Thinking a local Cosmopolitanism – the Kochi Muziris Biennale: Interview with Dilip Menon by Riyas Komu and CS Venkiteswaran

English transcript of  interview published in Malayalam in Mathrubhumi Weekly, October 17 2017.

CSV

Kochi is a curious choice as a site for an international art event like Biennale, isn’t it? It has played no prominent role insofar as art activity, practice or market is concerned, nor is it a metropolitan city like Mumbai or Delhi. One qualification, of course, could be its long cosmopolitan history of trade and the movement of people, ideas, religions or goods from time immemorial. Is KMB in a way, trying to invoke and re-imagine the cosmopolitan past or heritage of a place like Kochi?

Dilip Menon

I think there is a particular history to why such an event should happen in Kochi, and why it could be successful here alone. Kochi, being a port city, was always part of a universe that was much larger than the immediate geography within which it is located. So, like most port cities, it sits on the edge of land and looks out to the sea. When one thinks about the idea of cosmopolitanism, there is something about the already existing cosmopolitanism of port cities, whether it is Malacca, Kochi or Venice. It is not without significance that two of the more important biennales are in Venice and Kochi. I think that a port city is located in a much longer history of movements of people, ideas, materials and political ideologies across the ocean.  Even though these ports are now part of nation-states, their histories and memories are much deeper and much longer. The Kochi Muziris Biennale (KMB) is able to summon up these memories.

Continue reading “Thinking a local Cosmopolitanism – the Kochi Muziris Biennale: Interview with Dilip Menon by Riyas Komu and CS Venkiteswaran”

Statement Against Genocide and Deportation of Rohingya Muslims

Violence is sweeping Myanmar and in a short span of two weeks lakhs of ethnic Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh and thousands have lost their lives. Satellite data shows, large parts of the Rakhine state, home to most of the Burmese Rohingya population have been set on fire, and murders, rape, arson, loot and forced displacement of the Rohingya population is taking place on a scale, that should be alarming for all humanity. Even the UN secretary general has called out to Mayanmar to end violence against the Rohingya and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu has urged Mayanmar state Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi to speak out against the persecution of the Rohingya. The tragedy facing the Rohingya is of an unprecedented scale and needs to be addressed with a sense of utmost urgency.

As Indian citizens, we need to break the silence on ethnic violence against the Rohingya and the unconstitutional proposed deportation of a wide and long-residing Rohingya community from India, to certain death that awaits them in Myanmar. The Rohingyas have been living as a peaceful refugee community in various parts of India since the 1970s, with no criminal records or history of crime. Let us not be a part of this genocide. Let us stand up for justice and humanity, and raise our voice against the killings, displacement and deportation of the Rohingya!

Continue reading “Statement Against Genocide and Deportation of Rohingya Muslims”

Why tribals do mind being ousted by dams: Shripad Dharmadhikary and Nandini Oza

SHRIPAD DHARMADHIKARY and NANDINI OZA write a stinging response to Swaminathan Anklesaria Iyer’s unsupported claims in Times of India about how much tribals love being ousted for big dams. The newspaper did not care to publish this rebuttal so the authors posted this on Dharmadhikary’s blog and also in the comments section to Iyer’s article.

We reproduce Dharmadhikary and Oza’s original response in full below from Manthan.

However, here is an update from Shripad:

I put my comment in brief, within the allowed 3000 characters, yesterday in the Comments section. Today, it’s gone.

Then, a friend brought to my notice that Swaminathan has written a completely new version of the blog and put it out yesterday. Wonder if he is in the habit of writing different versions of the same blog within a matter of two days! https://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Swaminomics/most-of-the-ousted-tribals-are-flourishing-and-loving-it-thank-you-activists/

Have yet to read the new version of his bog properly (am out since early morning), but it appears that he has rewritten it in a way that tries to skirt the response we had given. Now I am planning to write another response to the new blog….but can only do it tomorrow as busy with meetings today.

And now, Dharmadhikary and Oza’s original response in Manthan:

SA Iyers’s piece in Times of India dated 10 Sept 2017, “Why many tribals don’t mind being ousted by dams”, examining the condition of some of the oustees of Sardar Sarovar Narmada dam is a classic case of misinterpretation of data, hiding the more important issues, and conclusions not supported by research findings. Indeed, a proper reading of the article itself shows that unlike Iyer’s assertion, his own figures show that tribals do mind being ousted. Some important points are given below.

Iyer claims that their “surveys showed, unambiguously, the resettled villagers were better off than their former neighbours in semi-evacuated villages.” In support, among the figures given from their survey, they point out that comparing the resettled with their former neighbours who remain in the original areas, the access to drinking water was 45% against 33%, to PHCs was 37% versus 12% and to hospitals 14% versus 3%. Given that the oustees were resettled between 25-30 years ago, and that the Sardar Sardar project has poured in hundreds of crores of rupees for resettlement, these figures don’t speak of oustees being better off, but indeed, point to the pathetic case of the oustees.

Continue reading “Why tribals do mind being ousted by dams: Shripad Dharmadhikary and Nandini Oza”

Losing the Soul’s Acid Tongue … Terrorist State, Unbowed Children at Kerala’s Puthvype

[The title is inspired by Balachandran Chullikkad’s searing poetry]

I have recently been asked about why I didn’t write anything about the anniversary of the CPM-led government of Kerala.  Have also been asked why I don’t write about politics in Kerala anymore. The answer to the first is easy and painless: governments are not organic things. You measure your kid’s height and weight and other things and think about how they have grown in their minds and hearts on their birthdays. There is nothing that proves that anniversaries are the best occasions to reflect on how governments have grown and thrived. The answer to the second question is more conflicted and excruciatingly painful: it is because we have no politics in Kerala, but plenty of anti-politics. therefore, what one needs to do is invest in the silent, unglamorous, unpopular,  long-haul intellectual and political labour that may preserve the possibilities of politics in the future, and that may even create internalities capable of courage and responsibility necessary for being political. Continue reading “Losing the Soul’s Acid Tongue … Terrorist State, Unbowed Children at Kerala’s Puthvype”

Karl Marx in the Times of Climate Change

The Communist Manifesto had, as its object, the proclamation of the inevitable impending dissolution of modern bourgeois property. But in Russia we find, face-to-face with the rapidly flowering capitalist swindle and bourgeois property, just beginning to develop, more than half the land owned in common by the peasants. Now the question is: can the Russian obshchina, though greatly undermined, yet a form of primeval common ownership of land, pass directly to the higher form of Communist common ownership? Or, on the contrary, must it first pass through the same process of dissolution such as constitutes the historical evolution of the West?

The only answer to that possible today is this: If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development. [Marx and Engels, ‘Preface’ to the 1882 Russian Edition of The Communist Manifesto; all emphasis added]

The above passage, jointly signed by Marx and Engels, appears at the end of the 1882 ‘Preface’ to the Russian edition of The Communist Manifesto. It also appears, towards the end of a decade-long engagement with the Russian social formation and the social formation of many Eastern societies like India’s. The detailed notes, excerpts and commentaries compiled by Marx, published later as The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx, belong precisely to the end of this period, the years 1880-1882. Marx passed away the following year, in 1983. Continue reading “Karl Marx in the Times of Climate Change”

New Politics of Our Times and Post-Capitalist Futures

An earlier version of this essay was published in Outlook magazine

“The young students are not interested in establishing that neoliberalism works – they’re trying to understand where markets fail and what to do about it, with an understanding that the failures are pervasive. That’s true of both micro and macroeconomics. I wouldn’t say it’s everywhere, but I’d say that it’s dominant.
“In policymaking circles I think it’s the same thing. Of course, there are people, say on the right in the United States who don’t recognise this. But even many of the people on the right would say markets don’t work very well, but their problem is governments are unable to correct it.”
Stiglitz went on to argue that one of the central tenets of the neoliberal ideology – the idea that markets function best when left alone and that an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth – has now been pretty much disproved. Read the full report by Will Martin here

One often hears over-zealous warriors of neoliberalism say of Leftists that they live in a time- warp; that the world has long changed and that the disappearance of state-socialism has finally proved that all their beliefs were little more than pipe-dreams. They talk as though history came to an end with the collapse of actually existing socialisms and the global ascendance of neoliberalism in the early 1990s. As though all thought came to an end; as if the distilled essence of everything that could ever be thought, or need be thought, was already encapsulated in the neoliberal dogma.

Continue reading “New Politics of Our Times and Post-Capitalist Futures”

Recalling ‘Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talaab’: Raj Kaithwar

Guest post by RAJ KAITHWAR

As I began to type this review, I struggled to begin with the beginning: how do I present this lively work on ‘talaab’ which does justice to its contents. It was not an easy task. Finally, I decided to begin with the end: the thoughts which clouded over me as I ended reading the book ‘Aaj Bhi Khare Hai Talaab’. How do we see a ‘talaab’ or do we even see it? Why are the modern ways of water conservation failing or are the modern ways even inclined at conserving? Who will protect the societies and ecologies from the rising dangers or is protection even a concern? As I describe some of the accounts from ‘Aaj Bhi Khaare Hai Talaab’ I hope it arouses a curiosity strong enough in the reader to pick up the book and scan through its pages. Continue reading “Recalling ‘Aaj Bhi Khare Hain Talaab’: Raj Kaithwar”