The ‘unemployment’ question, let us put it bluntly, is not just an innocent and neutral question today but a key arena of class war – the war of Capital on society at large. Capital has its plans but does “society” have one?
Enter the Post-Employment World
It was reported last week that top IT sector companies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL, Tech Mahindra and Cognizant are likely to slash 3 million jobs by next year. With large-scale resort to Artificial Intelligence (AI) based “robot process automation” (RPA), these companies, by shedding these jobs are expecting to “save a whopping USD 100 billion, mostly in salaries, annually” says the Indian Express report linked above. Citing NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Service Companies) the report tells us that the domestic IT sector employs around 16 million, of whom “around 9 million are employed in low-skill and BPO roles.”
“Of these 9 million low-skilled services and BPO roles, 30 per cent or around 3 million will be lost by 2022, principally driven by the impact of robot process automation or RPA. Roughly 0.7 million roles are expected to be replaced by RPA alone and the rest due to other technological upgrades and upskilling by the domestic IT players, while it the RPA will have the worst impact in the US with a loss of almost 1 million jobs, according to a Bank of America report on Wednesday.”
दिल्ली पहुँचने के बाद और 26 जनवरी से पहले, ऊपरी तौर पर सरकार ने किसान आन्दोलन की राह में कोई रोड़े नहीं अटकाए और किसान आन्दोलन को दबाने की रणनीति दबी-ढकी थी। परन्तु अब सरकार खुल कर किसान आन्दोलन को दबाने का प्रयास कर रही है। न केवल आन्दोलनकारियों का बिजली पानी बंद किया जा रहा है और उन पर पथराव प्रायोजित किया जा रहा है बल्कि आन्दोलन स्थल तक पहुंचने के रास्ते भी बंद किये जा रहे हैं। इन्टरनेट जो आज झूठी ख़बरों के साथ साथ जानकारी का भी मुख्य स्रोत बन चुका है, बल्कि आज जीवन की बुनियादी ज़रूरत बन चुका है उस पर भी आन्दोलन स्थलों के आसपास के इलाकों में रोक लगा दी गई है। यहाँ तक की आन्दोलनकारियों द्वारा कोई रूकावट न डाले जाने के बावजूद, रेलगाड़ियों के मार्ग परिवर्तन किये जा रहे हैं या रेल सेवा बंद की जा रही है जिस से न केवल आन्दोलनकारी किसानों या उन के समर्थकों को परेशानी हो रही है अपितु आमजन भी परेशान हो रहा है। ऐसा प्रतीत होता है कि सरकार किसान आन्दोलन से बिलकुल बेपरवाह 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.
Not only did the Modi government not pay any heed to the demands raised by the massive Kisan Mukti March of November 2018, it in fact, went on to surreptitiously promulgate three ordinances, in June this year, that go directly against everything that the farmers want. Indeed, they seek to hand over agriculture to the corporate sector – which will effectively mean destruction for a large mass of farmers. Naturally they are up in arms in what is perhaps the most determined struggle of the last four decades. The protests have been going on in many states since September 2020 and have reached the capital only now.
The three ordinances – now laws – that are currently pushing farmers into a ‘do or die’ struggle in different parts of the country, have been widely written about and their different dimensions explained (for instance, here, here and here). We will therefore not go into their analysis in this article. The ordinances are: (i) Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, (ii) The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020, and (iii) The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. Farmers’ organizations opposing the ordinances claim that they have been very misleadingly named so as to give the impression that they empower the farmers; they suggest the ordinances might be more accurately renamed the “APMC Bypass Bill”, “Contract Farming Promotion Bill” and the “Food Hoarding by Corporates Bill” respectively.
The long and short of these ordinances is quite nicely summed up in these suggested names – for what the three together aim to achieve is the dismantling of state procurement (though on paper it may continue to remain), and thereby open agriculture to contract farming for big corporations, allowing them to corner essential food commodities in as large quantities as they want. The entire attempt, it is not hard to see, is to open out the agriculture sector to giant retail chains like Reliance – which is why it is necessary to remove the limits on purchase and storage of essential commodities.
Contract farming, already happening informally at individual levels, once it is made the norm, is certainly going to seriously compromise food security for all. For if an agribusiness firm eyeing quick and massive profits wants farmers to change from essential food production to some other crop, it will decide what will be produced. And of course, what gets you quick profits is not what is sold as essential food item in the domestic or local market but it could be anything from potatoes for chips to maize to manufacture ‘alternative fuel’ for US consumers. So entire cropping patterns can change, endangering our food sovereignty as a people.
The farmers, in a word, are not just fighting a battle for their own survival but one where the survival of all of us is at stake. If the design visualized in the three ordinances comes to pass, it will also lead to the complete destruction of lakhs of people who earn their livelihoods by selling fruit and vegetables – for those too will be produced by farmers under contract farming with corporations which will sell them at their retail stores. Prices for millions of consumers too will then be determined by these giant retail chains.
But these issues have only come up now. Why have the farmers/ peasants been agitating for the last couple of years?
In the course of the Bihar election campaign of behalf of his party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Mahagathbandhan (the grand alliance), the chief ministerial face of the alliance Tejashwi Yadav has been indicating a significant shift of focus. ‘That was the era [his father Laloo Yadav’s] of social justice; this is the time of economic justice and the youth today want jobs’. Clearly this shift comes against the backdrop of the massive loss of jobs and livelihoods over the past six years since this government came to power. The lockdown was only the most inhuman culmination the the process of destruction of livelihoods that began with demonetization, followed by the ill-thought out Goods and Services Tax (GST).
In the contemporary carbon-centric lifeworld of capitalism, gas-guzzling automobiles, hi-tech airplanes, massive container ships, and energy-using skyscrapers are weapons of mass destruction. The more these resource-intensive and carbon-centric social relations prevail, the more climate change is accelerated. After rupturing the earth system, this new capitalist nature – under patriarchal domestication, scientifically observed and managed – now has to be geo-engineered and carbon emitted has to be stored in the deep recesses of planet Earth; despite the uncontrollable consequences for life on the planet, oil spigots will only be shut when the last dollar is extracted from this deadly resource. The logic of contemporary capitalism is not merely about dispossession, but about ecocide, that is, the obliteration of the conditions necessary to sustain human and non-human life on planet Earth. This is what Karl Marx called the “metabolic rift of capitalism” and Rosa Luxemburg, the “conquest of the natural economy.”
Many words are walked in the world. Many worlds are made. Many worlds make us. There are words and worlds that are lies and injustices. There are words and worlds that are truthful and true. In the world of the powerful there is room only for the big and their helpers. In the world we want, everybody fits. The world we want is a world in which many worlds fit…Our words, our song and our cry is so that the dead will no longer die. We fight so that they may live. We sing so that they may love. – Fourth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (1996), Zapatista National Liberation Army. Cited as epigraph in Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary.
The New Grave-Diggers of Capital?
‘The world we want is a world in which many worlds fit’. This neatly sums up the idea of the ‘pluriverse’. Reading it, I was reminded of an interview of ‘Subcommandante Marcos’, ‘leader’ of the Zapatistas, some years ago. In that interview, Subcommandante Marcos (then anonymous) recounted that he and his colleagues at the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico, who joined him in the Chiapas mountains in 1984, were Marxists and had basically gone there to organize the indigenous people. And for Marxists that bascially meant to ‘raise their awareness’ about capitalism and exploitation.
On October 16th the Climate Justice Charter will be taken to South Africa’s national parliament, together with the climate science future document, with the demand it be adopted as per section 234 of the South African constitution, which provides for charters to be adopted. All political parties will be invited to a debate on the Charter and will be asked to champion its adoption, based on the current consensus climate science which highlights that South Africa and Southern Africa are heating at twice the global average.
The South African Food Sovereignty Campaign and allies have been leading the building of a mass based climate justice movement for the past six years, during the worst drought in the history of the country. Their mass driven resistance has included a hunger tribunal, drought speak outs, a national bread march, food sovereignty festivals, the development of their own Food Sovereignty Act which they took to parliament and several government departments, protest action against food corporations, the media, the stock exchange and the second largest carbon emitter in the country called SASOL. In the context of 2019 deep dialogues were held with drought affected communities, the media, labour unions, children/youth and social and environmental justice organisations. All this work of resistance, dialogue and learning produced a draft climate justice charter, out of a national conference in November 2019. Since then the document has received online input, including from a children/youth led online assembly on June 16th and then finally the document was launched on August 28th.
We in India can learn from, build on and connect to such initiatives globally, especially from the global South.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, goes an old Chinese saying. In the present context, that single step – and an absolutely essential step – for reclaiming the soul of India, is the coimng together of the social movements, non-party groups and the political parties – and this was accomplished in the six-day Janta Parliament held from 16-21 August as an online event. Organized by Jan Sarokar – a forum of 31 organizations and loose platforms ranging from Left aligned women’s organizations, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, to loose networks like Not In My Name – the people’s parliament managed to bring together many political parties together as well in the event. As a kind of base paper, Jan Sarokar had prepared a comprehensive 75-page document entitled ‘People’s Policy for Post-COVID 19Times‘ covering important and urgent policy initiatives on practically every aspect of economic and social life. Attended by representatives of the Congress, the Left parties, the RJD and AAP among others, the people’s parliament session ended with the representatives of the parties present affirming support to the perspectives emerging out the resolutions adopted, which they felt could form the basis for a Common Minimum Programme not only for the political parties but also between parties and social / people’s movements. Continue reading The ‘Ecopolitical’ Imperative and the Janta Parliament→
The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare some of the most significant and deep-rooted fault lines of society, whether it is attacks on Indians from the North-east part of the country including racial slurs, holding returning migrants responsible for the spread of the virus or even downright Islamophobia leading to a hashtag #CoronaJihad going viral on social media. Sections of the hyper-vocal, privileged Indian middle-class, along with frenzied nationalist media houses let no opportunity pass to demonize its minorities.
However, what came as a surprise was that along with the stigmatization of migrant workers, ethnic minorities and Muslims, health care workers too faced intense hostility worldwide. Already facing a severe lack of resources including no or few Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) making them even more vulnerable to infection, they are now facing the additional hazard of being labelled as agents of the pandemic.
While on the one hand, medical workers are being labelled as ‘warriors’ and ‘super heroes’ with orchestrated events to show gratitude, on the other hand, they are being hunted down, mobbed, and evicted from their homes. India went a step further, and did a grandiose display of felicitating health care workers by having the armed forces fly past fighter jets, shower flower petals aerially and have their military bands perform outside state hospitals.
This article focuses specifically on the gendering of the organization of the health care sector, which reflects wider binaries of masculine/feminine, cure/care, science/affect.
Guest post by MANISH THAKUR and NABANIPA BHATTACHARJEE
Much has already been said and written about the plight of the migrants during the lockdown necessitated by the current Covid-19 outbreak in India. The visual images of their endless walk – which reminds us of the flight of Partition refugees – in their desperate bid to reach home in the scorching summer heat on almost empty stomachs with throats parched (women in tow with the children on men’s shoulders and their meagre belongings on the heads) is heart-wrenching to say the least. Whatever be the cause, it is a living testimony to the entrenched structures of poor governance that define our polity. It is also revealing of the class character of the Indian state, a term that has for long left the public discourse of our republic. One need not invoke Marx or be a communist to see the glaring contrast in the ways say, for instance, state functionaries conduct themselves at airports in Delhi or Kochi and railway stations at Barkakana in Jharkhand or Bapu Dham, Motihari in Bihar.
कोरोना से हमारा वास्ता अभी लम्बे समय तक चलने वाला है. काफिला पर छपे पिछले आलेखों में (यहाँ एवं यहाँ) में हम ने इस के सही और गलत, दोनों तरह के सबकों की चर्चा की थी पर भारत की करोना नीति की समीक्षा नहीं की थी. आपदा और युद्ध काल में एक कहा-अनकहा दबाव रहता है कि सरकार को पूरा समर्थन दिया जाए और उस की आलोचना न की जाय पर कोरोना के मुकाबले के लिए भारत में अपनाई गई रणनीति की समीक्षा ज़रूरी है; यह समीक्षा लम्बे समय तक चलने वाली इस आपदा में रणनीति में सुधार का मौका दे सकती है. कोरोना से कैसे निपटना चाहिए इस में निश्चित तौर पर सब से बड़ी भूमिका तो कोरोना वायरस की प्रकृति की है- ये गर्मी में मरेगा या सर्दी में या नहीं ही मरेगा; बूढों को ज्यादा मारेगा या बच्चों को, इन तथ्यों का इस से निपटने की रणनीति तय करने में सब से बड़ी भूमिका है. इस लिए भारत में कोरोना की लड़ाई के मूल्यांकन से पहले हमें वायरस की प्रकृति के बारे में उपलब्ध जानकारी को रेखांकित करना होगा.
कोरोना वायरस के नए स्वरूप की बुनियादी प्रकृति
कोरोना किस्म के वायरस वैज्ञानिकों के लिए नए नहीं हैं. ये पहले भी उभरते रहे हैं और वैज्ञानिक इन का लगातार अध्ययन करते रहे हैं. परन्तु हाल में कोरोना किस्म के वायरस का एक नया स्वरूप सामने आया है, जिस से उत्पन्न होने वाली नयी बीमारी को कोविड नाम दिया गया है. इस लिए कोरोना के इस नए वायरस के बारे में अभी सब कुछ पक्के तौर पर नहीं कहा जा सकता. अभी इस की पड़ताल चल रही है. फिर भी दुनिया भर के वैज्ञानिकों के मिले जुले काम से और कोरोना के पहले से उपलब्ध वायरसों के जीवन चक्र को ध्यान में रखते हुए कुछ बाते काफी हद तक स्पष्ट हैं. इन के बारे में आम तौर पर वैज्ञानिकों में सर्वानुमति है. हालाँकि विश्व स्वास्थ्य संगठन को सर्वज्ञानी तो नहीं माना जा सकता परन्तु काफी हद तक इस द्वारा प्रदत जानकारी पर भरोसा किया जा सकता है.
In this final instalment of the series, I want to discuss the vexed question of employment and what can be called the ’employment mindset’. The mindset has dominated politics and the discipline of economics for the last century and a half for sure. Before that youthful capitalism simply put people uprooted from their habitats and traditional occupations (the artisans and peasants) into ‘poor houses’ and enacted the most vicious laws to force the dispossessed poor work for it. Marxists give this violent pillage the scientific- sounding name of ‘primitive accumulation’ (or primary accumulation). ‘Scientific’ because it was seen by Marx as the ‘historical process of the separation of producer from “his” means of production’ – as if it was an objective process that was in some sense inevitable. Marx’s chapter on ‘primitive accumulation’ in Capital Vol I, certainly shows that he was revolted by the plunder and robbery that this phenomenon entailed but in a manner of speaking, by giving it an aura of historical inevitability, he could displace the solution to some future. There is also no doubt that the sections of Capital where Marx deals with the enactment of Poor Laws in Britain are full of passion and anger at what capitalism was doing – but then, what can you do with a process that is historically inevitable? Remember too that it was the same logic of ‘objectivity’ of ‘historical inevitability’ that was used to justify colonialism as the ‘unconscious tool of history’. The British Marxist historian, E.P. Thompson wrote of precisely these populations that perished in ‘the storm of industrialization’. He was so moved by their predicament that he wanted to ‘rescue them from the enormous condescension of posterity’. Yet, Thompson believed, like a good Marxist, that the artisan or the handloom weaver that he was writing about were ‘obsolete’ (Thompson’s term). Thus, he wrote, Continue reading Beyond the ‘Employment’ Paradigm and Life After Capitalism – Manifesto of Hope IV→
This essay emerged as a response to the following question that was raised during a Q&A session that I had run on social media:
“How does one tackle people who amalgamate veganism with upper caste vegetarianism?”
The immediate answer to this is that veganism avoids all animal products and all forms of animal ab/use, and hence cannot be amalgamated with vegetarianism and its caste baggage.
Such an answer, however, ignores crucial cultural issues that determine how Animal Rights (AR) and veganism are perceived, co-opted or taken forward in Indian society.
Vegetarians, contrary to what Right wing Hindutva will have us believe, comprise less than 40% of the country’s population. Jains, most Sikhs and Brahmins and some rich urban forward castes make up the vegetarians in India1. Vegetarianism in India is connected to social power and caste hegemony, unlike its counterpart in the West, where it is an ethical lifestyle and a social justice movement.
One of the effects of the pandemic in Kerala, like in most other parts of the world, is that the government’s narrative muffles all other narratives, and this is not just about the containment of the pandemic. Here the government’s narrative about the pandemic enjoys far greater legitimacy than elsewhere, and with good reason. It is true that Kerala’s greater successes in dealing with the pandemic are unique and commendable; however, to think that therefore, the government is right on everything else is probably a huge mistake. Continue reading The Limits of Public Health Management: Time to Rethink Development in Kerala→
पिछले दिनों हम ने ‘करोना के कुछ ज़रूरी सबक़’ पर चर्चा की थी. पर बड़ी संभावना यह है कि करोना के आधे अधूरे या गलत सबक निकाले जाएँ. इस के लिए भी हमें तैयार रहना चाहिए.
बिलकुल गलत सबकों पर आने से पहले, कुछ संभावित आधे अधूरे सबकों की चर्चा कर लें. निश्चित तौर पर करोना के बाद की दुनिया में वैश्वीकरण ढलान पर होगा; अब आर्थिक वैश्वीकरण बढ़ने के स्थान पर घटेगा. विशेष तौर पर दवाइयों और स्वास्थ्य सेवाओं से जुड़ी वस्तुओं के मामले में राष्ट्र आत्मनिर्भर होने की कोशिश करेंगे; करनी भी चाहिए पर यह अधूरा निष्कर्ष होगा. केवल स्वास्थ्य सम्बन्धी मामलों में ही नहीं, बल्कि जहाँ तक संभव हो हर मामले में आत्मनिर्भर होने की कोशिश होनी चाहिए. इस से भी आगे बढ़ कर यह आत्मनिर्भरता केवल राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर न हो कर स्थानीय स्तर पर भी होनी चाहिए.
In the previous instalment of this series in Parapolitics, I had discussed the situation arising out of the Covid 19 pandemic in terms of the possible implications of the global lockdown and ‘quarantine of consumption’, for post-capitalist futures. In this part, I will discuss (a) the conditions that make such futures not just imaginable but possible and (b) indicate certain directions that such futures are already taking – for the paths that we tread now are the ones that lead to the future.
Theory/ Concept/ Discourse
Since all talk of post-capitalist futures only sounds outlandishly utopian and out of sync with what we see around us with the ‘naked eye’ as it were, it is necessary to first clear our field of vision a little. And, let us be very clear here that this ‘clearing of the field of vision’ is not, in the first instance, about practices on the ground but about the field of knowledge – and theory in general. And before any hard-boiled hysterical-materialist tries to tell us that all this is idealism and that the ‘real’ stuff is materiality and things only happen in practice, I want to make three general points here. First, for the more theologically oriented: it was Lenin who said repeatedly that ‘without revolutionary theory, there cannot be any revolutionary movement.’ (What is to be Done?) Not only that, he also insisted (after Kautsky) that left to its own, the working class movement could only produce ‘trade union consciousness’ and that ‘socialist theory’ had to be imported from outside (basically bourgeois intellectuals) into the working class movement. This understanding was to lead to all kinds of problems including vanguardism but we will let that be for now.
एक छोटे से वाइरस ने तीन बाते दोबारा याद दिला दी हैं. सब से पहली तो यह कि इन्सान कुदरत का एक छोटा हिस्सा ही है. भले ही यह बहुत प्रभावी हिस्सा है; कुदरत को तोड़ मरोड़ सकता है, मरुस्थल को हराभरा कर सकता है. फिर भी यह कुदरत से ऊपर नहीं है, उस का मालिक नहीं है; यहे हरे भरे को मरुस्थल भी बना सकता है. कई वैज्ञानिकों के अनुसार घटते जंगलों और बढ़ती इंसानी बस्ती के चलते ही हमें करोना सरीखे वाइरस का इतना बड़ा डंक लगा है. भले ही आज सब का ध्यान करोना के कहर पर केन्द्रित है, और आशा है देर-सवेर उस का इलाज भी ढूंढ लेंगे, टीका बना लेंगे, पर जलवायु परिवर्तन और तेज़ी से ख़त्म होते पेट्रोल सरीखे नवीनीकरण-अयोग्य संसाधनों को भी न भूलें. यह भी न भूलें सारी वैज्ञानिक प्रगति के बावज़ूद प्रदूषण से बचने के लिए वाहनों पर सम-विषम का नियम लगा कर बनी हुई कार को चलाने पर रोक लगानी पड़ती है, संयम अपनाना पड़ता है. उद्योग और निर्माण गतिविधि पर रोक लगानी पड़ती है.
Most of the people in Delhi, like in rest of India (according to official estimates, 92 per cent of India’s work force comprises of informal labour) earn their living from working in the informal sector. There is extensive academic literature on this subject. Typically, informal economy is that which does not find mention in official data, is not formally registered and regulated and falls outside the tax regulation.
The concept of informality became current in economic and social thought in the early 1970’s. It has since been re-considered and re-interpreted. The idea that the informal sector presented a liminal space for workers waiting to be absorbed by the formal sector, has been negated. Instead, current trends suggest that a majority of the Indian work force (approx.92%) labour under short-term informal contracts. Well-known labour historian Jan Bremen has somewhere written that the fact the informal economy is not officially regulated does not imply a complete absence of regulation. There are many unofficial means of regulation. Quite often activities that do not possess registration and legal sanction get denoted as informal or ‘underground’. This practice results in the official erasure of the economic value of the goods and services produced therein. It also serves the purpose of masking the over-exploitation and socially-levered extortion to which the most unprotected and vulnerable members of the working class are subjected.
‘It seems we are massively entering a quarantine of consumption where we will learn how to be happy just with a simple dress, rediscovering old favourites we own, reading a forgotten book and cooking up a storm to make life beautiful. The impact of the virus will be cultural and crucial to building an alternative and profoundly different world.’ – Li Edelkoort, trend forecaster and fashion advisor
As large parts of the world reel under the impact of a lockdown that has prompted several people to recall the great lockdowns during the early twentieth century Spanisht flu and even the 14th centry plague, my thoughts in fact strayed in another direction. With international and national air traffic down to the barest minimum, with arenas of conspicuous consumption shut down, zillions of cars of the roads and construction activity to a halt, I was suddenly struck by a not-so-crazy thought: with all the suffering that a lockdown necessarily entails for the poorer sections of the population in particular, there might still be a silver lining here. Perhaps the temperature of the earth will have come down a few notches by the time we are done with this crisis and what is more, it might initiate a different mode of being in the world. It might give the world an opportunity to see what is continuously being denied by climate-deniers (as Naomi Klein recorded, backed by huge funds from right-wing US based foundations and corporations). It might – it just might – reconnect us with what we have long left behind and have been longing for – a different pace of life where slow is beautiful, as it were.
Amidst the bustle of talk and announcements on stage, there is a surprise at Shaheen Bagh. A young, slim girl student in ankle length boots, dark pants and shirt is invited to take the podium. She begins her speech by saying that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has put her in a dilemma. She studies in Jharkhand where many of her close friends are Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members. Their opinions matter to her personally. At the same time, when she comes to Shaheen Bagh she is gripped by the dangers and stakes involved in the CAA.