This is a provocative book in two different ways. It provokes us to interrogate the supposedly foundational propositions that constitute the very first article of the Indian Constitution: ‘India that is Bharat’. The book destabilizes the very language—the concepts, categories, frames—by which we are trained to envisage India as a historic entity and/or as a civilization.
The author does not merely engage in producing a deconstructionist version of India’s past. He, unlike others, incites us to imagine the unimaginable: the idea of Hindustan. The book introduces us to a rich archive of Persian scholarship and explores the ways in which Hindustan as a concept as well as a geo-political reality is erased to pave the way for a new intellectual imagination, India.
The Loss of Hindustan is also provocative in an overtly political sense. The book cannot be described as an intellectual-historical project. It raises a few powerful political questions especially in relation to the placing of modern history in postcolonial projects of nation building. Continue reading Loss of Hindustan – A Symposium III: Hilal Ahmed→
“Nostalgia is not what it used to be.” – Simone Signoret
To look back these days evokes less anger or longing and more a sense of gazing on ruins. Like the Angel of History, so evocatively described by Benjamin, we are being blown with our backs to an unknown future, gazing at the relentless pile of wreckage that accumulates behind us. The idea of a nation that we once imagined together is buried somewhere in the debris, our residual idealism detects its gleam sometimes. This sense of melancholy propels different shades of politics, one of which does a fine combing through the rough texture of history to recover lost visions. The other seeks to resist the lure of the past and think exigently within the horizon of the present. A hard headed engagement with contemporary times comes rooted in the belief that there is no space of authenticity or of an archive of resistance awaiting us in the past: there is no ‘there’ there. However, the mode of thinking that informs the historical discipline requires us to look back, and see the filiations with the present as much as the future. The fact that we occupy a future past (that is to say, we live in a moment that was once imagined as a future, utopian or otherwise) can be an occasion for cynicism as much as a fillip for renewed action. Continue reading Loss of Hindustan – A Symposium II: Dilip M. Menon→
Manan Ahmed Asif’s recent book Loss of Hindustan: The Invention of India* has aroused considerable interest that goes beyond academic readers. Since the book deals with a matter that concerns not just our past but also how we imagine our future, we at Kafila decided to try out a symposium on it – on an experimental basis, since we do not generally carry book reviews as such. We will be serially publishing three reviews/ comments on the book, by DWAIPAYAN SEN, DILIP M. MENON and HILAL AHMED, over the next few days, in the hope of provoking some discussion.We also hope to get the author’s response to these contributions. This first piece is by DWAIPAYAN SEN. The second contribution by Dilip M. Menon can be read here. You can read the final piece by Hilal Ahmed here.
This book is the most recent addition to a growing tradition of precolonial history-writing that depicts India as a land of milk and honey before the coming of the colonial flood. Evidently, a European understanding of India as Hindu replaced an earlier, native understanding of India as Hindustan, rendered a home for all faiths. Such arguments are based on the close reading of Muhammad Qasim Firishta’s Tarikh-i Firishta, and its appropriation by scholar-administrators in the employ of the East India Company.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE BOMB-MAKING FACTORIES IN WEST BENGAL?
Image Courtesy: PTI
Are the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and its in-charge, Home Minister Amit Shah, at variance with each other? This question has acquired a new meaning as, within a year, there have been at least two occasions when the MHA has not supported Shah’s public claims on matters with a direct bearing on the internal security of the country.
Take the interview of Shah done by a news channel last October. He claimed in it that the law and order situation had “gone for a toss” in West Bengal. The state, he went to the extent of claiming, had “bomb-making factories” in “every district”. This explosive claim of the number two in the Union Cabinet was lapped by mainstream media and soon there were calls to impose President’s Rule in the state.
It is interesting that though Marxism was born in Europe, it has found its most enduring habitat in the Global South, but this has meant very little in terms of its overall theoretical formation and structure. Thinking about this encounter of ‘Marxism’ and the ‘Global South’ – the continents of Africa, Asia and Latin America – is a daunting task for the sheer range of experiences and questions it has thrown up. It has thrown up fundamentally new concerns as well as produced, in practice, some of the most grotesque outcomes. But the task is also daunting because despite the range of experiences that Marxism has gone through and has put us through, it has not so far given us any serious body of theoretical knowledge that reflects this experience. It has not given us anything like the way, say, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese and Sinhala Buddhism have produced their own versions of Buddhist philosophy. One could also perhaps say the same thing about Christianity in Europe, where – at least up to a point – its philosophy was elaborated and innovated or transformed by the best minds of their time.
मोटेरा स्टेडियम का नाम बदलना दुनिया के इतिहास में- ख़ासकर उपनिवेशवाद के ख़िलाफ़ संघर्ष कर आज़ाद हुए मुल्कों में, ऐसा पहला उदाहरण है, जहां किसी स्वाधीनता सेनानी का नाम मिटाकर एक ऐसे सियासतदां का नाम लगाया गया हो, जिसका उसमें कोई भी योगदान नहीं रहा हो.
Courtesy – नरेंद्र मोदी स्टेडियम. फोटो: रॉयटर्स
क्रिकेट का खेल भारत का सबसे लोकप्रिय खेल है. पिछले दिनों यह खेल नहीं बल्कि इस खेल के लिए फिलवक्त मौजूद दुनिया का ‘सबसे बड़ा क्रिकेट स्टेडियम’ एक अलग वजह से सुर्खियों में आया.
मौका था अहमदाबाद के मोटेरा स्टेडियम- जिसे सरदार वल्लभभाई पटेल स्टेडियम के तौर पर जाना जाता रहा है – के नए सिरे से उद्घाटन का, जो वर्ष 2015 में नवीनीकरण के लिए बंद किया गया था और अब नयी साजसज्जा एवं विस्तार के साथ खिलाड़ियों एवं दर्शकों के लिए तैयार था.
याद रहे कि पहले गुजरात स्टेडियम के तौर जाने जाते इस स्टेडियम का स्वाधीनता आंदोलन के महान नेता वल्लभभाई पटेल – जो आज़ादी के बाद देश के गृहमंत्री भी थे- के तौर पर नामकरण किया गया था, जब तत्कालीन गुजरात सरकार ने स्टेडियम के लिए सौ एकड़ जमीन आवंटित की, जिसका निर्माण महज नौ महीनों में पूरा किया गया था. (1982)
दरअसल हुआ यह कि जिस दिन उसका उद्घाटन होना था, उस दिन अचानक लोगों को पता चला कि अब यह सरदार वल्लभभाई पटेल स्टेडियम नहीं बल्कि ‘नरेंद्र मोदी स्टेडियम’ के तौर पर जाना जाएगा.
सबसे विचित्र बात यह थी कि इस नामकरण को बिल्कुल गोपनीय ढंग से किया गया. गोपनीयता इस कदर थी कि खुद समाचार एजेंसियों प्रेस ट्रस्ट आफ इंडिया या एएनआई आदि तक को पता नहीं था कि उसका नामकरण किया जाने वाला है.
जाहिर था कि पीटीआई या एएनआई जैसी संस्थाओं की सुबह की प्रेस विज्ञप्ति भी उसे सरदार वल्लभभाई पटेल स्टेडियम के तौर पर संबोधित करती दिख रही थी. यह अलग बात है कि अगली प्रेस विज्ञप्ति में अचानक नरेंद्र मोदी स्टेडियम का जिक्र होने लगा.
अब जैसी कि उम्मीद की जा सकती है कि इस नामकरण- जो दरअसल नामांतरण था- पर तीखी प्रतिक्रिया हुई. न केवल इसे सरदार वल्लभभाई पटेल के अपमान के तौर पर देखा गया बल्कि यह भी कहा गया कि एक पदेन प्रधानमंत्री का नाम देकर प्रस्तुत सरकार ने एक तरह से दुनिया में अपनी हंसी उड़ाने का ही काम किया है.
विपक्ष ने साफ कहा कि यह एक तरह से मोदी के पर्सनालिटी कल्ट को अधिक वैधता प्रदान करने का काम है. मिसालें पेश की गईं कि समूची दुनिया में भी ऐसी मिसालें बहुत गिनी-चुनी ही मिलती हैं, जो अधिनायकवादी मुल्कों में दिखती हैं.
Spot the difference between the two quotations below.
“The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.” – [Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848. Emphasis added]
“Hence, the historical movement which changes the producers into wage-workers, appears, on the one hand, as their emancipation from serfdom and from the fetters of the guilds, and this side alone exists for our bourgeois historians. But, on the other hand, these new freedmen became sellers of themselves only after they had been robbed of all their own means of production, and of all the guarantees of existence afforded by the old feudal arrangements. And the history of this, their expropriation, is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire.” – [Karl Marx, Capital Volume 1, Chapter 26, ‘The Secret of Primitive Accumulation’. 1867. All emphasis added]
Look closely at both, and if you have any doubts, you can return to the original texts from which these two passages have been extracted – the Communist Manifesto, by the youthful Marx and Engels, published in 1848 and Capital, Volume I, published in 1867. If the Communist Manifesto almost celebrates the ‘fact’ that capitalism has “rescued a considerable part of the population [i.e. the peasant] from the idiocy of rural life”, what does the text of Capital say? It underlines that precisely these people who had been thus ‘rescued’, “became sellers of themselves after they had been robbed of all their means of production“.
And if we take a step outside their context and read these lines in the context of contemporary India – from Singur and Nandigram to the ongoing saga of the epic farmers’ struggle – it is not difficult to see why the text of Capital insists that the history of their expropriation is written in “letters of blood and fire.” The big difference is that while literally millions perished in the storm of capitalist industrialization in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and simply disappeared into history; today, the peasants, farmers and indigenous people – all the so-called ‘pre-capitalist’ populations – are fighting back. There were no institutions of democracy, no language of struggle back then; it was the sheer exercise of naked power by the rising bourgeoisie that enforced the expropriation of agrarian and artisanal communities.
THE STATE LOOKS THE OTHER WAY ONLY WHEN RIGHT-WING FOOTSOLDIERS TARGET INNOCENT PEOPLE AND PROVOKE VIOLENCE.
A foreigner, returning from a trip to the Third Reich,
When asked who ruled there, answered:
The Regime, Bertolt Brecht.
Those occasions on which judicial verdicts bring cheer are getting rarer. As everyone who supports gender justice rejoices over the victory of senior journalist Priya Ramani in the defamation case filed against her by ex-minister MJ Akbar, it is also time to get excited over another judgement passed in another court.
In an ambience in which dissent is increasingly criminalised, this judgement by a Delhi court, which grants bail to two people accused of posting “fake” videos related to the ongoing farmer movement, is also a breath of fresh air.
The prosecution argued that these videos—which seemed to express discontent among police officers against the government—could create disaffection against the government. Instead of agreeing, the judge hearing the case handed out a tutorial to the government as to when the law on spreading disaffection is actually to be applied.
The law, the prosecution was told, can be invoked only when there is a “call to violence”. The judge underlined that the law to punish sedition is an important instrument to maintain peace and order, and it cannot be invoked to quieten disquiet while pretending to muzzle miscreants.
Any student of law knows that the judge’s declarations resonate with two historic judgements delivered by the highest court of the country, namely the Kedarnath Singh vs State of Bihar ruling from 1962 and the Balwant Singh and Bhupinder Singh vs State of Punjab government case from 1995, which specifically emphasise that the charge of sedition can be used only when violence is invoked or where there are attempts to create disorder.
Dr Abhay Shukla, public health physician and health activist will be delivering the 8 th lecture in the ‘Democracy Dialogues Lecture Series’ on ‘Mass Psychology of Neofascism : The rationale underlying political ‘irrationality’ organised by New Socialist Initiative on Sunday, 21 st February, 2021 at 6 PM (IST)
Recently, on fieldwork in a peri-urban panchayat in Kerala devastated by illegal large-scale granite quarrying, a local resident pointed us to what looked like a hillock. It was covered with vegetation — and flowers of a pleasant lilac — which made a very pretty sight — and to the naked eye, looked as solid as any other hillock in the peripheries of the Western Ghats. “This hillock,” he clarified, “is actually just a heap. It is the earth loosened by quarrying, heaped up here over a long time. Because it is overgrown by weeds, we think it is a verdant hill.” Far from being the latter, he said, it poses a serious danger to the neighborhood. “A spell of really heavy rain can bring it down and just imagine what will happen to the houses below?”
[In this column this time, I am reproducing a piece that I recently wrote at the request of some friends – as a popular pamphlet, meant primarily for election purposes. Therefore, while it draws on the work of experts in the field, it does not really address the academic reader.]
“Hinduize all politics and militarize Hindudom – And the resurrection of our Hindu Nation is bound to follow it as certainly as the Dawn follows the darkest hour of the Night!” – Hindutva’s founding ideologue Vinayak D. Savarkar’s message to Hindudom on his 59th birthday, 25 May 1941.
“Our arms stretched as far as America on the one side – that was long before Columbus ‘discovered’ America – and on the other side to China, Japan, Cambodia, Malay, Siam, Indonesia and all the South-East Asian countries and right up to Mongolia and Siberia in the North. Our powerful political empire too spread over these South-East areas and continued for 1,400 years, the Shailendra empire alone flourishing for over 700 years – standing as a powerful bulwark against Chinese expansion.” M. S. Golwalkar, [Second Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)], Bunch of Thoughts, Vikrama Prakashan, Bangalore 1968, p. 9.
“Emotions have more connection with the senses than with the faculty of reason; and therefore when principles are entirely lost sight of and emotions prevail, religions degenerate into fanaticism…They are no better than party politics…The most horribly ignorant notions will be taken up, and for these ideas thousands will be ready to cut the throats of their brethren.” – Swami Vivekananda, “The Methods and Purpose of Religion”, The Definitive Vivekananda, Rupa, New Delhi, 2018, p. 211]
It is now about twenty-five years since the CPM in Kerala took the calculated risk of meeting neoliberalism half-way through an experiment in localising development. The People’s Planning Campaign drew eclectically on a range of ideologies, from Gandhian self-reliance to neoliberal self-help, not always in ways that were sufficiently self-conscious, but there can be little doubt that there was a conscious effort to build in some mechanisms, however minimal, to counter the possible ill-being that neoliberal responsibilized welfare could inflict.
(अक्सर लोग बातचीत में यह कहते पाये जाते हैं कि इस देश में सैनिक शासन लागू कर देना चाहिए. ऐसा कहते समय वे यह भूल जाते हैं कि उनके पड़ोसी देशों में यह सब होता रहा है और इसने उन देशों का जहाँ पीछे किया है वहीं लोगों के जीवन को भी संकट में जब-तब डाल दिया है. जिस देश ने अपने इतिहास का सबसे महान और बड़ा संघर्ष अहिंसा, लोकतंत्र और धर्मनिरपेक्षता जैसे विराट मानवीय मूल्यों से जीता हो. वहां हिटलर की बढ़ती लोकप्रियता चिंतित करती है.
क्यों हम हिटलर को पसंद करने लग गयें हैं, क्यों हम किसी तानाशाह की प्रतीक्षा कर रहें हैं ? जबकि यह भारत और मानवजाति के लिए किसी विभीषिका से कम नहीं होगा.
प्रस्तुत आलेख इसी परिघटना की पड़ताल करता है .)
( मुंबई के एक रेस्तरां का दृश्य, फोटो आभार REUTERS)
“History teaches, but it has no pupils.”
Antonio Gramsci, (१)
एक भारतीय प्रकाशक को इस मसले पर वर्ष 2018 में आलोचना का शिकार होना पड़ा जब बच्चों के लिए तैयार की गयी एक किताब जिसका फोकस विश्व के नेताओं पर था ‘जिन्होंने अपने मुल्क और अपनी जनता की बेहतरी के लिए जिंदगी दी’ उसमें हिटलर को भी उसने शामिल किया.
जानकार लोग बता सकते हैं कि ऐसी घटनाएँ- कम-से-कम यहां अपवाद नहीं हैं. अपनी मौत के लगभग 75 साल बाद हिटलर भारत में बार-बार ‘नमूदार’ होता रहता है.
एक स्पैनिश फिल्म निर्माता अल्फ्रेडो डे ब्रागान्जा- जो एक स्वतंत्र फिल्म निर्माता रहे हैं- और जिन्होंने कुछ साल पहले भारत में रह कर काम किया था, उन्होंने भारत में हिटलर की अलग किस्म की ‘मौजूदगी’ को लेकर एक फोटो निबंध तैयार किया था जिसमें बहुत कम लिखित सामग्री थी. वह हिटलर की उपस्थिति को लेकर इस कदर विचलित थे कि अपने इस निबंध की शुरूआत में उन्होंने पूछ ही डाला:
‘भारत हिटलर-प्रेम के गिरफ्त में है. हालांकि आबादी का बड़ा हिस्सा यह नहीं जानता कि आखिर ऐसा क्यों हैं, वे अपने निजी एवं पेशागत चिन्ताओं से परे सोचना भी नहीं चाहते कि क्यों भारत हिटलर से प्रेम करता है? क्या किसी लॉबी का हित इसके पीछे है.’ (2)
आज भारत में आलम यह है कि यहूदी विरोधी हिटलर की चर्चित रचना ‘माईन काम्फ’ (मेरा संघर्ष) को आप किसी किताब की दुकान में ‘डायरी ऑफ़ एन फ्रांक- जो उस यहूदी लड़की की आत्मकथा है जो खुद हिटलर की यहूदी विरोध की नीतियों का शिकार हुई थी, के बगल में देख सकते हैं.
हिटलर ने भारतीयों के बारे में काफी अपमानजनक टिप्पणियां की थीं और उसने भारत की आज़ादी के संग्राम का कतई समर्थन नहीं किया था. ‘डिअर हिटलर’ इस फिल्म पर- जिसमें यह दावा किया गया था कि ‘हिटलर भारत का दोस्त रहा है’ अपनी प्रतिक्रिया देते हुए एक लेखक ने हिटलर के चित्रांकन पर आश्चर्य प्रकट करते हुए तथा निराशा जताते हुए लिखा था :
“हिटलर ने कभी भी भारतीय स्वशासन की हिमायत नहीं की. उसने ब्रिटिश राजनेताओं को सलाह दी कि गांधी और आज़ादी के आन्दोलन के सैकड़ों नेताओं को वह गोली से उड़ा दे. बार-बार उसने ब्रिटिश साम्राज्यवाद के प्रति अपना समर्थन दोहराया. वह यही सोचता था कि वह (ब्रिटिश शासन) उतना सख्त नहीं रहा है. ‘अगर हम भारत पर कब्जा जमा लेते हैं’ उसने कभी धमकाया था, तब भारतीय लोग ‘अंग्रेजी शासन के अच्छे दिनों को याद करते फिरेंगे.’ (3)
Behavioural psychologists say hatred and fear are two sides of the same coin. That explains the Hindu Right obsession with Gandhi and Godse.
Image Courtesy: India TV News
For now, the invidious project of the Hindu Mahasabhato set up a Nathuram Godse Gyan Shala in Gwalior has been shelved. Perhaps what terminated the ill-conceived venture was the sheer anachronism: while the country would mark Gandhi’s73rd death anniversary on 30 January, one section would be found singing paens to his assassin, Nathuram Godse. It would only have served to remind people of how an unarmed man was shot down on his way to a prayer meeting.
This killing was Godse’s so-called contribution and, according to leaders of the Mahasabha, marked his patriotism. The same Hindu Mahasabha has already launched a “Godse workshop”, where the members exhort Indians to “strive to follow his path”. It was also instrumental in installing his statue in the city which had invited opprobrium.
The killing of Gandhi has been shown to be part of an elaborate conspiracy hatched by the higher-ups in the Hindutva supremacist forces. Remembrance of Godse would have been a reminder of the five attempts on Gandhi’s life since the mid-thirties that involvedHindutva forces. There was even a sixth attempt, according to Chunnibhai Vaidya, a Gandhian from Gujarat. Justice Jinvanlal Kapur, who was entrusted with examining the conspiracy to assassinate the Mahatma had concluded in 1969, “All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group.”
Eminent political economist and public intellectual, Prof Prabhat Patnaik, delivered the 7th Democracy Dialogues Series lecture on ‘From Neo-Liberalism to Neo-Fascism’ organised by the New Socialist Initiative on January 24, 2021, 6 PM IST
There has of late been a sudden and rapid growth of neo-fascism all over the world. The neo-fascists are not yet in a position to capture power in many countries; and even where they do, they are not yet in a position to make the transition to a fascist State. But they contribute everywhere towards a fascification of the society and the polity. This emergence of neo-fascism is the culmination of the global pursuit of the neo-liberal trajectory, which greatly widened income and wealth inequalities in every country and led even to an absolute immiserization of vast masses of the working people in third world countries like India. For a while the hope was entertained that the people would become better off in due course as rapid growth continued. But with the onset of the global economic crisis, itself a result of the widened economic inequalities, such hopes have been belied. The corporate-financial oligarchy therefore has to find a new prop for itself and forms an alliance with neo-fascist elements to shift the discourse away from conditions of material life towards vilifying the “other”, typically a hapless religious and ethnic minority.
Over the past one year, I have been trying to make a college in Kerala – in a women’s college in Kerala– take some action against one of their faculty members who rained abuse on me publicly, including a public assertion about his possession of a penis, at a seminar in which I was an invited guest. This happened in November 2019.
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→
“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.
It is a mischievous denigration of constitutional principles and values which declare every human equal and bar discrimination.
“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.
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.
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.