Rain and Revulsion: Prasanta Chakravarty

This is a GUEST POST by Prasanta Chakravarty

“Slime is the agony of water.”

~ Jean Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness


The Birth of Revulsion – Pranabendu Dasgupta

No certainty where each would go —
Suddenly the descent of a cloudburst, rain.
We stood, each where we were,
And stared at one another.
It is not good to be so close
“Revulsion is born” – someone had said

“Revulsion, revulsion, revulsion.”
Then, lighting a cigarette, some man
Muttered abuse at another next to him.
Like an abstract painting, spiralling like a gyre,
In a wee space
We slowly fragmented, dispersed.
Had it not rained, though,
We would have stepped out together.
Perhaps to the cinema, tasting a woman’s
Half-exposed breast with the eye,
Then laughing out loud,
We could head for the maidan!
Someone maybe would sing; someone
Would say, “I am alive”.

But it rained.

(Krittibas, Sharad Sankhya,  1386)

 ঘৃণার জন্ম

প্রনবেন্দু দাশগুপ্ত

কোথায় কে যাবে ঠিক নেই —
হঠাৎ দুদ্দাড় ক ‘রে বৃষ্টি নেমে এলো।
যেখানে ছিলাম, ঠিক সেইখানে থেকে
আমরা পরস্পরের দিকে তাকিয়ে রইলাম।

এত কাছাকাছি থাকা খুব ভালো নয়।
” ঘৃণার জন্ম হয় ” –কে যেন বললো
” ঘৃণা, ঘৃণা, ঘৃণা। ”
তারপর সিগ্রেট ধরিয়ে, আরো একজন
খুব ফিশফিশ ক ‘রে
পাশের লোককে গাল দিলো।
বিমূর্ত ছবির মতো তালগোল পাকিয়ে পাকিয়ে
ছোট্ট জায়গা জূড়ে
আমরা ক্রমশ ভেঙে, ছড়িয়ে পড়লাম।

বৃষ্টি না নামলে কিন্তু
আমরা একসঙ্গে বেরিয়ে পড়তাম।
হয়তো সিনেমা গিয়ে,রমণীর আধ -খোলা স্তন
চোখ দিয়ে চেখে
তারপর, হো হো ক ‘রে হেসে
ময়দানের দিক যাওয়া যেতো !
কেউ হয়তো গান গাইতো ; কেউ হয়তো
বলতো “বেঁচে আছি “।

কিন্তু বৃষ্টি নেমেছিলো।।

(কৃত্তিবাস, শারদ সংখ্যা ১৩৮৬)

Continue reading “Rain and Revulsion: Prasanta Chakravarty”

In Solidarity with Adivasis in Bastar, Human Rights Defenders and Bela Bhatia in Bastar: Concerned Students in TISS, Mumbai

Guest Post by CONCERNED STUDENTS OF TATA INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, MUMBAI

We, the concerned students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai condemn the continuing state repression of adivasis and recent attack on human rights activist Bela Bhatia in Bastar, Chhattisgarh.

On the 23rd of January, 2017, a group of 30-odd men attacked Bela where they barged into her house in Parpa, near Jagdalpur violently and threatened to burn the building down if she did not leave immediately. The mob also attacked her landlords and their children, threatening them with dire consequences if Bela was not evicted immediately. Despite Bela’s assurances that she would leave, the mob continued to be belligerent, in the presence of the police, and the Sarpanch. The mob has been identified with the right-wing vigilante group Action Group for National Integrity (AGNI).

In last one year alone a number of vigilante groups like the now disbanded Samajik Ekta Manch, Naxal Peedith Sangharash Samiti and the newly formed group AGNI have been used by Kalluri and the Bastar police, to harass and intimidate everyone living and working in the area, be it lawyers, journalists, local leaders, researchers who are exposing these cases of atrocities and calling the state to account. Many of these vigilante groups are formed by ex Salwa Judum leaders. An all-out war has been launched against the people of Bastar by the security forces. These state forces are hell bent on ensuring that this becomes ‘A war without any witnesses’.

In the present scenario, the adivasis in Bastar are putting up a tough fight against State’s attempt to dispossess them. It is an attempt to finish off adivasi community, their culture and their existence all together so that the mineral rich land and jungles of central region of the country could be easily handed off to the Corporates.  In this war between the state and people of Bastar, all those who have tried to stand with the adivasis  in their fight, exposing this State-Corporate nexus have been equally targeted and threatened. The background to the recent attack on Bela comes from her involvement in exposing state crimes especially incidents of mass sexual assaults in Bastar. Towards the end of February 2016, Bela along with teams of Women against State Violence and Sexual Assault (WSS), Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JagLAG) and Activist Soni Sori exposed three incidents of mass sexual violence by police and security forces in the villages of Pedagellur, Belam Nendra and Chinnagelur, Bijapur District of Bastar region, Chhattisgarh. Together with the victims, they managed to file FIRs, one on November 1, 2015, and another on January 21, 2016 against Security forces. These were the first instances of the use of Section 376(2)(c) IPC providing for indictment of state and central security forces for sexual violence. Within eight days of the filing of the FIRs, the revengeful action towards Bela and others started, leading to a rally being organised against her in Bijapur district by the vigilante group Naxal Peedit Sangharsh Samiti. Bela, due to the mounting pressure vacated her house in Jagdalpur and moved to Parpa, a village near Jagdalpur. However, the hounding and harassment has continued, and unfortunately intensified enough to make her vacate her Parpa House as well after she accompanied the team of NHRC along with Soni Sori to Pedagellur to record testimonies of women who have been victims of sexual violence.

The attack on Bela is not the first one. In past year, women advocates of JagLAG have been threatened by an alleged criminal complaint, journalist Malini Subramaniam was hounded out of Bastar, Nandini Sundar and Manju Kawasi have been charged in false murder cases, Laxmi Hidme, mother of encountered Madkam Hidme and  Kawasi Hidme, who after years of torture in prison, now fights alongside Soni Sori, a tribal activist who was attacked with chemicals on her face. By calling the lawyers and activists as ‘Safed posh naxalis’ the state has tried its best to criminalize them and made sure that an obstacle is created in them lending any support to the people.

Appeals of accountability from the police have led to a venomous vitriol being unleashed by Inspector General SRP Kalluri where he has responded by saying most objectionable, vulgar and threatening things to these women along with giving a free hand to officials under him to rape and kill the adivasis. Mission 2016 is conveniently being carried out on the principle of clear-hold-build. IG Kalluri’s role in perpetuating violence against the adivasis with complete impunity and lawlessness has been especially notorious. In a recent NDTV interview, he said, “Activists are enemies because they incite people against democracy, and question the sovereignty and universality of India. We oppose their anti-national brigade.” It is important to especially pay attention to the last statement that he makes, that ‘activists are anti-nationals’. That activists are anti-nationals is the propaganda used by the right-wing BJP government, its student wing ABVP and their media stooges like Zee TV & Times Now. IG Kalluri is the iron heel used by the right wing fascist government in Chhattisgarh and Centre. He has scant regard for constitutional principles or Rule of Law and is the perpetrator of fake encounters, torture, mass sexual assault against adivasis. A number of these incidents have been investigated and documented by  human rights & lawyers groups like PUCL, WSS, JagLAG, as well as by  ST Commission and the Editors’ Guild of India. There has been a sudden spurt in crimes against adivasis of Bastar and activists working in that area ever since Mr. SRP Kalluri took charge as Inspector General (Bastar Range) in 2014. As the incidents of mass sexual assaults were filed in February, recently NHRC testified to the truth of these statements saying that security forces have raped 16 women.

People like Bela are a hindrance to such a war. Bela who is a researcher, activist, ex-alumni and ex-faculty member of TISS, has been working in the area since past two years. As students of TISS, we clearly remember the difference that Bela made to the lives of many students on the campus. She was teaching courses in the Dalit and Tribal Studies Department of Social Work at TISS. She was regularly taking courses in Foundation Courses on Social Movements. She was quite vocal about issues on campus and was always a supportive voice when it came to student’s issues. In the light of the organic relationship that Bela shared with her students and her teaching of the principles of justice and equality, we as TISS students demand an immediate stop to the harassment that she has been subjected to.

We stand by the people of Bastar in this war that the state has waged against them and condemn in strongest terms the erosion of democracy and heinous way in which adivasis are being pushed out of Bastar to dispossess and alienate them from their rights over jal, jangal and jameen.

Didi, I Want to Learn the Harmonium and Roam Around Freely: Samhita Barooah

Guest post by SAMHITA BAROOAH

During a visit to the Kishori Mandal at Apne Aap Women Worldwide’s Uttari Rampur Centre in Forbesganj I met some lovely girls. They stayed in the community near the red light area. They were eager to learn new things. They asked me my story of life, “Didi aapki kahani sunao? Aapne kaise yaha tak sangharsh kiya?” I was again very surprised to encounter the subversion of queries. I should have been the one to ask those questions to the girls, but they wanted to know more about me. Perceptual understanding is a perspective rooted in feminist standpoint theory which could apply to any context from the onlooker’s context. For the young girls from the Red Light Area in Forbesganj, I was trapped in some realities which connected me to them. That was why she asked me to share my story of struggle. When I said education enabled me to survive the world around me, they laughed and said that was not their story. They said, “For us we have to get married as soon as we are 18 years old but sometimes even earlier. We just want to enjoy our freedom now in this centre till we get married. After that we do not know what holds true for us.” As women whether we are in the Nat community of Bihar or we are in the liberated spaces of North East India, our identities get defined by our marriage, cultural practices and socialisation. Unbound freedom for women seems to be a misnomer which should be forbidden for women as the evolved souls say.

Continue reading “Didi, I Want to Learn the Harmonium and Roam Around Freely: Samhita Barooah”

Dangal and the Phogat Sisters – A Tale of Many Struggles: Praveen Verma

Guest post by PRAVEEN VERMA

1-phogats-and-film

Dangal literally means the Indian style wrestling competition for male pahalwans (wrestlers). Dangal has been an important form of entertainment for ages, especially in rural (north and west) India. Dangals act in many ways. It works to settle the personal score between different Akharas and pahalwans. It’s a place where honour, reputation and social status are on stakes and personal and political rivalries are fought out, or settled. For example, one of the most important dangals used to happen every Sunday at Eidgahi Maidan, Jama Masjid in Delhi, till very recently. Itwari dangal, as it was fondly called, was the place where pahalwan like Gama, Imam Baksh, Chandgiram used to come and show their talent in front of thousands of wrestling lovers. I remember whenever I used to come to Delhi, I always wanted to win the bout at Eidgahi Maidan, as it meant a lot to win at Eidgahi maidan rather than any other place!

Gama Pahalwan at Eidgahi
Gama Pahalwan at Eidgahi

As it was strictly meant for male pahalwans, women were not even allowed to watch them fighting, let alone participating. Something similar to Khap Panchayats, where women still are not welcome. Women are the fairly latecomers in wrestling arena and yet not so welcome. In this context to make a film on the emergence and development of women wrestling in India itself is a fascinating idea.

Dangal, the movie is based on a true story of Mahavir and his firebrand daughters and their ‘quietly’ active mother. It is an important movie to watch for many reasons. Firstly, it portrays a father who wanted his daughters to pursue something (wrestling) which was un-imaginable in those days. It reveals what it took for the first generation of women wrestlers to break those masculine stereotypes and depicts the overall impression of wrestling in the realm of sports culture in India. There are so many moments in the film to cheer about, to get goosebumps (at least I got many). Writing review is an unknown territory for me but there is a personal reason to taking to this venture of writing.  The release of this film forced me to say something which, as a former wrestler for almost ten years, is still left with me. Continue reading “Dangal and the Phogat Sisters – A Tale of Many Struggles: Praveen Verma”

Corrupt Notes – the Black Comedy of Tragic Error: R Srivatsan

Guest post by R. SRIVATSAN

Reflections on the many paradoxes of the demonetization process: the schizophrenia of the BJP, the desire of the well to do, the baffling sacrifice of the have nots, the faults and fault lines that propagate through our society in crisis.

Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley, in their brilliant strategy to kill black money through the withdrawal of currency, show no basic understanding of what the term ‘black money’ signifies.  Prabhat Patnaik has recently argued there is no such thing as black money – there is only a black economy.  However, one aspect of the black economy is the refusal to pay taxes and instead hoard wealth in the form of currency that is not recorded in bank deposits.  Another is the payment of bribes with untraceable currency to authorities and politicians who use their position of leverage as personal property on which they charge a rent for use. Both these uses of black money as corruption have a common lineage. In both cases, corruption is the failure of categories that were supposed to have been water-tight.  A) “All income is taxable” B) “Public servants are true servants of the people”

But first, here is an attempt to shake our convictions that the refusal to pay taxes is a moral evil.  To do so, let me take the example of a Hollywood film, Stranger than Fiction (2006).  The plot of this film, which has a quite complex fantasy storyline, baits the viewer’s desire through the emerging love interest between an IRS auditor Harold Crick and his investigative target Ana Pascal, who runs a bakery.  Ana is a conscientious objector against taxation. She argues that she openly defies taxation since she doesn’t support the hegemonic objectives of the USA which spends most of its revenue income on weapons of war and destruction.  Ana is thus the beautiful and charming face of morally upright conscientious objection which masks the libertarian hatred for a state that taxes more than minimally.  As Robert Nozick asserted long ago such taxation is seen as thievery, against the sacred right to private property.  Ana’s position thus also masks the refusal to redistribute wealth through welfare. As a viewer, I found it extremely difficult to think of Ana as an evil person.  She was the most charming free-spirit I had encountered on celluloid (well, on a TV screen) for a long time. The objective of this sub-plot of film criticism is to help the reader shed the ready moral judgement that not paying taxes is a universal crime and a sin against society, so that it becomes possible to examine exactly what the complex nature of the act that constitutes tax evasion is. Continue reading “Corrupt Notes – the Black Comedy of Tragic Error: R Srivatsan”

On Barak Valley Bandh on 16th December, 2016 – Some Nascent Observations: Arunima Chakraborty

This is a Guest Post by ARUNIMA CHAKRABORTY

Let’s begin with the usual: by ruing over Indian mainstream media’s overlooking of what could have been treated as more newsworthy. Today, that is, 16th of December, 2016 witnessed a bandh in southern Assam’s Barak valley protesting against the statement by the union minister of state for railways, Rajen Gohain that ‘Bengali…should be withdrawn from Barak valley as official language’ since ‘there cannot be two official languages’.[1] And a simple, layman-like google-news search reveals that there are just three entries on the issue/event.

This piece is aimed not at joining the state Congress and the local SUCI(Socialist Unity Centre of India) cadres who are decrying comment by Gohain, the union minister and a senior BJP leader in Assam but rather at attempting a delineation of the ominous portents which it seems to have unleashed. And of course, to trace the genealogy of the statement.

First of all, a rather facile fact: Mr. Gohain’s observation that there cannot be two official languages clashes with article 345 of the Indian constitution which allows for the adoption of one or more official languages by any state of the Indian union. Article 347 also allows for respecting the desire of a significant section of a populace of a state for the usage of a language of their choice.[2] A couple of months ago, while visiting Assam, I watched, or rather listened, on an Assamese news channel, a shrill voice issuing a caveat to its viewers, “…barak upatyakat asomiya bhasha nokoya hoiche”. ‘Assamese is no longer spoken in the Barak valley’. Anybody remotely familiar with the history of the region could have retorted back with the question, when was Assamese ever spoken in the region?

Continue reading “On Barak Valley Bandh on 16th December, 2016 – Some Nascent Observations: Arunima Chakraborty”