकरण करने की साज़िशें रची गयीं। किसानों का आंदोलन भी इससे अछूता नहीं है।

यह सकारात्मक है कि इन तमाम बाधाओं के बावजूद किसान शांतिपूर्ण संघर्ष की अपनी राह पर डटे हैं।

हम सामाजिक-सांस्कृतिक संगठन किसानों के इस अभूतपूर्व आन्दोलन के प्रति अपनी एकजुटता प्रगट करते हैं। हम जनता तथा जनता के संगठनों, पार्टियों से अपील करते हैं कि वे इस आन्दोलन के साथ जुड़ें और 8 दिसम्बर के भारत बंद को सफल बनाकर केंद्र सरकार को एक स्पष्ट संदेश दें।

हम सरकार से यह मांग करते हैं कि वह अपना अड़ियल रवैया छोड़े और तीन जनद्रोही कृषि-क़ानूनों को रद्द करने का ऐलान करे।

 हम आंदोलनरत किसानों से भी अपील करते हैं कि वे शांति के अपने रास्ते पर अडिग रहें।

जीत न्याय की होगी ! जीत सत्य की होगी !! जीत हमारी होगी !!

न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनीशिएटिव   दलित लेखक संघ   अखिल भारतीय दलित लेखिका मंच   प्रगतिशील लेखक संघ   जन संस्कृति मंच   इप्टा   संगवारी   प्रतिरोध का सिनेमा   जनवादी लेखक संघ

जेल और थानों में सीसीटीवी: क्या इससे पुलिस ज़्यादतियों पर अंकुश लग सकता है?

अदालत ने यह भी निर्देश दिया कि राज्य एवं जिला स्तरों पर ऐसी निगरानी कमेटियों का भी निर्माण किया जाए तथा ऐसे कैमरों को स्थापित करने की दिशा में तेजी लायी जाए।

सीसीटीवी

सर्वोच्च न्यायालय ने एक जनहित याचिका के संदर्भ में पिछले दिनों एक अहम फैसला दिया। इसके तहत उसने तमाम राज्यों और केंद्रशासित प्रदेशों को निर्देश दिया कि वह हर थाने में क्लोजड सर्किट टीवी (सीसीटीवी), जिसमें आवाज़ रिकॉर्डिंग की भी सुविधा हो तथा रात में ‘देखने’ की व्यवस्था हो, जल्द से जल्द स्थापित करे। अदालत की इस त्रिसदस्यीय पीठ ने – जिसमें न्यायमूर्ति आर एफ नरीमन, न्यायमूर्ति के एम जोसेफ और न्यायमूर्ति अनिरूद्ध बोस भी शामिल थे – अपने आदेश में यह भी जोड़ा कि ऐसी सुविधा केन्द्रीय एजेंसियों के दफ्तरों में भी स्थापित की जानी चाहिए फिर चाहे सीबीआई हो, नेशनल इनवेस्टिगेशन एजेंसी (एनआईए) हो या नारकोटिक्स कन्टोल ब्यूरो (एनसीबी) हो या एनफोर्समेण्ट डायरेक्टोरेट हो।

भारत जैसे मुल्क में पुलिस बलों या अन्य केन्द्रीय एजेंसियों के दस्तों द्वारा की जाने वाली प्रताड़ना एवं यातनाओं से अक्सर ही रूबरू होना पड़ता है। आप तमिलनाडु के थोडकुडी जिले में पिता पुत्रों- जयराज उम्र 62 वर्ष और बेंडक्स उम्र 32 साल – की हिरासत में मौत के प्रसंग को देखें, जब दोषी पुलिसकर्मियों की संलिप्तता को साबित करने के लिए जन आंदोलन करना पड़ा था। जून, 2020 या आप कुछ वक्त़ पहले राजधानी दिल्ली से ही आर्म्स एक्ट के तहत बंद विचाराधीन कैदी की पुलिस द्वारा निर्वस्त्र कर की गयी पिटाई का दृश्य चर्चित हुआ था जब किसी न कैमरे में उपरोक्त नज़ारा कैद कर मजिस्ट्रेट के सामने पेश किया था।

त्रिसदस्यीय पीठ का मानना था कि चाहे मानवाधिकार आयोग हो या मुल्क की अदालतें हो, वह किसी विवाद की स्थिति में इस सीसीटीवी फुटेज का इस्तेमाल कर सकती हैं, जहां हिरासत में बंद लोगों के मानवाधिकारों के हनन की अक्सर शिकायतें आती रहती हैं और जनाक्रोश भी सड़कों पर उतरता रहता है। अदालत ने यह भी निर्देश दिया कि राज्य एवं जिला स्तरों पर ऐसी निगरानी कमेटियों का भी निर्माण किया जाए तथा ऐसे कैमरों को स्थापित करने की दिशा में तेजी लायी जाए।

गौरतलब है कि जहां तक थानो में सीसीटीवी लगाने का सवाल है, देश के अन्य न्यायालय भी इस किस्म का निर्देश पहले दे चुके हैं।

( Read the full article here)

The Spectre of Evil…The world Since 1989 : Kumar Ketkar

 

The fifth lecture in the ‘Democracy Dialogues Series’ organised by New Socialist Initiative was delivered by Kumar Ketkar, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha at 6 PM (IST) on Sunday, 6 th December

Theme : The Spectre of Evil…The world Since 1989

Continue reading The Spectre of Evil…The world Since 1989 : Kumar Ketkar

How Can India Reinvigorate Phule’s Revolutionary Legacy ?

Remembering a colossus in the times of Hindutva.

Jyotirao phule.

Who will reinvigorate Phule’s legacy? This question stares us in the eye on 28 November, the 130th death anniversary of Jyotirao Phule, considered the “father of social revolution in India”. Phule largely remains relegated to the background—a result of selective amnesia and identity politics in modern India, where his path-breaking contributions, and those of his wife Savitribai and her fellow traveller Fatima Sheikh are rarely remembered.

They are credited with opening the first school for girls from the historically “untouchable” communities in Pune, which was once ruled by the Peshwas. This school created an upheaval in the Brahmin-dominated Maharashtra of yore, as a 14-year-old Muktabai, belonging to the formerly “untouchable” Mang caste, who studied in the school, wrote: “O learned Pandits, wind up the selfish prattle of your hollow wisdom and listen to what I say.” The student’s essay was published in 1855 in Dnyanodaya, a journal popular then. (From Women Writing in India, Edited by Susie Tharu and K Lalitha, Pandora.)

Jyotirao Phule was given the honorific of “Mahatma” a few years before he breathed his last in 1890, for a life spent engaging in tremendous innovation and creativity. He initiated his wife into writing and she later became an independent activist too—a rarity in those days. He opened the doors of his home for those considered the lowliest among the low. He came to the defence of scholar-activists, such as Pandita Rambai, when she embraced Christianity. So he fought against the conservative onslaught single-handedly. Many such instances in his life are worth emulating today.

( Read the full article here)

इस्लामिस्ट एवं हिन्दुत्ववादी: कब तक चलेगी यह जुगलबंदी!

आखिर इस्लामिस्ट क्यों खुश हैं नागरिकता संशोधन अधिनियम से

not in my name

प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर। 

विजयादशमी के दिन सरसंघचालक की तकरीर आम तौर पर आने वाले समय का संकेत प्रदान करती है।

विश्लेषक उस व्याख्यान की पड़ताल करके इस बात का अंदाज़ा लगाते हैं कि दिल्ली में सत्तासीन संघ के आनुषंगिक संगठन भाजपा की आगामी योजना क्या होगी।

विगत माह विजयादशमी के दिन संघ सुप्रीमो के व्याख्यान का फोकस नागरिता संशोधन अधिनियम पर था, जिसमें उन्होंने यह दावा किया कि यह अधिनियम किसी भी ‘धार्मिक समुदाय’ के साथ भेदभाव नहीं करता है और मुसलमानों को एक छद्म प्रचार से गुमराह किया गया है। उनके मुताबिक संसद में यह कानून संवैधानिक प्रक्रिया का पालन करके पारित हुआ है, एक तरह से सरहद पार के उन भाइयों एवं बहनों को सुरक्षा प्रदान करता है, जिन्हें वहां धार्मिक प्रताडना झेलनी पड़ती है।

मालूम हो कि उन दिनों चूंकि बिहार चुनावों की सरगर्मियां बनी हुई थीं, लिहाजा उनके वक्तव्यों से निकले संकेतों पर अधिक बात नहीं हो सकी।

गौरतलब है कि बंगाल के चुनावों के मद्देनज़र भाजपा के कुछ अग्रणी नेताओं ने भी इसी किस्म की बातें शुरू कर दी हैं। मालूम हो कई बार अपनी आम सभाओं में उनके कई अग्रणी, ‘दीमक’ की तरह ऐसे ‘अवांछितों’ को हटाने की बात पहले ही कर चुके हैं।

प्रश्न यह है कि क्या कोविड काल में इस सम्बन्ध में नियम बनाने का जो सिलसिला छोड़ दिया गया था क्या उसी मार्ग पर सरकार चलने वाली है और इसे लागू किया जाने वाला है या यह सिर्फ चुनावी सरगर्मी बनाए रखने का मामला है।

( Read the full article here )

Bengal 2021, Fascism and the Left(s)

 

 

‘The specific threat of National Socialism was obscured amid general talk of the perils of “fascists”, a term egregiously applied to Bruning, Social Democrats and all and sundry. Dogmatic catastrophist theorising led the Communists to actively underplay the Nazis: Ernst Thalman warned the KPD [Communist Party of Germany] Central Committee in February 1932 “that nothing would be more disastrous than an opportunistic overestimation of Hitler-fascism.’  – Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich – A New History, p. 136

Ernst Thalman warned his party’s Central Committee against ‘opportunistically overestimating Hitler’, literally months before Hitler was appointed Chancellor in January the following year. What is more, this statement was made at a time when the intentions of the Nazis were hidden to nobody. As Burleigh puts it, they had frequently announced their contempt for the law and ‘by 1932 were vowing to intern Communists and Social Democrat opponents in concentration camps.’ (p. 149) Thalman, we know, was killed in the Buchenwald concentration camp in August 1944, eleven years after being held in captivity. Indeed, Thalman was arrested barely a year after he warned his party not to overestimate ‘Hitler-fascism’.

It is common knowledge that as the clouds of danger encircled Germany and the Depression was leading to cataclysmic shifts, the KPD continued to focus on Social Democrats as the main enemy. A brief entry on Thalman in the Encyclopaedia Britannica puts it pithily:

‘The party was almost completely unprepared when, in early 1933, Adolf Hitler ordered the mass arrests of communist functionaries; these arrests practically destroyed the party structure. Thälmann’s arrest came on March 3, 1933. All efforts to obtain his release failed, and he remained imprisoned for more than a decade until he was finally executed at Buchenwald concentration camp.’

‘The Most Dangerously Hidebound Force’

This quote above is not just about Germany. It is about a certain mindset widely prevalent in the Left. This mindset deploys the term ‘fascism’ quite indiscriminately, dissolving the specific threat of fascism into  just another variant of ‘authoritarianism’ and misuse of power.  Usually this happens because of incorrigibly reductionist thinking that sees in every authoritarian tendency a manifestation of ‘capitalism’, thereby reducing all of them to mere variations of the same. But it also happens becuase of what Antonio Gramsci saw as the party’s incapacity to ‘react against the force of habit, against the tendency to become mummified and anachronistic’ – a characteristic he attributed to the ‘most dangerously hidebound and conservative force’ namely, the ‘party bureaucracy’.

It is misleading to think in terms of historical analogies and one should normally avoid thinking of historical replays or re-enactments. Every historical situation is unique and has its own antecedent conditions. But there are  always lessons to be learnt from speicfic historical experiences and one can ignore them only at one’s own peril.

The intentions of the current regime in India are not a secret any more and we have seen its contempt for the rule of law, over and over again. The ongoing farce of the Bhima-Koregaon arrests, or the fantastic conspiracy theories that have been woven around the North East Delhi communal violence earlier this year, are there for everyone to see. Have we forgotten that when Justice Muralidhar of the Delhi High Court insisted that the police see in the  court, the crucial piece of evidence – that of Kapil Mishra’s video-recorded speech openly threatening violence and killing – he was transferred out of Delhi that very night? These aren’t just aberrations: the subversion of the rule of law that began with the isolated case of Judge Loya’s murder is now an everyday affair and the judges know what the costs of going against this regime can be. Of course, there have been many instances of the subversion of the criminal justice system during ‘riots’ and ‘communal violence’ in the past as well, but the overall sanctity of the law was maintained and things could still be challenged in court with some results.

One big difference between Germany in 1933 and India today, (among many other differences), is that even in early 1933, communists and social democrats mattered enough for Hitler to want to arrest them and clear the way for his untramelled exercise of power. In India today, the main opposition to key policy changes has come from ordinary people at large – the Citizenship Amendment Act being the most classic instance. No wonder then, those being arrested here are ordinary people and activists unaffiliated to any political party.

What is worse is that the dominant mainstream Left, has by and large, got caught up in the tendency that Gramsci described – to become mummified and anachronistic; the incapacity to react against the force of habit and formulaic thinking; the inability to recognize what is new in the situation. We have been witnessing a naked display of this tendency in the mainstream Left’s antics in Bengal, which created history in the 2019 parliament elections by mobilizing votes for the BJP.  Now that the state assembly elections are due next year, things are assuming surreal dimensions.

Thus, the CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury argued in a television interview, later prominently displayed on the front page of the party’s Bengali daily Ganashakti, that ‘in order to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Trinamool Congress (TMC) must be defeated‘. This statement actually makes no sense whatsoever when the danger of Hindutva takeover of the state is imminent and elections are just round the corner. Perhaps,  in a slightly longer term, this could have made some sense. The argument that there is great discontent against  the TMC government and the anti-incumbency votes against it must be mopped up by the Left so that the BJP does not benefit, can make sense only when we are thinking of BJP’s growth in the medium term at the very least. But before examining this argument, it might just be worth asking that if that is really the case, how does the Left actually justify mobilizing votes for the BJP? This is not only evident in the ground reports that were coming in from Bengal but was also claimed by the Home Minister Amit Shah just a few days ago. In terms of electoral statistics too, it is clear that the extra votes that the BJP polled in the Lok Sabha elections came almost entirely from the CPI(M).  According to CPI(ML) Liberation leader Kavita Krishnan, even now, among Left supporters in West Bengal, ‘arguments are rife on the ground suggesting “Ram in 2021 and Baam [Left] in 2026″‘. 

But let us still look at the argument that the West Bengal CPI(M) is making. The argument of the CPI(M), to repeat, is this: in order to defeat the BJP  it is necessary to defeat the TMC. Today’s (19 November 2020) Ganashakti has modified the line a bit and it says: In order to defeat the BJP, the TMC must be isolated. The distinction is important but it really does not make any difference to its substance in the immediate context. Why?
We can reduce the argument to three propositions:
1. TMC is in power and faces massive anti-incumbency
2. It is the mass of people moving away from the TMC that the BJP is capturing.
3. If the CPI-M wants to defeat the BJP, it must come out in opposition to (to ‘defeat’ or to ‘isolate’) the ruling party so that it can mop up the anti TMC votes, thus preventing them from going to BJP.
Hence to defeat the latter, you must defeat/ isolate the former.
 
Now here is the tricky part:
1. Ever since its defeat in 2011, CPI-M has only been in relentless opposition to the TMC, treating it an enemy number one.
2. Hence, it should already be mopping up anti-incumbency vote.
But what do the figures say?
First, let us take the anti-incumbency question: TMC got 39% vote and 184 seats in 2011. In 2016, its vote increased to 44.9% and seats to 211. In the 2019 parliament election, it cornered 43.3 % vote (the marginal difference is also because 2019 was a Lok Sabha and not a state election). Actually in the by-elections since, it has recovered even this decline.
Second, the ‘mopping up’ question: CPI-M polled 29.8 vote in 2011, which declined to 19.7 % in 2016 and to 7.5 % in 2019 and zero seats. This is how the CPI-M is apparently mopping up the anti-incumbency, anti-TMC vote!
Third, Contrary to the lies peddled by the CPI-M West Bengal, not only is the party losing votes, it is losing votes almost entirely to the BJP. So 16.72 percent of BJP’s increase of 22.25 percent in the 2019 parliament election was gained by capturing the depleting CPI-M and Left Front vote.
TMC’s vote till now remains not only intact but has even grown marginally. As I had pointed out, in an article the The Telegraph in January this year, in the three by-elections that took place in November 2019, in Kharagpur, Kaliaganj and Karimpur, not only did the TMC win all three seats but significantly, the combined vote of the CPI(M) and Congress fell drastically (ranging from 40, 000 to 90, 000 votes) in comparison to the 2016 Assembly elections. So frankly, as of now there doesn’t seem to be any anti-incumbency in evidence at least from the figures available. On the other hand, evidence is that the CPI(M) is continuously losing ground – the latest to leave is the former Jadavpur area councillor and 2014 Lok Sabha candidate Rinku Naskar. From all available accounts she had a good record of work as councillor but it also seems that she had been among those helping the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
 
It is necessary to challenge the CPI-M’s lies because many well meaning people sympathetic to the Left in generaI, seem to be taken by this specious logic based on  totally incorrect information. It is also necessary because hundreds and thousands of people, especially Muslims, will have to pay with their lives for this criminal cynicism. It is the chronicle of a tragedy foretold.
 
As a Muslim friend from the Metia Buruz area put it, ‘we feel like our lives will be collateral damage’.
 
CPI(ML) Liberation – Signs of Fresh Thinking
 

It was a pleasure therefore to listen to Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary of the CPI(ML) Liberation speak of the need to focus on the BJP as the main threat today – to India and to West Bengal. His responses to the various interviewers, even as the results of the Bihar elections were pouring in, were remarkably free of obfuscating jargon and spoke of the threat to democracy, to the rule of law and to civlizational values from the BJP. And that was enough for making the argument that it needed to be challenged in a united manner. No bookish arguments about whether this is fascism and what Dimitrov might have said about ‘united front’ tactics!

Signs of fresh thinking were quite evident in Bhattacharya’s call to  ‘think in these new times, in a new way, in new conditions’, where he had no hesitation in including Ambedkar along with Bhagat Singh among the icons of the movement. As he put it, the slogan was ‘Naye Bharat ke vaaste, Bhagat Singh-Ambedkar ke Raaste’ (see video below). Indeed, the CPI(ML) Liberation has gone further and, as Jignesh Mevani pointed out, it did not field a single upper caste candidate in the Bihar elections, ‘changing the popular notion of the Brahminical, Savarna-dominated Left leadership.’

In the video below, Bhattacharya talks at length about a range of issues during the  Bihar election campaign, to Nakul Singh Sawhney of Chalchitra Abhiyan.

The rethinking in this interview is quite fascinating also because, in order to think the question of caste and Dalit oppression and  foregound the issue of dignity, Bhattacharya even indicates a preliminary theoretical willingness to understand ‘class’ as more than a purely economic category. This is, of course, a very difficult question and when he says class does not simply mean economic exploitation but also dignity, self-respect, culture and social justice – that move itself raises many other questions about specific forms of overdetermination. The multifarious implications of this proposition cannot be dealt with in this brief article but let us at least recognize that it opens up a conceptual space in the practice of the Left that can have far-reaching consequences.

A final point of great interest in this interview is that Bhattacharya here displays a sense of having thought through some of the issues relating to the ’employment question’ that had become the focus of the Mahagathbandhan  (MGB – grand alliance) election  campaign. Recall the way the CPI(M) and  Left Front in West Bengal went about it.  Theirs was primarily the neoliberal way of inviting Capital to invest in the state and let it dictate the terms. Large-scale land acquisition and the unfortunate developments of Singur and Nandigram were consquences of that model.

What Bhattacharya says here clearly is that the technology-intensive high-end industries are not going to be able to address Bihar’s problems and that the focus will need to be  on more labour-oriented, medium and small enterprises which can provide far more employment than high-tech industries with least dislocation. But simultaenously, should the MGB win (the interview was conducted before the results were out), Bihar would also focus in developing itself as an IT hub – the vision is clearly not that of small industry based employment generation alone but has to go hand in hand with, rather than be obliterated by, big industry.

Of course these are critical issues and while one would have liked to hear a bit also about climate change and ‘green jobs’, in my view the beginning is itself quite significant and needs to be backed by the wider Left public. It is also important because, to my mind, the reason why the mainstream Left and the CPI(M) in particular have no appeal left in Bengal has a lot to do with their intransigence and refusal to rethink the neoliberal Singur-Nandigram model.

The struggle against Hindutva, it is clear today, cannot be fought on its turf of the secular-communal issue but must be taken to another terrain. A comprehensive rethink on a number of issues is necessary. One hopes that this stance of the CPI(ML) Liberation will be the beginning of a new chapter in the Left movement in this country.

Jawaharlal Nehru and the Current Challenge to the Idea of India : Prof aditya mukherjee

 

 

 

The fourth lecture in the Democracy Dialogues series organised by New Socialist Initiative was  delivered by eminent scholar Prof Aditya Mukherjee, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU who is also editor of the ‘Sage Series in Modern Indian History’

Theme :
Jawaharlal Nehru and the Current Challenge to the Idea of India
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Facebook.Com / newsocialistinitiative.nsi
Abstract :

In this talk I will look at how Jawaharlal Nehru tried to implement the vision of our national liberation struggle, which was reflected in our Constitution.  Critical elements of this vision were the creation  of a sovereign, secular, inclusive, democratic and pro-poor state. There was a consensus among the entire  Nationalist spectrum, from the Left to the Right on all these elements. While there was a consensus on the “pro-poor” aspect, from the early nationalists to Gandhiji to socialists and communists, there was no consensus on the idea of socialism, though a large and growing section was moving towards that objective. (The communalists and other loyalists who claimed to represent sectional interests, naturally did not share any aspect of this vision).

I will seek to outline how Nehru undertook the stupendous and in many respects historically unique task of creating a modern democratic nation state in a plural society, left deeply divided through the active collusion of the colonial state; of promoting modern industrialization within the parameters of democracy and sovereignty in a backward and colonially structured economy; of finding the balance between growth and equity in an impoverished, famine-ridden country; of empowering the people and yet expecting them to tighten their belt for the sake of the nation as a whole; of promoting the highest level of scientific education, a field left barren by colonialism; in short, of un-structuring colonialism and bringing in rapid economic development but doing it consensually, without the use of force, keeping what has been called the “Nehruvian consensus” intact in the critical formative years of the nation. I will also briefly discuss Nehru, who was deeply influenced by Marxism, tried to creatively move towards the socialist objective without compromising on the non-negotiable principle of democracy; though with limited success because of  a variety of reasons.

I shall end with reminding ourselves that, in these days of trying to erase Nehru’s memory altogether or to remember him in an unrecognisable demonised image created though false propaganda, much can be learnt from the legacy left behind by Nehru’s ideas and practice by those who wish to struggle to meet the current challenges to all the pillars of the Idea of India.
Sun, 15 Nov at 06:00 GMT+05:30
[https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtXBfoS5KZ78UFI_aYzROjUss8ZzhUKxy
This is the link of the playlist where you can find all the democracy dialogues video.]

 

 

CAA and dissent – the mere passing of a law does not imply democratic consensus: Abhik chimni

Guest post by ABHIK CHIMNI

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) is a legislation which along with the National Register of Citizens (NRC)  gives rise to a legal regime which is not consistent with the tenets of the Indian Constitution.

The CCA/NRC violates the basic structure of the Indian Constitution, primarily the equality clause and the principle of secularism embedded within the constitutional framework.

I further argue that Fundamental Rights are in fact dissenting rights.

The Indian Constitution – A story in three parts

The Constitution can be broadly divided into three parts.

The first accounts for protection of individual liberty through the fundamental rights chapter stipulated in Part III of the Constitution.

The second seeks to create independent institutions such as the constitutional courts, the Election Commission, the Comptroller Auditor General and the Governor’s office etc.

Continue reading CAA and dissent – the mere passing of a law does not imply democratic consensus: Abhik chimni

The Tragic innocence of being faisal khan

India cannot take its syncretic tradition for granted. A culture of communal amity has to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Fasial.

Irony died a thousand deaths on Monday, 2 November, when 48-year-old non-violent activist Faisal Khan, a founder member of a revived Khudai Khidmatgar, was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police. The charge against him is that he spread disharmony and hurt religious sentiment, by offering namaz at a Krishna temple in Mathura. He and three other members of his organisation, whose name roughly translates to “servants of god”, have been charged by the police, though Faisal is the only one arrested so far.

Faisal was arrested at “Sabka Ghar”, a centre for communal harmony he has established near Ghaffar Manzil. People of all faiths can stay at this centre and celebrate festivals of all religions together. He had revived the historic Khudai Khidmatgar, an organisation established by the legendary Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as Frontier Gandhi, whose role in the anti-colonial struggle has been documented in South Asia and the world.

Faisal himself is well-regarded for his deep knowledge of Hindu and Islamic religious traditions and scriptures, and it is for promoting harmony within India, and between India and Pakistan, that he is most recognised. He and his team have also provided relief to people devastated by communal riots or natural disasters.

( Read the complete article here)

The Big Bang, Black Holes and Gravitational Waves : Dr Ravi Sinha

The Relativity Story from Albert Einstein to Penrose and Hawking

The 8th lecture (in Hindi) in the Umang Library popular science series will happen this Sunday, November 8, at 5 PM IST. The series is aimed at creating awareness about science in the Hindi belt of India. This coming lecture will be on how the cosmos has been turned from being a subject of genesis myths into a playground of hard science in the course of the last one hundred years. Continue reading The Big Bang, Black Holes and Gravitational Waves : Dr Ravi Sinha

‘Marxisms in the 21st Century’ – What do Bihar Elections Have to do With It?

 

 

In the  course of the Bihar election campaign of behalf of his party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Mahagathbandhan (the  grand alliance), the chief  ministerial face of the alliance Tejashwi Yadav has been indicating a significant shift of focus. ‘That was the era [his father Laloo Yadav’s] of social justice; this is the time of economic justice and the youth today want jobs’. Clearly this shift comes against the backdrop of the massive loss of jobs and livelihoods over the past six years since this government came to power. The lockdown was only the most inhuman culmination the the process of destruction of livelihoods that began with demonetization, followed by the ill-thought out Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Continue reading ‘Marxisms in the 21st Century’ – What do Bihar Elections Have to do With It?