Come September 25 and the capital would see the culmination of the year-long birth centenary celebrations of Bharatiya Jana Sangh leader Pandit Deendayal Upadhayay . The year gone by had witnessed flurry of activities around Deendayal Upadhyay supposedly to project him as one of the ‘makers of modern India’. Exactly a year ago Prime Minister Modi had shared a piece of his mind at a public meeting in Kozhikode wherein he had specifically put Deendayal Upadhyaya in the same category as Mahatma Gandhi and Lohia who had “[i]nfluenced and shaped Indian political thought in the last century”.
Guest Post by Sanjay Kak, for #Notinmyname / Statement from Not In My Name, Delhi
Last evening’s (June 28th) spirited protest at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, under the banner of Not In My Name, was an autonomous citizens protest against the recent spate of targeted lynchings of Muslims in India – the most recent of 16 year old Junaid, stabbed to death on 23 June 2017 in Delhi (NCR).
For an audience that was estimated to be 3500 strong, the torrential downpour at a little past 8 pm may have rained out a part of the programme. But something remarkable had already been achieved: the evening had washed away, even if temporarily, an almost overwhelming sense of despondency, of hopelessness, and of fear.
Since the Not In My Name protest had announced that the platform was not meant for political parties, and their banners and slogans, the stage saw the marked absence of the speeches (and faces) of routine protest meetings at Jantar Mantar. Rhetoric was displaced by feeling, and it was left to the poets and musicians to carry the sharp political messages of the day. On an evening that was often very emotional, the most difficult moments came when a group of young men from Junaid and Pehlu Khan’s extended families (and residents from their respective villages) came on stage and spoke to the audience.
When the call for a protest meeting went out last Sunday we were hoping that a few hundred people would gather to express their outrage at what is happening around us. For the attacks on Muslims are part of a pattern of incidents that targets Dalits, Adivasis, and other disadvantaged and minority groups across the country. In almost all these incidents the possibilities of justice seem remote, as the families of the victims are dragged into procedures they are ill-equipped to handle. Through all these heinous crimes the Government has maintained a silence, a gesture that is being read as the acquiescence of all Indians.
Not In My Name aimed to break that silence. But the scale and spirit of the protest meeting at Jantar Mantar became amplified many times over, as similar gatherings were spontaneously announced all over the country. As word spread through social media, groups in 19 other locations announced Not In My Name protests, and this phenomenal synergy inevitably drew media attention to all the events, and gave the protest a solidarity and scale that was truly unprecedented – there were at least 4 protests in cities abroad too. (And more protests have been announced for later this week…) The protest meeting ran on the shoulders of a group of volunteers who managed to put together everything in less than four days. No funds were received (or solicited) for the expenses from any political party, NGO, or institution. Instead volunteers worked the crowd and our donation boxes received everything – from Rs 10 coins to currency notes of Rs 2000, and everything in between.
The impact of the Not In My Name protest at Jantar Mantar yesterday only points to the importance of a focused politics to deal with the crisis this country seems to be enveloped by. Less than a day after the protests Prime Minister Modi broke his silence on the matter of lynchings. It could not have been a coincidence: speaking in Ahmedabad he said killing in the name of gau bhakti is unacceptable. But to protect the life of a 16 year old being brutalised in a train needs more than a tweet, and we all wait and watch.
This fight has just begun. In the days to come the exceptional solidarity attracted by the protest in New Delhi will have to become less exceptional, and more everyday.
Sanjay Kak is a filmmaker and writer based in Delhi.
The #NotinMyName protests, which began in a response to a Facebook post uploaded by Delhi filmmaker Saba Dewan, have since taken place in more than twelve cities in India, and also in the UK, USA and Pakistan. More protests, under the #NotinMyName tag, as well as independently of it are being planned by citizens groups, organizations and individuals in many places.
Tomorrow, July 2nd, 2017 will see a sit in at Jantar Mantar from 11 in the morning, at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi called by families, individuals and panchayats from Nuh, Ballabhgarh and Faridabad, they will be joined by students, activists and other individuals.
As a nature lover and then an ecologist, my tryst with the living world has been fascinating, exciting, scary and at time dangerous. The most recent of this interaction was with a jackfruit tree in my backyard that has the uncanny capacity to produce fruits all the year round…juicy, sweet and delicious fruits that one cannot even imagine throwing away. I developed a balance of sharing the fruits with the bats, squirrels, crows, tree pies, woodpeckers and koels that would inhabit my garden whenever the fruit ripens and spreads its fragrance around. Continue reading “From Cucumber Juice to Mutton Soup, A Culinary Healing Journey: Anitha S”→
Kozhikode has always upturned my feelings about the male gaze. It is of course a cheerful, bustling, place, full of fabulously good-looking people of all genders. The cheeriness has a certain effortlessly defiant quality – already evident when you look out of the window as the train from the south pulls into the railway station, and see bright, healthy, merrily-swaying wild flowers raise their heads undefeated by the ferocious summer sun– wild sunflowers in hundreds, magnificent vines of kulamariyan flowers ( literally, ‘over-the-top’ flowers, but known here also, interestingly enough, as Antigone vines), creepers happily, constantly, and untiringly winding over little piles of rubbish and covering them with short-lived if emphatic trumpets of mauve, lavender, red, yellow, and white. You pass this eternal artwork-in-progress of the flowers and vines and city trash and enter Kozhikode, but realise that it actually tells you a bit about the men there only when you meet them. Continue reading “Longing for the Future – Two Days with Penkoottu and AMTU at Kozhikode, Kerala”→
[Disclaimer: I am not an art critic, artist, or travelled in the world of art. This is just a memoir]
Fort Kochi, 9 Feb. 2017
Though I had already been to the biennale in January and had a roaring time, something kept urging me to go there again. That something, I believe, is my insatiable imagination – which has always had a life of its own as long as I can remember, needs to be fed all the time, and actually drives me crazy. But maybe I should be thankful: if I survive this loveless existence that is my life, it is because my imagination has always spirited me away even from the midst of the worst emotional violence and uproar. Social theorists who use trickster figures or such characters as Daedalus who give power the slip, or manipulate it to their own ends, are probably saying the same thing.
The only ‘Moral Science’ lesson I remember from school was from the fourth standard, about the invisible guardian angel who supposedly protected us from evil. What intrigued me was the suggestion that each of us had a special angel-companion of our own who was ever-present though invisible – quite a lovely idea to a lonely child who found it hard to blend and settle into her playmates’ world. For me that was the unseen power which transformed a boring class into a musical concert by playing music inside my head; wove words and images into tales there; scared me sometimes, but equally let me exorcise the fear; and led me to all sorts of nooks and corners in the house and the yard and showed me all sorts of things, almost a world that I, but no one else, could see.
I pulled myself out of the world of research that employed, that did not satisfy, my imagination, and went again to the biennale. Two golden days! No words exist to reveal how my heart sang at the prospect. And besides, I was going to stay with dear, beloved friends, people who lived steeped in imagination – unlike me, whose current existence involved the use of the imagination (though it can never be mastered fully for sure) in a self-conscious way. My friends who run a little homestay near Fort Kochi reach out to others with extraordinary warmth mainly because, I think, their world is so incredibly diverse – populated by not just all sorts of diverse human beings, (rich, poor, high, low, of different faiths and castes, related by marriage, friendship, acquaintance, country-cousinship, common humanity, vague feelings of familiarity and so on), but also by spirits, saints, gods, all of who are felt and reached. Continue reading “Longing for the World: A Memoir of Two Days at the Kochi Biennale”→
I am hoping to protest at whichever venue of the International Film Festival of Kerala that I can manage to go to, wearing a printed badge saying ‘DEAR SUPREME COURT, NO LOVE CAN BE FORCED’. Yesterday, six people who did not stand up when the national anthem was played were arrested. Sanghi elements and overenthusiatic people who have picked up Modi’s style of projecting instant nationalism on the debris of Indian democracy have been heckling people who refused to comply with the SC’s order and filing complaints. Indeed, they took photos of people who didn’t stand up during the anthem. How come they have not insulted the national anthem according to their own standards since they too were expected to stand in attention?
The number of unarmed civilians killed in instances of firing by the armed forces, police and paramilitaries enforcing the occupation of Kashmir by the Indian state in the latest wave of violence has crossed fifty. Many more have been blinded by pellet guns. Hundreds have been injured and hospitalized. Reports of protests are coming not only from the Kashmir valley, Kargil, Drass and Jammu, but also from many cities in India. From Delhi (where there has been a public protest at Jantar Mantar, a press conference at Gandhi Peace Foundation and a student protest at Jawaharlal Nehru University), from Kolkata, which saw a massive turn out in a public march, from Chennai, from Patna, and from Kochi and Tricky in Kerala.
On Friday 22nd July, I went to a night protest march and public gathering by students at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. The march was called by Shehla Rashid, Vice President, JNUSU and Rama Naga, General Secretary, JNUSU (Both AISA activists) There were perhaps two hundred students gathered peacefully. The march began around 10:00 pm, made its way around the university campus and the protest continued well past midnight. Several student organizations, AISA, BASO, Hundred Flowers, Collective, DSU and individual students participated in the march. Shehla Rashid, Vice President, JNUSU and an AISA student activist, addressed the gathering before the march began, stating clearly, that this was going to be a peaceful expression of the democratic right to protest against the atrocities being enacted by the Indian state on the people of the part of Kashmir that is under Indian occupation. She asked the students to be vigilant in case any disruptive slogans were raised by planted agent-provocateurs. The entire march, and the protest meeting was documented by the students, so as to ensure that no ‘doctored videos’ would raise their ugly digital heads in the days to come. The students raised the demand for freedom for the people of Kashmir, and for people in all parts of South Asia. The slogans connected the realties of the people of Kashmir, the North East, Bastar, Jharkhand, with the experiences of Dalits, Workers, Peasants, Women, Students and Minorities. Slogans were raised against the killings and blindings by pellet guns in Kashmir. against torture, again rape, against draconian acts like AFSPA and PSA. The march made its way through the entire campus and culminated outside Chandrabhaga Hostel, where a meeting was held on the steps. The meeting lasted over two hours, was completely peaceful,and more than two hundred students listened to the speakers with close attention.
Police officers and campus security guards were present, and recorded everything. The students also recorded everything. And the indefatigable Shamim Asghor Ali made video recordings of several speeches, and uploaded them on to youtube, which we are lucky to be able to share here. We are also grateful for the still images uploaded by V. Arun, several others also took pictures and videos, which are now being shared on Facebook. Continue reading “Students Protest in JNU Over Rising Civilian Casualties in Kashmir”→