Category Archives: Debates

Intimations of a Bahujan Counter-Tradition and the Hindu Right

This post should be read as a sequel to my earlier post of 16 July, which had discussed the discourse of “Hindu Unity” and questions  before the struggle against the Right. That post had ended with the claim that the struggle against the Hindu Right is not so much about what we understand as “secularism” as it is about the reconstruction of a larger  Bahujan counter-tradition, the search for which was  already on.

Cover of book Mahishasur – Mithak va Paramaprayen [Myths and Traditions],ed. Pramod Ranjan
I should begin with a caveat, or more correctly, an amendment to a position I adopted in the earlier post. In that piece, I had used the terms “anti-majoritarian” discourse and “anti-majoritarianism” to refer to the the larger discursive formation against the Hindu Right. I used that expression largely because I went along part of the way with Abhay Dubey who uses it in his book, to which that piece was a response. However, that expression assumes that there is only one “majority”  or only one way of imagining majority in this country. More importantly, it concedes a certain “natural pre-givenness” to the project of Hindu unity as though that were a self-evident fact. The only thing that makes the project of Hindu unity appear so “natural”, it needs to be underlined, is that it is backed by “tradition” and “religion” in a way that say a class notion of majority is not. If we assume that the dominant tradition is the sole tradition, then this term could make sense but as the  stirrings of a renewed search for a Bahujan counter-tradition, especially in North India, come into view, it gives us a sense of another possible way of imagining “majority”.  It should be underlined here that this renewed search today does not emerge out of the blue from nowhere but draws on the work of earlier medieval thinkers and social/ religious reformers not just in the North (for instance Kabir, Ravi Das and Nanak) but also from Phule, Ayyankali, Sri Narayana Guru, Periyar, Iyothee Thass and many others in the South in more recent times. There is one difference however: rather than use the negative descriptor “Non-Brahmin”, the present search is more explicitly about the production of a Bahujan identity. Ambedkar of course, remains a continuous reference point in this discourse.

Continue reading Intimations of a Bahujan Counter-Tradition and the Hindu Right

The Structural Contradictions of Indian Democracy and the Rise of the BJP : Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta

[Democracy Dialogues Lecture Series ( Webinar)
Organised by New Socialist Initiative]

Date and Time: Sunday, August 16, 2020, at 6 PM IST (8.30 AM EST in the US)

 

Topic: The Structural Contradictions of Indian Democracy and the rise of the BJP

Abstract:

This talk explores the deep social transformations that have made the dominance of the BJP possible. It will take a longer view of the trajectory of Indian democracy and explore the profound changes in social and economic identities underway that have prepared a propitious ground for the rise of the BJP.

The Speaker: Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta

Internationally renowned scholar and political scientist Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta taught at Harvard, at New York University and at JNU. He was the Vice Chancellor of the Ashoka University till recently and served as the President of the premier think tank, Centre for Policy Research. Educated at Oxford and a Ph.D. from Princeton University, Prof Mehta is a columnist at Indian Express, a leading public intellectual and a bold and thoughtful voice for reason and justice. Among many honours and prizes to his credit, he is recipient of the Infosys Prize, the Adisheshiah Prize and the Amartya Sen Prize.

[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.

We feel that the very idea of democracy which has taken deep roots across the world, has come under scanner for various reasons. At the same time we have been witness to the ascendance of right-wing forces and fascistic demagogues via the same democratic route. There is this apparently anomalous situation in which the spread and deepening of democracy have often led to generating mass support for these reactionary and fascistic forces.

Coming to India, there have been valid concerns about the rise of authoritarian streak among Indians and how it has helped strengthen BJP’s hard right turn. The strong support for democracy here is accompanied by increasing fascination towards majoritarian-authoritarian politics. In fact, we would like to state that a vigorous electoral democracy here has become a vehicle for hindutva-ite counterrevolution.

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]

 

केन्द्रीय विश्वविद्यालय: वर्चस्वशाली जातियों के नए ठिकाने ?

अगर हम प्रोफेसरों के पदों की बात करें तो यूजीसी के मुताबिक अनुसूचित जाति से आने वाले प्रत्याशियों के लिए आरक्षित 82.82 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजाति तबके से आने वाले तबकों के लिए आरक्षित 93.98 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 99.95 फीसदी पद आज भी खाली पड़े हैं। असोसिएट प्रोफेसर के पदों की बात करें तो स्थिति उतनी ही खराब दिखती है: अनुसूचित जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 76.57 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजातियों के लिए आरक्षित 89.01 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 94.30 फीसदी पद खाली पड़े हैं।

क्या हम कभी जान सकेंगे कि मुल्क के चालीस केन्द्रीय विश्वविद्यालयों में नियुक्त उपकुलपतियों के श्रेणीबद्ध वितरण- अर्थात वह किन सामाजिक श्रेणियों से ताल्लुक रखते हैं- के बारे में ?

शायद कभी नहीं !

विश्वविद्यालय अनुदान आयोग के केन्द्रीय विश्वविद्यालय ब्युरो में ऐसे कोई रेकॉर्ड रखे नहीं जाते।

किसी बाहरी व्यक्ति के लिए इन सूचनाओं का अभाव बेहद मामूली लग सकता है अलबत्ता अगर हम अधिक गहरे में जाकर पड़ताल करें तो हम पूछ सकते हैं कि सर्वोच्च पदों की यह कथित ‘जातिविहीनता’ का सम्बन्ध क्या इसी तथ्य से जोड़ा जा सकता है कि इन चालीस विश्वविद्यालयों में- सामाजिक और शारीरिक तौर पर हाशिये पर रहने वाले तबकों से आने वाले अध्यापकों की मौजूदगी नगण्य है। फिर वह चाहे अनुसूचित जाति, जनजाति हो या अन्य पिछड़ी जातियां हो या विकलांग तबके से आने वाले लोग हों। इन तबकों की इन पदों से साद्रश्यता के अभाव का अन्दाज़ा इस बात से लगाया जा सकता है कि इन श्रेणियों से आने वाले तबकों के लिए आरक्षित प्रोफेसरों के 99 फीसदी पद आज भी खाली पड़े हैं।

दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय के एक कालेज में, एडहॉक/तदर्थ अध्यापक के तौर पर कार्यरत लक्ष्मण यादव द्वारा विश्वविद्यालय अनुदान आयोग को सूचना अधिकार के तहत जो याचिका दायर की गयी थी, उसी के औपचारिक जवाब के तौर पर ऐसे कई सारे अचम्भित करने वाले तथ्य सामने आए हैं। अगर हम प्रोफेसरों के पदों की बात करें तो यूजीसी के मुताबिक अनुसूचित जाति से आने वाले प्रत्याशियों के लिए आरक्षित 82.82 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजाति तबके से आने वाले तबकों के लिए आरक्षित 93.98 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 99.95 फीसदी पद आज भी खाली पड़े हैं। अगर हम असोसिएट प्रोफेसर के पदों की बात करें तो स्थिति उतनी ही खराब दिखती है: अनुसूचित जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 76.57 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजातियों के लिए आरक्षित 89.01 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 94.30 फीसदी पद खाली पड़े हैं। असिस्टेंण्ट प्रोफेसर पद के लिए आरक्षित पदों के आंकड़े उतने खराब नहीं हैं जिसमें अनुसूचित जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 29.92 फीसदी पद, अनुसूचित जनजातियों के लिए आरक्षित 33.47 फीसदी पद और अन्य पिछड़ी जातियों के लिए आरक्षित 41.82 फीसदी पद खाली पड़े हैं। (देखें- मीडिया विजिल की रिपोर्ट)

Continue reading केन्द्रीय विश्वविद्यालय: वर्चस्वशाली जातियों के नए ठिकाने ?

Are Central Universities Modern-Day Agraharams?

A caste-based society will overcome legal codes that make equality the norm unless people actively bring change.

Are Central Universities

Will we ever know the category-wise distribution of vice chancellors of the forty central universities located across the country? Thanks to the rules governing these universities, and those of the University Grants Commission, there is no such record.

This form of “castelessness” at the top is coupled with marginal representation of teachers from socially and physically marginalised sections. Be it the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes the Other Backward Classes or persons with disabilities, they are hardly ever appointed to teaching posts in central universities. A marker of the invisibilisation of these social groups is the fact that up to 96.65% of the posts of professor meant for candidates from these categories were unfilled on 1 January 2020.

This was discovered by a Delhi University teacher, who sought the information from the UGC under the Right to Information Act. More than 82% posts of professors meant for Scheduled Caste candidates, 93.98% posts meant for Scheduled Tribes and 96.65% posts meant for OBCs still remain vacant. The situation for associate professors is equally dismal, though there are fewer vacant posts of assistant professors for OBCs.

Any news can go viral these days but this explosive disclosure, which raises questions about recruitment procedures and their inherent biases was barely noticed. An explanation is that such news has lost its novelty. Perhaps everybody is aware of the metamorphosis of central universities into a new kind of Agraharam or abode of elite castes.

( Read the full article here)

“There is no god in that temple”: Rabindranath Tagore/Translated by Banojyotsna Lahiri

Banojyotsna Lahiri shared her translation of some excerpts from  a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, written 120 years ago, titled “Deeno Daan”.

It is about a temple.

Original Bangla below the translation.

“There is no god in that temple”, said the Saint.

The King was enraged;
“No God? Oh Saint, aren’t you speaking like an atheist?
On that throne studded with priceless gems, beams the golden idol,
And yet, you proclaim that it is empty?”

“It is not empty; rather, it is full of royal pride.
You have bestowed yourself, oh King, not the God of this world”,
Remarked the saint.

The King frowned, “2 million golden coins
were showered on that grand structure that kisses the sky,
I offered it to the Gods after performing all the necessary rituals,
And you dare claim that in such a grand temple,
There is no presence of God”? Continue reading “There is no god in that temple”: Rabindranath Tagore/Translated by Banojyotsna Lahiri

क्या राम मंदिर की आड़ में अपनी विफलताएं छिपा रही है मोदी सरकार

यह मानने के पर्याप्त आधार हैं कि राम मंदिर के भूमि पूजन के लिए चुना गया यह समय एक छोटी रेखा के बगल में बड़ी रेखा खींचने की क़वायद है, ताकि नरेंद्र मोदी और उनकी सरकार की बढ़ती असफलताएं जैसे- कोविड कुप्रबंधन, बदहाल होती अर्थव्यवस्था और गलवान घाटी प्रसंग- इस परदे के पीछे चले जाएं.

Ayodhya: A hoarding of PM Narendra Modi and other leaders put up beside a statue of Lord Hanuman, ahead of the foundation laying ceremony of Ram Temple, in Ayodhya, Thursday, July 30, 2020. (PTI Photo)(PTI30-07-2020 000044B)

अयोध्या में राम मंदिर के भूमि पूजन से पहले लगा प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी और अन्य नेताओं का एक होर्डिंग. (फोटो: पीटीआई)

बीते दिनों जनाब उद्धव ठाकरे द्वारा अयोध्या में राम मंदिर के प्रस्तावित भूमि पूजन को लेकर जो सुझाव दिया गया है, वह गौरतलब है.

मालूम हो कि आयोजकों की तरफ से जिन लोगों को इसके लिए न्योता दिया गया है, उसमें महाराष्ट्र के मुख्यमंत्री का नाम भी शामिल है, उसी संदर्भ में उन्होंने इस बात पर जोर दिया है कि ‘ई-भूमि पूजन किया जा सकता है और भूमि पूजन समारोह को वीडियो कॉन्फ्रेंसिंग के जरिये भी अंजाम दिया जा सकता है.’

उनका कहना है कि इस कार्यक्रम में लाखों लोग शामिल होना चाहेंगे और क्या उन्हें वहां पहुंचने से रोका जा सकता है? कोरोना महामारी को लेकर देश-दुनिया भर में जो संघर्ष अभी जारी है और जहां धार्मिक सम्मेलनों पर पाबंदी बनी हुई है, ऐसे में उनकी बात गौरतलब है.

गौर करें कि ऐसा आयोजन जिसका लाइव टेलीकास्ट भी किया जाएगा, कोई चाहे न चाहे देश में जगह जगह जनता के अच्छे-खासे हिस्से को सड़कों पर उतरने के लिए प्रेरित करेगा.

और अगर दक्षिणपंथी जमातें इस बारे में अतिसक्रियता दिखा दें तो फिर जगह जगह भीड़ बेकाबू भी हो सकती है और केंद्र सरकार और गृह मंत्रालय द्वारा जारी गाइडलाइंस की भी धज्जियां उड़ सकती हैं.

( Read the complete article here)

 

गैर-दक्षिणपंथी विचारकों के आत्ममंथन का घोषणा पत्र है अभय दुबे की पुस्तक : अरविंद कुमार

Guest post by ARVIND KUMAR

अभय दुबे की पुस्तक हिन्दू एकता बनाम ज्ञान की राजनीति पर जारी बहस में एक योगदान।

दि प्रिंट में 8 जुलाई 2020 को  योगेंद्र यादव का लेख ‘भारतीय सेक्युलरिज्म पर हिन्दी की यह किताब उदारवादियों की पोल खोल सकती थी मगर नज़रअंदाज़ कर दी गई है’, अभय दुबे की पुस्तक को केंद्र मे रखकर लिखा गया है.  उन्होनें लिखा: “अगर अभय की किताब के तर्क उन सेकुलर बुद्धिजीवियों के कान तक टहलकर नहीं पहुंचे जिनके लिखत-पढ़त की उन्होंने आलोचना की है तो इसकी वजह को पहचान पाना मुश्किल नहीं. वजह वही है जिसे अभय ने अपनी किताब में रेखांकित किया है कि भारत के अँग्रेज़ीदाँ मध्यवर्ग की सेकुलर-लिबरल विचारधारा और देश के शेष समाज के बीच सोच समझ के धरातल पर एक खाई मौजूद है.” योगेंद्र के लेख के जवाब में, दि प्रिंट में ही 15 जुलाई को राजमोहन गांधी का लेख ‘भारत में धर्मनिरपेक्षता की विचारधारा पराजित नहीं हुई है, इसके पैरोकारों को आरएसएस  पर दोष मढ़ना बंद करना होगा’ पढ़कर संतोष और असंतोष दोनों हुआ. संतोष इसलिए कि योगेंद्र के आग्रह पर बुद्धिजीवियों ने बहस को आगे बढ़ाने की पहल तो की. इसी कड़ी में 16 जुलाई 2020 को काफ़िला में छपा आदित्य निगम का लेख ‘डिसकोर्स ऑफ हिन्दू युनीटी इन द स्ट्र्गल अगेन्स्ट द राइट’ को भी देखा जा सकता है.

Continue reading गैर-दक्षिणपंथी विचारकों के आत्ममंथन का घोषणा पत्र है अभय दुबे की पुस्तक : अरविंद कुमार

Gramsci, the “Puranic” and Shekhar Gupta

 

Re-reading Antonio Gramsci lately, in preparation for a webinar organized by the Dean, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad on “Gandhi, Ambedkar, Gramsci”, I was struck by an aspect of his thought that I had not really understood in all its dimensions earlier. This aspect is directly related to the relationship between subalternity and the political party, a  lifelong preoccupation for him, linked in turn to the problem of “philosophy” and “thought”.  Some of the reflections here on this question were also sparked off also by some questions that were raised during the discussion.

Skhekhar Gupta on Taali-Thaali and Diya

It was while searching for something related to the Indian government’s handling of the Covid-19 situation, that I hit upon this astonishing article by Mr Shekhar Gupta, which is my peg for the discussion that  follows. It is an older article (4 April 2020), for I must confess I had stopped reading him long ago given the  sheer predictability of what he had to say. But here he seems to have surpassed himself. The title itself first caught my attention: “Poke fun at taali, thaali, diya and mombatti all you want. Modi couldn’t care less“. Shekhar Gupta was one of those who had, in the run up to the 2014 elections, come out with brass band to clear the way for Narendra Modi’s accession to power. But hadn’t he lately – so I had heard – started expressing some criticisms of the regime? Tavleen Sigh certainly had. So what is Gupta saying? Well for one thing, I realized that his deep fascination with the Modi persona continues unabated but that is something I can’t blame him for. We can’t determine what our taste-buds like, can we? I am also not surprised that Gupta’s tone regarding his imagined secular-liberal adversaries is one of derision. What struck me was that all that he is basically saying in the article is that Modi knows who he should speak to and he is able to read the popular mind, but this banality is presented as one great insight of all times!

Continue reading Gramsci, the “Puranic” and Shekhar Gupta

आज़ाद जनतंत्र में सत्तर साल बाद भी वेल्लोर से विरमगाम तक श्मशान भूमि से वंचित हैं दलित

क्या कोई जानता है 21वीं सदी की शुरुआत में चकवारा के दलितों के एक अहम संघर्ष को? जयपुर से बमुश्किल पचास किलोमीटर दूर चकवारा के दलितों ने गांव के सार्वजनिक तालाब पर समान हक पाने के लिए इस संघर्ष को आगे बढ़ाया था। अठारह साल का वक्फा गुजर गया जब दलितों ने इस संघर्ष में जीत हासिल की थी, जिसमें तमाम मानवाधिकार संगठनों एवं प्रगतिशील लोगों ने भी उनका साथ दिया था। (सितम्बर 2002)

विश्लेषकों को याद होगा कि इस संघर्ष में तमाम लोगों को डॉ. अम्बेडकर द्वारा शुरू किए गए ऐतिहासिक महाड़ सत्याग्रह की झलक दिखायी दी थी जब मार्च 1927 में हजारों दलित एवं अन्य मानवाधिकारप्रेमी महाड़ के चवदार तालाब पर जुलूस की शक्ल में गए थे और वहां उन्होंने पानी पीया था। जानवरों को वहां पानी पीने से कोई मना नहीं करता था, मगर दलितों को रोका जाता था। (ज्‍यादा जानकारी के लिए देखें: Mahad – The Making of the First Dalit Revolt – Dr Anand Teltumbde, Navayana)

चकवारा में बाद में क्या हुआ इसके बारे में तो अधिकतर लोग नहीं जानते होंगे।

Continue reading आज़ाद जनतंत्र में सत्तर साल बाद भी वेल्लोर से विरमगाम तक श्मशान भूमि से वंचित हैं दलित

No End to Humiliation of Dalits Even After Death

The attitude of respect and reverence towards fellow men is yet to develop in India.

No End to Humiliation of Dalits

Does anybody still remember the Dalits of Chakwara, a village around 50km from Jaipur in Rajasthan, who had launched a struggle to gain access to the pond in their village? It is more than 18 years since the Dalits, supported by human rights organisations, won that fight for water. Their undertaking had echoes with the historic struggle launched by Dr BR Ambedkar in March 1927 at Chavdar tank at Mahad to assert the equal rights of Dalits to water. It is well known to most people that while animals were allowed to use the water of this tank in present-day Raigad district of the state, the Dalits were not. Anand Teltumbde has described the events of this satyagraha in his book, Mahad: The Making of the First Dalit Revolt, published by Navayana in 2016.

But what happened at Chakwara after the Dalits started using the village pond is hardly known: the upper castes slowly stopped using the water from the pond once the Dalits gained access to it, saying it had become “impure”. Enraged by the assertion of the Dalits and keen to humiliate them for it, they dug up the village sewer and directed the waste water to their own village pond. There is no change in the status quo there.

Around 700km away, in Viramgam near Ahmedabad in Gujarat, a village cemetery used by Dalits was recently flooded with sewer water, a stark reminder that the gap of two decades has not changed the caste scenario in the country. The executioners of this sinister plan in Viramgam were the residents of two housing societies in which the well-off and educated middle classes live. For more than the last six months, the graves of the socially-disadvantaged Vankar, Chamar, Rohit, Dangasia, Shetwa and other communities have been surrounded by dirty water. The district administration did not intervene on behalf of the Dalits despite their repeated complaints. The fact that dignity after death is being denied to marginalised communities did not seem to rouse the administration.

( Read the full text here)

Rest In Power John Lewis

John Lewis ( 21 February 1940 – 17 July 2020)

Legendary Civil Rights leader John Lewis died on 17 th July 2020.

An analyst wrote ”Lewis, a titan of the civil rights movement, died on Friday at the age of 80, severing a vital link with the generation that rose in the 60s to resist the US’s version of racial apartheid. The news was met with a depth of grief normally reserved for former presidents. Lewis transcended party politics and was truly admired and beloved.”

A state trooper beats John Lewis with a club

A state trooper beats John Lewis (kneeling, right) with a club in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. Lewis sustained a fractured skull in the assault. Photograph: unknown/AP

A CNN documentary entitled John Lewis: Good Trouble, quotes him: “I tried to do what was right, fair and just. When I was growing up in rural Alabama, my mother always said, ‘Boy, don’t get in trouble … but I saw those signs that said ‘white’, ‘colored’, and I would say, ‘Why?’

“And she would say again, ‘Don’t get in trouble. You will be beaten. You will go to jail. You may not live. But … the words of Dr King and the actions of Rosa Parks inspired me to get in trouble. And I’ve been getting in trouble ever since. Good trouble. Necessary trouble.”

 

 

Imagining India for Contemporary Politics- What Should the Left Do? : Ravi Sinha

 

(Webinar – Sunday, July 19, 5 pm)

Shakespeare said, what is past is prologue. A simple-minded rationalist may be contented to assume that past is fixed as it has already gone into the making of the present. Nothing can be done to change it. The truth however is that past is being ‘remade’ every day. Imaginations of ancient glories or of humiliating defeats in the distant past are being deployed in contemporary politics all across the world. This phenomenon has been a key element behind the resurgence of rightwing in many countries. Contemporary India is a calamitous example where a perverse variant of mass-democratic politics has been fashioned through the political ideology of Hindutva resulting in serious damage to democracy and to people’s welfare.

Contemporary politics is driven more pressingly to such ideological re-imaginings in the conditions of vigorously competitive electoral democracies. The phenomenon is far more pronounced in countries with a significant minority (religious, racial, linguistic-cultural etc.) that can be portrayed as a historical villain. The majority can, then, be mobilized through the political process of polarisation in which some historical-civilizational-social tectonic plate is deployed in the service of electoral-political objectives. India is a pre-eminent example of this tragic phenomenon.

Invariably, left and progressive forces find themselves handicapped in these circumstances. Attempts to prove that such polarising strategies based on re-imagining the past are malignant turn out to be politically ineffective. A typical response from such forces has been to counter the emotive with the economic and to challenge cultural nationalism with anti-colonial, anti-imperialist nationalism. These strategies have failed miserably. Other social and resistance movements too have attempted partial re-imagining of India’s past from the standpoint of traditionally oppressed communities (Dalit, feminist, native-ist, etc.). While offering some resources to the respective movements, these efforts have failed equally miserably in challenging the Hindutva’s cultural nationalism. The efforts of some of the liberal bourgeois forces, on the other hand, to gain ground by partly imitating the Hindutva forces (variants of soft hindutva) have been no more than a laughing stock. Continue reading Imagining India for Contemporary Politics- What Should the Left Do? : Ravi Sinha

Discourse of Hindu Unity and Challenges in the Struggle Against the Right

 

In a recent book Hindu Ekta Banaam Gyan ki Rajneeti [Hindu Unity versus the Politics of Knowledge] (Vani 2019), my colleague and friend Abhay Kumar Dubey raises some extremely important issues that have now become central to the struggle for a more just and inclusive India. The book is in Hindi and written in the highly provocative and combative style that characterizes most of Abhay’s writings but there is something profundly disturbing – and enlightening – about the key point that  he has to make. In this brief piece I discuss it here for the benefit of the non-Hindi reader (which is not the same as ‘English-speaking’ or ‘English-educated’). However, those who understand Hindi and are interested can watch the 42-minute discussion between Abhay Dubey and myself (recorded in Janaury this year) for the Youtube book discussion channel Parakh run by Kamal Nayan Choubey. The video is embedded this post below.

The central concern of the book is with certain blindspots in what Abhay calls the ‘Centrist discourse’ [madhyamargi vimarsh] or interchangeably, ‘anti-majoritarian discourse’ [bahusankhyakvaad virodhi vimarsh] – which, for some reason, has been rendered as ‘secular ideology’ by Yogendra Yadav in a recent piece in The Print. (Yadav’s piece and Rajmohan Gandhi’s response in defense of ‘secular ideology’ can he read here and here). In keeping with Abhay’s usage, I will use the term ‘anti-majoritarian’ rather than ‘secular’ discourse for this specific configuration that emerges in the the 1990s, for as we will see, this is not a simple continuation of the secular discourse of the 1980s. For the earlier discursive formation, however, I will continue to use the term secular and we will see below how the two differ.

The blindspots that Abhay insistently and relentlessly draws the readers’ attention to, have to do with the very superficial and often hugely misleading understanding of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its deeper connections with the much longer and larger history of the project of forging ‘Hindu unity’.

Continue reading Discourse of Hindu Unity and Challenges in the Struggle Against the Right

Trajectory of India’s Democracy and Contemporary Challenges : Prof Suhas Palshikar

[Inaugural Lecture of ‘Democracy Dialogues’ Series ( Webinar)
Organised by New Socialist Initiative, 12 th July 2020]

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( Prof Suhas Palshikar, Chief Editor, Studies in Indian Politics and Co-director, Lokniti at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, delivered the inaugural lecture in the ‘Democracy Dialogues’ Series initiated by New Socialist Initiative.

In this lecture he attempted to trace the roots of the current moment of India’s democracy in the overall global journey of democracy, the extra-ordinarily ambitious and yet problematic foundational moment of Indian democracy and the many diversions India’s democracy has taken over time. He argued that unimaginative handling of the extra-ordinary ambition and Statist understanding of the ‘power-democracy’ dialectic formed the basis for easy distortions of democratic practice and that while populism and majoritarianism are the current challenges, they are by no means only special to the present and therefore, even as critique and course-correction of present political crisis is urgently required, a more long-term view of the trajectory of Indian democracy is necessary.

Here follows a detailed summary of his presentation prepared by Dr Sanjay Kumar)

Continue reading Trajectory of India’s Democracy and Contemporary Challenges : Prof Suhas Palshikar

Cisco Case Shows Indians Still Take Caste Where they Go

How discrimination is integrated into the daily lives of the Indian diaspora still needs to be understood.

Cisco Case Shows Indians

What happens to caste when Indians migrate to Western countries? Do their feelings of being born superior or inferior, their belief in the purity-pollution ethic, just melt away? The “model minority” has tried to avoid a conversation on this issue but it returns to haunt them time and again. Now the American state of California is at the centre of yet another caste controversy.

The last serious discussion around Indian-Americans and caste took place in 2015, when the California State Board of Education initiated a regular ten-year public review of the school curriculum framework. The conservative Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and the South Asian Histories for All Coalition (an interfaith, multi-racial, inter-caste coalition) clashed over HAF’s proposed interventions, which essentially sought to erase caste from the syllabus. The Coalition took the position that evidence and record of the injustices of caste and religious intolerance in South Asian must not be erased.

( Read the full article here)

वरवर राव को रिहा करो!

भीमा कोरेगाँव मामले तथा अन्य सभी मामलों में विचाराधीन लेखकों-मानवाधिकारकर्मियों को रिहा करो !

(न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनिशिएटिव, जन संस्कृति मंच, दलित लेखक संघ, प्रगतिशील लेखक संघ, जनवादी लेखक संघ, जन नाट्य मंच, इप्टा, प्रतिरोध का सिनेमा और संगवारी की ओर से जारी साझा  बयान )

State trying to kill Varavara Rao in jail, he needs immediate ...

( Photo Courtesy : New Indian Express)

‘…कब डरता है दुश्मन कवि से ?

जब कवि के गीत अस्त्र बन जाते हैं

वह कै़द कर लेता है कवि को ।

फाँसी पर चढ़ाता है

फाँसी के तख़्ते के एक ओर होती है सरकार

दूसरी ओर अमरता

कवि जीता है अपने गीतों में

और गीत जीता है जनता के हृदयों में।’

–वरवर राव, बेंजामिन मोलेस की याद में, 1985

देश और दुनिया भर में उठी आवाज़ों के बाद अन्ततः 80 वर्षीय कवि वरवर राव को मुंबई के जे जे अस्पताल में शिफ्ट कर दिया गया है। राज्य की असंवेदनशीलता और निर्दयता का इससे बड़ा सबूत क्या होगा कि जिस काम को क़ैदियों के अधिकारों का सम्मान करते हुए राज्य द्वारा खुद ही अंजाम दिया जाना था, उसके लिए लोगों, समूहों को आवाज़ उठानी पड़ी। Continue reading वरवर राव को रिहा करो!

जातिगत भेदभाव को लेकर कब ख़त्म होगा भारतीयों का दोहरापन

भारतीयों के मन में व्याप्त दोहरापन यही है कि वह ऑस्ट्रेलिया में भारतीय छात्रों पर होने वाली ज़्यादतियों से उद्वेलित दिखते हैं, पर अपने यहां के संस्थानों में आए दिन दलित-आदिवासी या अल्पसंख्यक छात्रों के साथ होने वाली ज़्यादतियों को सहजबोध का हिस्सा मानकर चलते हैं.

(फोटो: रॉयटर्स)

(फोटो: रॉयटर्स)

‘जाति समस्या- सैद्धांतिक और व्यावहारिक तौर पर एक विकराल मामला है. व्यावहारिक तौर पर देखें तो वह एक ऐसी संस्था है जो प्रचंड परिणामों का संकेत देती है. वह एक स्थानीय समस्या है, लेकिन एक ऐसी समस्या जो बड़ी क्षति को जन्म दे सकती है. जब तक भारत में जाति अस्तित्व में है, हिंदुओं के लिए यह संभव नहीं होगा कि वह अंतरजातीय विवाह करें या बाहरी लोगों के साथ सामाजिक अंतर्क्रिया बढ़ाएं. और अगर हिंदू पृथ्वी के दूसरे हिस्सों में पहुंचते हैं, तो फिर भारतीय जाति विश्व समस्या बनेगी.’

– डॉ. बीआर आंबेडकर (1916)

वर्ष 1916 के मई महीने में कोलंबिया विश्वविद्यालय में मानव वंशशास्त्र विभाग में सेमिनार में डॉ. आंबेडकर ने ‘भारत में जाति- उनकी प्रणाली, उनका उद्गम और विकास’ (Castes In India- Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development) पर अपना पेपर पढ़ा था.

पेपर पढ़ते हुए उन्होंने इस बात की भविष्यवाणी की थी कि किस तरह एक दिन जाति विश्व समस्या भी बनेगी, उनके बोल थे, ‘अगर हिंदू दुनिया के दूसरे हिस्सों में पहुंचते हैं, तो फिर भारतीय जाति विश्व समस्या बनेगी.’

उनके इस वक्तव्य के 104 साल बाद उसी अमेरिका के कैलिफोर्निया से आई यह खबर इसी बात की ताईद करती है.

ध्यान रहे कैलीफोर्निया राज्य सरकार की तरफ से वहां की एक अग्रणी बहुदेशीय कंपनी सिस्को सिस्टम्स के खिलाफ दायर एक मुकदमे के बहाने यही बात नए सिरे से उजागर हुई है, जिसका फोकस वहां कार्यरत एक दलित इंजीनियर के साथ वहां तैनात दो कथित ऊंची जाति के इंजीनियर द्वारा जातिगत भेदभाव की घटना से है. Continue reading जातिगत भेदभाव को लेकर कब ख़त्म होगा भारतीयों का दोहरापन

बिहार चुनाव आते ही प्रतिबंधित रणवीर सेना को एक बार फिर कौन हवा दे रहा है?

रणवीर सेना, जिस पर बहुत पहले पाबंदी लगायी जा चुकी है, नए सिरे से सुर्खियों में है।

पिछले दिनों उसने अपने सोशल मीडिया पेज पर भीम आर्मी के बिहार प्रमुख गौरव सिराज और एक अन्य कार्यकर्ता वेद प्रकाश को खुलेआम धमकाया है। उसने अपने ‘सैनिकों’ को आदेश दिया है कि उन्हें ‘जिन्दा या मुर्दा’ गिरफ्तार करें। बताया जाता है कि इस युवा अम्बेडकरवादी ने ब्रह्मेश्वर मुखिया- जो रणवीर सेना के प्रमुख थे और 2012 में किसी हत्यारे गिरोह के हाथों मारे गए थे- के बारे में जो टिप्पणी की, वह रणवीर सेना के लोगों को नागवार गुजरी है।

प्रश्न उठता है कि इस तरह खुलेआम धमकाने के लिए, मारने पीटने की बात करने के लिए क्या ‘सेना’ पर कार्रवाई होगी? अगर इतिहास को गवाह मान लिया जाए तो इसकी संभावना बहुत कम दिखती है। Continue reading बिहार चुनाव आते ही प्रतिबंधित रणवीर सेना को एक बार फिर कौन हवा दे रहा है?

Shadow of Laxmanpur Bathe on Bihar Election

An unpredictable element has found a new lease of life thanks to the coming Assembly election.

Laxmanpur Bathe on Bihar Election

The outlawed Ranvir Sena—the private army of upper caste landlords of Bihar—is in the news again. It recently threatened the Bihar chief of the Bhim Army, Gaurav Siraj, and one of its activists, Ved Prakash, through a Facebook post. The so-called army has “ordered” its “sainiks” to “arrest” him dead or alive. The sena is apparently peeved over how the young dynamic leader of the Ambedkarite organisation has described Brahmeshwar Singh, their slain “Mukhiya” who was killed in 2012.

Will there be any action against those who have threatened the young leader? If history is any guide then there is little possibility of this.

Merely two years ago, Nawal Kishor Kumar, Editor Hindi, Forward Press was targeted by this “sena”. The aggrieved journalist had lodged a police complaint but there has been no progress in the investigation.

It is not that there is no law to punish such miscreants. Social media posts of the threatening kind relate to various offences under the Indian Penal Code, from criminal intimidation punishable under section 503 to section 505 related to creating mischief in public, to section 506 which awards punishment for criminal intimidation and section 153A which relates to penalties for promoting enmity between different groups and so on. In fact, based on its activities, the Ranvir Sena is also liable to be prosecuted under section 3 of the Bihar Control of Crimes Act, section 3 of the Arms Act and section 3 of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.”

( Read the full text here)

कोविड-19 संकट के दौरान मिसाल बनकर उभरा क्यूबा

मार्च महीने में इटली के मिलान में मालपेंसा एयरपोर्ट पर क्यूबाई डॉक्टर्स का दल. (फोटो: रॉयटर्स)

मार्च महीने में इटली के मिलान में मालपेंसा एयरपोर्ट पर क्यूबाई डॉक्टर्स और स्वास्थ्यकर्मियों का दल. (फोटो: रॉयटर्स)

हेनरी रीव, इस नाम से कितने लोग परिचित हैं?

यह अलग बात है कि इस युवा की याद में बनी एक मेडिकल ब्रिगेड की दुनिया भर की सक्रियताओं से तो सभी परिचित हैं, जिसने कोविड महामारी के दिनों में भी अपने चिकित्सा के कामों में- जो अंतरराष्ट्रीयतावाद की भावना को मजबूती देते हुए आगे बढ़ी है, कहीं आंच नहीं आने दी है, जिसका निर्माण क्यूबा ने किया है.

मालूम हो कि हेनरी रीव के बारे में इतना ही हम जानते हैं कि 19 साल का यह अमेरिकी नौजवान था, जो न्यूयॉर्क के ब्रुकलिन स्थित अपने घर को छोड़ते हुए 19वीं सदी के अंतिम दौर में स्पेनिश हुक्मरानों के खिलाफ क्यूबाई संघर्ष से जुड़ गया था.

और क्यूबा ने अपने इस अनूठे स्वतंत्राता सेनानी की याद में मेडिकल ब्रिगेड का गठन किया है जो आज की तारीख में 22 मुल्कों में सक्रिय है.

आप को याद होगा वह दृश्य, जो कैमरे में कैद होते वक्त ही कालजयी बने रहने का संकेत दे रहा था. जब मिलान, जो इटली के संपन्न उत्तरी हिस्से का मशहूर शहर है, वहां अपने डॉक्टरी यूनिफॉर्म पहने एक टीम मालपेंसा एयरपोर्ट पर उतर रही थी और उस प्रसिद्ध एयरपोर्ट पर तमाम लोग खड़े होकर उनका अभिवादन कर रहे थे. (18 मार्च 2020)

यह सभी डॉक्टर तथा स्वास्थ्य पेशेवर हेनरी रीव ब्रिगेड के सदस्य थे, जो इटली सरकार के निमंत्रण पर वहां पहुंचे थे. एयरपोर्ट पर खड़े लोगों में चंद ऐसे भी थे, जिन्होंने तब अपने सीने पर क्रॉस बनाया, अपने भगवान को याद किया क्योंकि उनके हिसाब से क्यूबा के यह डॉक्टर किसी ‘फरिश्ते’ से कम नहीं थे. Continue reading कोविड-19 संकट के दौरान मिसाल बनकर उभरा क्यूबा

Break the Chain, Break the (Unconventional) Family?

My earlier posts on the Kerala Left’s inability to forge an adequate and democratizing response to the ‘societal emergencies’ that have challenged Malayali society in the 21st century, and on the completely-unjustified attack on the body artist Rehana Fathima seem to have irritated, even angered, many supporters of the CPM on Facebook.

These people are not youngsters, a detail that is really important. Indeed, they largely belong to the upper-middle-class professional elite, indeed, perhaps among the best-off sections of Malayali society, which include medical professionals, male and female. Their responses reveal very interesting details about how the pandemic shapes our understanding of ‘useful expertise’:  at this moment, we are told, just listen to medical professionals, and not just their views on issues pertaining to health, but also to ‘social health’.  Many of these professionals believe that the brazen violence unleashed against Rehana Fathima’s family — her mother-in-law has been denied free dialysis simply because she is Rehana Fathima’s mother-in-law, and BSNL has ordered the eviction of the family on completely ridiculous grounds – is a minor diversion, an irritating, trivial one, compared to the task of controlling the pandemic on the ground, which of course, brings the medical professional (even when he/she works in Kerala’s private hospitals, which are surely not the epitome of altruism) to the centre of public discourse as the ‘hero’ that everyone should be eternally grateful to. And if such heroes tell you that Rehana Fathima is just a child-abusing publicity-seeker, then you have to just say yes. And, as as the artist Radha Gomathy put it, participate in the Break-the-Chain-and-Break-the-Family campaign — or punish Rehana’s supportive family for not being freakishly conservative, like good Malayali families.

Bolstering their claim to be the only ‘real experts’ to talk about Malayali society at the moment is their implicit understanding that medical professionals are somehow more ‘scientific’ than others. Yet I was amazed — indeed, alarmed — by the carelessness with which they dealt with empirical information and their easy abandonment of logic.  The tendency to equate technical training with scientific is very strong in these Facebook debates, as also the idea that social science and history are some airy-fairy romance that lacks scientific basis.

I am mentioning these features not to put these people down — and I am also aware of, and grateful to, many other medical professionals who expressed unease at these acts of hubris. I wish only to flag what seems to me an emerging axis of power in post-pandemic Kerala. A form in which the state’s apparatus of biopower is projected insistently as the sole benevolent source of human sustenance that must engage us constantly; it is not that critical discourse should be abolished, but it must focus, and gently, on this pre-given object. In it, the biological body is the object on which the state builds its new protectionism; the only kind of body it is bound to protect. The ‘new expert’ wields power on it, and their technical interventions will henceforth be recognized as ‘scientific’  — and the significance of the gap between the two will be ignored. The suspension of neoliberal logic during the pandemic has indeed allowed the Left to behave, even think, like the left — this emerging protectionism seems to be actually riding on it.

It is not surprising at all then that for some of these experts, those of us who contested the purportedly ‘scientific claim’ that Rehana’s children will be necessarily harmed psychologically by the sight of their mother’s exposed torso, or the equally-shaky idea that they necessarily lack the psychological strength the resist the taunts of society, seem dangerous to society.  Rehana’s use of the body is aimed at the long-term; it signals the possibility of seeing the body as the site of aesthetic play and creativity; its androgynous appearance and breaking of stereotypes about the maternal body make it defy gendered classification (so necessary for the state). Her husband deserves punishment because he had abandoned the role of Reformer-Husband so central to the twentieth-century reformist discourse. Our experts’ ‘scientific temperaments’ do not allow them to perceive the fact that the Reformer-Husband carried the burden of ushering his wife into (a gendered) modernity, while in twenty-first century Kerala, women no longer need such ushering — there is data that shows that more women than men complete their education and enter higher education; that they outperform men in most examinations and have entered most modern professions; that in marriages, the bride is now likely to be more educated than the groom. The family needs to be punished as a whole for allowing such explorations of the body.

I still repose faith in the democratizing possibilities that this window of time gives us, but that does not make me blind to this wilful shutting out of the long-term and the agency of citizens. It is as if future society may be imagined by citizens only with or after the state. The state sees a vague and uncertain future, and therefore all citizens should, therefore, limit themselves to the immediate and present. Nothing should be allowed to disrupt the Left’s hegemony-building through pandemic-control exercises. Even if that requires that we turn a blind eye to the fact that the refurbishing of this hegemony may not be antithetical to the further entrenchment of biopower and the reign of these new experts.