Category Archives: Debates

Arundhati Roy on Taslima Nasreen and Nandigram: Interview with Karan Thapar on IBNlive.com

As we have been discussing both Nandigram and the situation that Taslima Nasreen has found herself over the last few weeks, I thought that it might be interesting to listen in on a conversation that Karan Thapar has had with the writer Arundhati Roy that takes on both these questions. This interview was broadcast today on CNN IBN.


Transcript of Arundhati Roy interviewed on the treatment of Taslima Nasreen by Karan Thapar on ‘Devil’s Advocate’, broadcast this evening on CNN-IBN

The transcript was published on Sun, Dec 02, 2007 at 20:32, on the IBNlive.com website

A video of the interview is also available on the website.

———————————————

Hello and welcome to Devil’s Advocate. How do India’s leading authors respond to the treatment given to Taslima Nasreen over the last 14 days? That’s the key issue I shall explore today with Booker Prize- winning novelist Arundhati Roy.

Karan Thapar: Arundhati Roy, let me start with that question. How do you respond to the way Taslima Nasreen has been treated for almost 14 days now?

Arundhati Roy: Well, it is actually almost 14 years but right now it is only 14 days and I respond with dismay but not surprise because I see it as a part of a larger script where everybody is saying their lines and exchanging parts.

Continue reading Arundhati Roy on Taslima Nasreen and Nandigram: Interview with Karan Thapar on IBNlive.com

Theses on Feuerbach, Woody Allen and Nandigram

In Wolfgang Becker’s film Good Bye Lenin set in East Germany at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a young boy tries to protect his invalid mother from the shock of learning about the transformation that has overtaken their country. When despite his elaborate deception, she manages to see a television programme showing thousands of cheering Germans at the remnants of the wall, he tells her that the capitalist west has fallen, that refugees from West Berlin are pouring into the East, and that East Germany has welcomed them with open arms. And she believes him.

Thing is, there was no historical inevitability to the fall of communism. The story the boy tells his mother in Good Bye Lenin could well have been the way things went in history, but for the self-destructiveness of Stalinism – its hubris, its fetishization of a certain notion of industrialization and progress, its anti-democratic core, its contempt for the “people” it claimed to represent (or rather, the people it claimed to be.)

Continue reading Theses on Feuerbach, Woody Allen and Nandigram

Response to Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn et al on Nandigram

We read with growing dismay the statement signed by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and others advising those opposing the CPI(M)’s pro-capitalist policies in West Bengal not to “split the Left” in the face of American imperialism. We believe that for some of the signatories, their distance from events in India has resulted in their falling prey to a CPI(M) public relations coup and that they may have signed the statement without fully realising the import of it and what it means here in India, not just in Bengal.

We cannot believe that many of the signatories whom we know personally, and whose work we respect, share the values of the CPI(M) – to “share similar values” with the party today is to stand for unbridled capitalist development, nuclear energy at the cost of both ecological concerns and mass displacement of people (the planned nuclear plant at Haripur, West Bengal), and the Stalinist arrogance that the party knows what “the people” need better than the people themselves. Moreover, the violence that has been perpetrated by CPI(M) cadres to browbeat the peasants into submission, including time-tested weapons like rape, demonstrate that this “Left” shares little with the Left ideals that we cherish.

Continue reading Response to Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn et al on Nandigram

On Nandigram: A Rejoinder to the Calumny of Jayati Ghosh – Sukla Sen

[We are posting this rejoinder by Sukla Sen to a recent piece by CPM economist Jayati Ghosh. The original article by Jayati Ghosh is appended at the end of Sukla Sen’s response. Both these appear in a recent publication, Nandigram: What We Stand For by Mazdoor Mukti (Workers’ Liberation), Kolkata. We thank Mazdoor Mukti and Arvind Ghosh for making this available to us.]

In the following article mailed to a number of recipients, Jayati Ghosh has tried to defend the indefensible, the gruesome violence unleashed by the hired mercenaries on the villagers of Nandigram on behalf of and under the patronage of the CPIM, as a political party, and, more significantly, the West Bengal government led by it by means of a counterattack on the critiques of the diabolical act. Not for nothing it is said that “offence is the best defence!” And Jayati Ghosh is nothing if not a faithful soldier of the Party, ready to spring to its defence, with a bit of intellectual halo around her. And if ends justify the means, then sacrificing of truth in carrying out the mission is only a small price to be paid.

We’d attempt here to subject the article, appended below with paragraphs numbered, to a systematic analysis.

In the paragraph [1], Ms. Ghosh pretty sanctimoniously proclaims that the “current events in Nandigram in West Bengal give rise to many emotions, but one of them is surely a sense of shock at the cynicism and irresponsibility of some apparently progressive activists and artistes”.

Continue reading On Nandigram: A Rejoinder to the Calumny of Jayati Ghosh – Sukla Sen

Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Tariq Ali: The Seductions of Stalinism

Once more, Stalinism’s seductions have taken over even libertarian Leftists and Trotskyists, who, one would imagine, should know better about the methods of this devious ideological machine. Leading intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn have issued a statement addressed to “Our Friends in Bengal”, which you can read here. The statement offers the solemn advice that in the face of Iraq and the impending attack on Iran, ‘it would be impetuous to split the Left’. Suddenly, as if by magic, ‘all Leftists’ from anarcho-communist Chomsky, Trotskyist Tariq Ali, and many many Liberal Leftists – all become ONE with Stalinism (‘The Yet-Unsplit Left’). For it will be apparent to any one who reads the statement that the appeal not to split the Left is made not to the CPM, but to those who oppose its crypto- capitalist policies.

Continue reading Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Tariq Ali: The Seductions of Stalinism

The Sword and the Monk’ s Cowl: Curfew in Kolkata

“Instead of society having conquered a new content for itself, it seems that the state has only returned to its oldest form, to a shamelessly simple rule by the sword and the monk’s cowl. “

-Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon

We live in strange times. Really strange times. Just as the news from Kolkata was getting better, it got worse again.The sudden spectre of ‘communal rioting’ has reared its head, as if from nowhere in West Bengal. The All India Minorities Forum, a little known entity led by a busy body called Idris Ali materialized yersterday on the streets of Kolkata demanding the deportation of the exiled Bangladeshi writer, on the grounds that she had once injured the sensitivities of Muslims. Crowds attacked police, pitched street battles continued, the Army was called in. Curfew was declared, and on television, Biman Bose, a CPI(M) and ‘Left’ Front hatchet man, declared – “… if her stay creates a problem for peace, she (Nasrin) should leave the state” (see NDTV report at the end of this posting)

Continue reading The Sword and the Monk’ s Cowl: Curfew in Kolkata

Another Supreme Court

Even as our own dearly beloved Supreme Court repeatedly shows contempt of the people by handing over tribal lands to corporations and urban spaces to mall developers, the judges across the border seem to be on a radically different track. As is well known by now, the initial dismissal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhary by General Musharraf – an action that launched a million mutinies – was at least partly to punish him for his order preventing the sale of Pakistan Steel Mills to a private group.

As the democratic upsurge in Pakistan carries on unabated, here is a lesser known story, sent to me about a month ago by Nighat Said Khan (better known as Bunny) Women’s Action Forum activist. It is an eye-witness account of the hearing in June 2007, in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, on the appeal by the ‘she-couple’, as a story in Dawn dubbed them, seeking dismissal of a High Court decision sentencing them to three years’ imprisonment for perjury. Not only is the order by the Supreme Court exemplary for its commitment to individual rights, Bunny’s account highlights the extraordinary sensitivity and awareness shown by both the lawyer representing the couple, Babar Awan, and the judges hearing the case.

If this is Pakistan’s judiciary, no wonder the general is a little lost in his labyrinth…

Over to Nighat Said Khan.

Continue reading Another Supreme Court

Dhikkar Michhil: One Lakh March in Kolkata – Moinak Biswas

[We present below a participants’ account, by Moinak Biswas, of the massive and unprecedented Dhikkar Michhil [condemnation rally] in Kolkata, protesting the killings in Nandigram. We now know, notwithstanding the cold blooded claims of ‘liberation’, that the operation carried out there was no different from what any marauding army does – kill rape, rape, maim. And so, Kolkata rose up in spontaneous condemnation – AN]

kolkata rally

The organizers were obviously not prepared for size of the turn-out. That it would be big they must have known, as the outrage had reached a boiling point since the second offensive against Nandigram villagers started on the 6th. . But no one could have anticipated the multitudes that would render numbers obscure on the streets yesterday. The organizers didn’t even bring enough of those little badges which just said ‘Dhikkar’ (‘Shame!’). But then who were the organizers? Some familiar faces were using a loudspeaker to issue basic instructions – ‘Please do not carry organizational banners; do not shout slogans; our route will be.. .’ No one was leading. Many people did not know who gave the call for the rally; they still do not know. Continue reading Dhikkar Michhil: One Lakh March in Kolkata – Moinak Biswas

Nandigram Redux: Reading Sudhanva Deshpande

It is interesting to witness the spin doctoring of the CPI(M) come into play once again in the wake of the renewed violence in Nandigram, which in CPI(M) newspeak is now being called ‘a transition to peaceful conditions’ .

Recently, I have had the opportunity to read the seasoned voice of one of the leading ‘cultural’ lights of the Consolidated Promotors of India(Militant) in Delhi, Comrade Sudhanva Deshpande, on Nandigram Redux, on an extended posting made on Pragoti.org,

I urge you all to read Sudhanva Deshpande’s text as a window into the amazing felicity with which the Consolidated Promotors of India (Militant) constructs the edifice of its positions.

In this posting, I intend to subject Comrade Deshpande’s text to some close reading. I am writing this in order to respond especially to the work that Aditya Nigam is doing in keeping the question of Nandigram alive on Kafila.I have relied extensively on reports, news and analysis on an excellent archive-blog – Sanhati – for a great deal of the material for this posting. Continue reading Nandigram Redux: Reading Sudhanva Deshpande

Soft Bhadralok Hindutva Under ‘Left’ Garb – VB Rawat

[We have received this guest piece from Vidya Bhushan Rawat, which looks at another pathology behind the ‘Left’ Front and its entrenchment in West Bengal politics. We are pleased to present this as it underlines a point seldom registered by self-proclaimed ‘Leftists’ and ‘secularists’: the saffron under the red colour of Indian marxism in general but especially of the CPM. The Sachar committee had recently only revealed what many had always suspected with regard to Muslims. With regard to the Dalits, analysts have been at pains to point out that West Bengal ranks far below even UP, in terms of ownership of land by Dalits. So much for its much touted land reforms. While publishing this piece, let us also underline, with the author that when, in the height of the anti-Islam hysteria during NDA rule, LK Advani’s Home Ministry proposed ‘bio-metric identification cards’ – to check the problem of ‘infiltration’ (!?), then too, Buddhadeb was its most enthusiastic supporter. It is actually interesting that when the ruling classes and parties under Indira Gandhi used to see CIA everywhere, the CPM too saw CIA; and then when the NDA started seeing ISI ‘under every bed as it were, CPM followed suit. Curious, would you say? Read on, for the real debate on the ‘Left’ should be here, which is not to say that we agree with every thing said here. – AN]

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Nandigram is burning and the Neros of the left front governments are watching it with great patience. Those who are up in arms against any displacement elsewhere remain mute spectators at the butchering of people in this ‘war zone’, as the governor of the state Mr Gopal Krishna Gandhi mentioned in his statement. CPM and its leadership were prompt in condemning the governor for his remark as unconstitutional. If governor’s remark is out of the touch of Bengal’s reality then how can one justify the ‘call’ for ‘recapture’ of land by the top leadership of CPM? Continue reading Soft Bhadralok Hindutva Under ‘Left’ Garb – VB Rawat

The Silence of the Lambs

protest nandigram

It has happened many times in the past and it seems destined to happen again – thanks to the silence of the left-liberal intelligentsia and the opportunism of the political class. Soon Nandigram may be forgotten by the political class and CPM will be ‘forgiven’ its misdemeanour – all for the sake of some supposedly ‘larger cause’.

After making some noises for public consumption, the Left Front partners have eventually decided, or so it seems, to make peace with the CPM. What else can they do if they have to remain in power? Remember the NDA allies – including the heroine of today, Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress, the TDP and others? Did they squeak, when Gujarat burned? AB Bardhan, the CPI General Secretary is of course, knows full well, which side his toast is buttered and is known to be inside his own party a CPM mole (he has been advocating the merger of the CPI into the CPM.) So we can let Bardhan be. But what are the other LF partners in West Bengal thinking? They can choose to sink with the CPM – as and when it happens (like the TMC and TDP sank with the NDA) or they can help the formation of an alternative platform with other smaller parties. The CPM, after all, was not always a big party. It became big in the process of presenting an alternative to decades of Congress rule.

Continue reading The Silence of the Lambs

Nandigram Burning: Thousands forced to flee, situation worsening

[We publish below a joint statement on the Nandigram situation, issued by different organizations and individuals, including Medha Patkar, who was manhandled by CPM goons – AN]

* Thousands Forced to Flee from Nandigram, Activists Under Arrest

* Memorandum Submitted to Governor of West Bengal

* Dharna begins in Kolkata, Two Day Protest Fast to Commence Tomorrow

Nandigram is under fire and scare. On the festive days of Kalipuja, the light emerging from the land of Martyrdom is not of the lamps women would light in their ‘badis’ (houses) but from the burning houses, put on fire by cadres entering village after village and occupying land forcibly.

The reports coming from the land and the citizens as members of the Bhumi Ucched Protirodh Committee indicate that  at least 20,000 families are made to flee from their houses in Satangabari, Samsabad, and other villages which are either demolished or looted. We met Taslimadi in Kapasberia with Minudi, who have taken shelter in their relatives’ houses. But the tears in their eyes and choked voices brought to us the pain and anguish for being made destitute and homeless which could not be hidden. While thousands of families and more than a lakh people have shifted either to the schools and other public buildings, or to the open grounds where huge camps are set up by the committee where most of the people are being fed, if not left hungry.

Continue reading Nandigram Burning: Thousands forced to flee, situation worsening

The Lal Masjid Syndrome

[We are pleased to present here two pieces by way of reflection on the state of the Muslims in India and Pakistan. These two pieces together constitute an acute and critical reflection on the general crisis of the community: in one instance, as a consequence of the emergence of a clergy in a religion that prided itself on its ‘unmediated’ relation between the believer and the Creator; in the other instance as a result of the social and political discrimination directed at it by ‘secular’ governments in India. Ekram Khawar’s is a voice of internal critique – as ruthless about its own leaders as it is of the supposed secular dispensation of Independent India.]

By Ekram Khawar

There is an eerie silence after Pakistan army’s operation in the Lal Masjid premises; a silence dour and dark, in all immanence. It is got to be since the message, however, delayed is loud and clear, a warning to the zealots not to mess around with the state and not to impose their notion of Islam on others, and with such disdain.

But, in all fairness, it must be said that it was coming to this all along and only the blissfully innocent, if any still left in an otherwise cynical age, would have been surprised by the turn of events. The discerning ones could see it coming all along; in fact, as early as 1949, Chowdhary Mohammad Ali Rudawlwi, not a rabid “secularist” of today’s crusading mould, but a devout Sunni Muslim (married to a Shia woman), a perfectly honourable and practicing, believing Muslim and a “Haji” to boot, while writing to his friend in Pakistan, in 1949, cautioned that the ever increasing influence of the “mullahs” did not bode well for Pakistan. Perhaps, the malaise lay somewhere else; probably in the very ideology and genesis of Pakistan, whether Jinnah intended it or not and irrespective of whether the great visionary poet Iqbal would have approved it or not. In fact there are enough materials on record to suggest that both the poet and the Qaid would have disapproved of the events as they unfolded and determined the broad contours of both the Pakistani establishment and its ruling mindset. I tend to believe that, as far as Pakistan was concerned, the seeds of its “kharabi” were inherently built-in in its creation, to borrow a word from Ghalib. No wonder the votaries christened the new state as “Pakistan” – land of the pure, implicitly in the back drop of an impure world. And almost logically, the mullahs, much to the detriment of the new nation increasingly occupied the centre stage, of course aided and abetted in their efforts at nation building as a necessary justification and as a counter poise to the presence of a predominantly Hindu India masquerading as a secular state. And so a proxy war of jihad, always underlined the onward march of the competitive existence of both the newly liberated states, compounded with a vengeance apparently on an apple of discord called Kashmir.

Continue reading The Lal Masjid Syndrome

Reflections on a thing called ‘Sachchar’

By Ekram Khawar

Rubbishing the Left’s belief to the contrary, The Indian Express, in a front page piece by Amitav Ranjan, reports on October 6, 2007, that the UPA Govt. ‘is rushing through a developmental scheme to improve the lot of minority communities’. It goes on to elaborate that “the Centrally-sponsored scheme with an initial grant of Rs. 120 crore in the current fiscal would try to fill identified development deficits through better infrastructure for schools, sanitation, housing, drinking water and electricity supply besides beneficiary oriented schemes for income generating opportunities”. One can not help but thank the Govt for its newfound concern for the Muslims, amidst the growing talk of mid term polls, even though the grotesqueness of the figure flies in your face; the paltry Rs. 120 crore meant for 90 high concentration districts towards attainment of the avowed objectives i.e. roughly Rs. 1.33 crore per district for schools, sanitation, housing, drinking water and electricity supply besides beneficiary oriented schemes for income generating opportunities; all rolled into one extended noisy fart called ‘concern for Muslims’. And that too coming as it does post “Sachchar Report” and in the 60th year of independence.

Continue reading Reflections on a thing called ‘Sachchar’

The ‘Solidarity Economy’ – Off the Beaten Track

In the beginning of this year, Ecuador became one more of the South American countries to turn Left. The new Left-wing President, Rafael Correa called, soon thereafter, for a “new socialism of the twenty-first century”. The last few months have witnessed sharp conflcits between the President, backed by a popular struggle the corrupt right-wing oligarchy that pervaded the system. We reproduce below two recent articles, one by Roger Burbach and another, in the nature of a report by Kintto Lucas, which indicate some of the fascinating new directions that Ecuador is set to now move along.

Sometime ago we had posted in Kafila, an interview of Bolivian President Evo Morales, which was remarkable for two things: (1) Morales’ reference that when he met Cuba’s Fidel Castro, the latter told him to follow Hugo Chavez and not him; that is to say, adopt the democratic road to socialist transformation. This is a commitment that many of the new regimes in the South American continent, backed by powerful mass struggles, are now displaying. The Ecuadorean struggle for and the Leftist victory in, the new Constituent Assembly is a further indication of this new direction. The second important point was Morales’ insistence that ‘we’ (the indigenous people) live in an entirely different relationship with ‘Mother Earth’. Thus: “We say the “Mother Earth,” because the earth gives us life, and neither the Mother Earth nor life can be a commodity. So we’re talking about a profound change in the economic models and systems.” Of course, this is something that neither the Indian ruling elites nor their Leftist counterparts can ever understand, drunk as they are on the heady brew of Capital and Consumption – even if that will lead the world to its rapid end. The likes of the CPM leaders – the Buddhadebs and Bimans for example – would in the end like to claim that “see we reached the end before you”, rather than dare to chart out a different path. It takes real courage – and of course the existential perspective of an ‘indigenous’ leader – to say that we want a radical break form this destructive model.

The news from Ecuador is important in both these respects. It is a different vision of ‘socialism’ – not a vision that wants capitalism to first destroy the planet before socialism can begin its work (for what?!) So, the Ecuadorean government now talks of ‘socialism’ as a shared economy and one moreover, that will be based on the protection and preservation of the oil wealth and bio-diversity of the country rather than its sale for global consumption.

ECUADOR: Support Grows for Letting Sleeping Amazon Oil Lie
By Kintto Lucas

QUITO, Aug 23 (IPS) – The innovative offer by the government of Ecuador to refrain from exploiting its largest oil reserve, in exchange for international compensation for nature conservation, is attracting increasing support. While oil prices are soaring, Quito is adopting the civil society initiative calling for the Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha (ITT) oil reserve, the country’s largest, to remain untapped. The ITT reserve is located in Yasuní National Park, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, in the Amazon region provinces of Pastaza and Napo.

Continue reading The ‘Solidarity Economy’ – Off the Beaten Track

‘Secularism has become another religion’ – Etienne Balibar

[French Marxist philosopher, Étienne Balibar was in Delhi recently, where he delivered a series of lectures. A former student of Louis Althusser, Balibar has over the last few decades, worked towards the articulation of a critical Marxism – one that is at once liberated from the shibboleths of old modernist certainties and yet does not give up on the idea of a possible emancipatory project of a world beyond capitalism. Balibar’ later philosophical work has been more and more engaged with the contemporary political problems of France and Europe.

Balibar is critical of hardline French secularists for their xenophobic intolerance of issues concerning French citizens of Arab and African descent. In the 2007 French presidential election, he was among the two hundred intellectuals who expressed support for the candidature of Marie-Ségolène Royal of the Socialist Party. Professor Emeritus of Moral and Political Philosophy at Université de Paris X – Nanterre, and Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine, Balibar gave a series of lectures in New Delhi last week. S. Anand of Tehelka joins Nivedita Menon, Reader in Political Science at the University of Delhi, and Aditya Nigam, Fellow at the Centre for Study of Developing Societies, in discussing with Balibar the overlap of racism, Islamophobia and secularism in a global context. The interview is published in the current issue of TEHELKA.]

etiennebalibar

Menon: You have written about the race riots in 2005 in the French banlieues, the suburbs, as a ‘revolt of the excluded’ and have linked it to the contradictions of globalisation. What were the dynamics of these riots?

Balibar: I am surprised these events provoke such curiosity in places as far away as Chicago and New Delhi since I think these riots were extremely banal in the sense that they are a type of urban disorder that has repeatedly taken place all over the world for a long period, owing to similar issues of “difference”. Perhaps the French were exceptional in thinking that the typical effects of the redistribution of populations created by globalisation, involving race and class factors, would not affect France. There’s also been extreme reluctance on the part of French commentators, not only of the Right but also the Left, to use race and racial categories.

Continue reading ‘Secularism has become another religion’ – Etienne Balibar

Perils of Arbitrariness – MSS Pandian

The Central Educational Institution (Reservation and Admission) Act, 2006, which provides for 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in institutions of higher learning, is in a state of deep freeze. The Union Government’s desperate promises to expand the educational infrastructure in these institutions, to increase the number of seats so that the number of open quota seats will remain the same, and to address the issue of creamy layer, has failed to convince the Supreme Court. After a court battle of five long months, a Supreme Court Bench has finally refused to vacate the stay on the Act imposed in March 2007.
The Supreme Court’s objection to the Act is quite straightforward and seemingly reasonable. It posed to the Union Government, what is the basis on which the figure 27 per cent had been arrived at. The Union Government failed to come up with any credible answer and the Supreme Court, as one would expect, stuck to its position. In other words, Supreme Court wants no legislation to be arbitrary but be based on defendable rational basis.
Continue reading Perils of Arbitrariness – MSS Pandian

Persecution and Resistance: The Struggle for Human Rights

A well-known activist of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), and a medical doctor Binayak Sen gets arrested in May 2007 in Chhattisgarh state, under the provisions of the controversial black laws, the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 (CSPSA), and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 having been amended in 2004 and made more stringent after the collapse of POTA. In August 2007, a woman activist Roma, working among the women, tribals and dalits of Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh under the aegis of Kaimur Kshetra Mahila Majdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti and the National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers is arrested and charged under the National Security Act. A young Oriya poet and literary editor Saroj Mohanty, who is also an activist of the Prakrutik Suraksha Sampada Parishad, an organization supporting the struggles of the people of Kashipur, who for the past 13 years have successfully opposed the entry of large bauxite mining companies in the region, was picked up by the police in July 2007 at Rayagada, Orissa, on charges of dacoity, house trespass and attempt to murder. Two activists – Shamim and Anurag – of Shramik Adivasi Sanghathana and Samajwadi Jan Parishad, which are working amongst tribals in Betul, Harda and Khandwa districts of Madhya Pradesh, were served externment notices in June by the Harda District Magistrate under the State Security Act.

Continue reading Persecution and Resistance: The Struggle for Human Rights

Kaurnanidhi knows his Ramayana Well – MSS Pandian

MSS PANDIAN, well known scholar, writes on DMK, Ram and the BJP. 
 

For M Karunanidhi, DMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister, Lord Ram is not a historical persona but a figment of human imagination. He has not only invited BJP leader L K Advani for a public debate on Ram’s historical status but also – as if turning the knife into the wound – has advised him to read Valmiki’s Ramayana with all the care it deserves. It is common knowledge in Tamil Nadu that Karunanidhi knows his Ramayana well.

Karunanidhi’s remarks have provoked Advani and his cohorts to breathe brimstone and fire. But they have not succeeded one bit in turning the Hindus of Tamil Nadu against Karunanidhi. Their desperation is evident when Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, BJP spokesperson, claimed during a press meet that Karunanidhi has lost his head. Perhaps, he meant Karunanidhi’s followers too.

But for a minuscule fraction of rationalists, the majority of the cadres and sympathisers of the DMK are practising non-Brahmin Hindus. They regularly visit temples, worship, and go on pilgrimages. If they stand by Karunanidhi despite his open disavowal of Ram, they have their own reasons. For one thing, there is nothing novel in Karunanidhi’s comments on Ramayana. From the days of the Self-respect Movement founded by Periyar E V Ramasamy in the 1920s, Ramayana and Ram have been subjects of vigorous public debate in Tamil Nadu.

Read the full story in Times of India

Of ‘Nation’ and Other Modes of Belonging

It might be appropriate to begin this piece with the story of an old man from the ‘East’. No, this ‘East’ is neither the East of the Orientalists, nor indeed the Biblical ‘East’ (as in the ‘three wise men from the East’). This old man hailed, rather, from Eastern part of the north Indian province of Uttar Pradesh (UP) – a purabiya as ‘easterners’ are referred to in spoken Hindi. This man, Mata Badal, belonged to some village in the Awadh region and worked as a gardener in the house in Dehra Dun where we grew up. (The tale of Dehra Dun, once part of Western UP and now the capital of the newly formed state of Uttarakhand itself reveals one more dimension of the reconfiguration of Indian identity in the last two decades.) Every other year Mata Badal used to take leave to go to his des (literally country or homeland). He would tell us that he did not like life here in this pardes or foreign land, where he had had to come in search for livelihood. As children we used to laugh at his ‘ignorance’: how silly of him, we often thought, that he does not even know that his desh is the whole of India.

What I did not realize then but have begun to feel increasingly now is that his des was emphatically not merely a linguistically fallen form of the purer, Sanskritik, desh. I realize now that it probably embodied a different mode of being and idea of belonging. Outside this des, he continued to live like an exile. It is also interesting and worth underlining that it was not merely his notion of belonging but also of all those who would refer to him as an ‘Easterner’ – for implicit in the notion of the purabiya is the idea of the frontier or horizon, beyond which what is East does not matter. Even ‘Calcutta’ (Kolkata), which for instance became the subject of so many folk songs of separation for the inhabitants of Eastern UP (as male members from those parts went off to Calcutta in search of jobs), did not figure, till very recently, within the lived geography of Western UP inhabitants. The concept of a national identity, embodied in the more Sanskritik term Desh, remained, I believe, largely fictive or at any rate, not quite relevant to the rhythm of daily lives of millions of people all over India.

Continue reading Of ‘Nation’ and Other Modes of Belonging

Time And The Revolutionary Imagination

“If the socialist revolution in the ‘twenty Latin Americas’ cannot be unified, then neither can its timing. The national fragmentation of the Latin American revolution is matched by the way its political calendar is fragmented into quite unconnected rhythms and upheavals. In each country the process has its own time clock: whether armed or not, the class struggle will always be at a different moment in Caracas and Buenos Aires, and again different in Guatemala city. Vanguards can see far and wide: it is this that makes them the vanguard…Vanguards decide on their present action in view of the ‘far-off socialist ideals’ with which, by theoretical anticipation, they become contemporary. But it is pointless for them to set their watch to Caracas time in Buenos Aires (or Hanoi time in San Francisco for that matter). The people who make history are living by the time not of a continental, or world, revolution, but of the material living conditions of the area, the town or the country, which their horizon is bounded by. ” Regis Debray[i]

“In the Austro-Hungarian monarchy there are examples of all the economic forms to be found in Europe, including Turkey…What exists in the International as a chronological development – the socialism of artisans, journeymen, workers in manufacture, factory workers, and agricultural workers, which undergoes alterations, with the political, social or the intellectual aspect of the movement predominating at any given moment – takes place contemporaneously in Austria.” Otto Bauer.[ii]

‘Staging’ a Revolt

A little over forty years ago, in May 1967, the extraordinary event called ‘Naxalbari’ took place in a northern Bengal village (whose it name it bears), ante-dating the May 1968 upsurge in Europe by a full year. A peasants armed struggle to begin with, Naxalbari represented a utopian burst of revolutionary energy as rebels from within the CPI(M) challenged the cautious pragmatism of the party leadership that has, ironically, increasingly come to mark radical political practice since then. Formally, the main plank of the movement was its complete rejection of all parliamentary politics and a call for armed seizure of power. Located within the global conjuncture of the rise of Left-wing radicalism of the 1960s, the revolt was formally inspired by Maoism and the ongoing Cultural Revolution in China.

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