Category Archives: Good Ideas

‘Why Ghalib appears so contemporary even today ?’ : Interview with Hasan Abdullah

Ghalib has fascinated generations of people and they have tried to understand/ interpret his poetry in their own way. For any such individual it is really difficult to recollect when and how Ghalib entered her/ his life and ensconced himself comfortably in one’s heart.

This wanderer still faintly remembers how many of Ghalib’s shers were part of common parlance even in an area whose lingua franca is not Hindustani. His andaaz-e-bayaan, his hazaron khwahishein, his making fun of the priest etc. could be discerned in people’s exchanges – without most of them even knowing that they were quoting the great poet.

To be very frank, to me, it is bewildering that a poet – who died over 150 years back – looks so contemporary or at times even a little ahead of our own times. Is it because, he talks about primacy of human being, at times philosophising about life,  and on occasions talking about rebelling against the existing taboos in very many ways? But then have not many other great poets have dealt with the same subjects/ topics? Continue reading ‘Why Ghalib appears so contemporary even today ?’ : Interview with Hasan Abdullah

BJP, In Search Of An Icon: Is Deendayal Upadhyay Party’s Mahatma Gandhi?

Tomorrow, the capital will see the culmination of the year-long birth centenary celebrations of Bharatiya Jana Sangh leader Pandit Deendayal Upadhayay
BJP, In Search Of An Icon: Is Deendayal Upadhyay Party's Mahatma Gandhi?

‘Nirastapadapeshe Erandopi Drumayate !’ – Sanskrit Proverb

(In a treeless country even castor counts for a big tree)
( Quoted in EPW ”An Occasion for the RSS”, GPD)

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”.

Read the full article here

After #NotinMyName at Jantar Mantar on June 28: Sanjay Kak for NotinMyName, Delhi

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.

Citizens hold placards during a silent protest Not in My Name against the targeted lynching, at Janter Manter in New delhi on wednesday. Photo by Parveen Negi/Mail Today, June 28, 2017

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.

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From Cucumber Juice to Mutton Soup, A Culinary Healing Journey: Anitha S

This is a Guest Post by ANITHA S

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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

Longing for the Future – Two Days with Penkoottu and AMTU at Kozhikode, Kerala

Kozhikode, Hotel Alakapuri, 4-5 March, 2017.

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

Longing for the World: A Memoir of Two Days at the Kochi Biennale

[Disclaimer: I am not an art critic, artist, or travelled in the world of art. This is just a memoir]

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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

Love Can’t Be Forced: Protest Against Sanghi Hubris at IFFK!

 

 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?
 

Continue reading Love Can’t Be Forced: Protest Against Sanghi Hubris at IFFK!

Students Protest in JNU Over Rising Civilian Casualties in Kashmir

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

Kolkata Rally against Killings & Mayhem in Kashmir: Dwaipayan Banerjee

Guest Post by Dwaipayan Banerjee

Close to five hundred people came out in a rally yesterday, 15th July, to protest the ongoing killings and mayhem in Kashmir by the Indian State. The overwhelming majority of participants were students, but they were joined in good numbers by feminists, queer-activists, trade union activists, writers, journalists, academics, human rights activists, dalit rights activists, cultural activists, with many among them not affiliated with any organisation. Student and youth activists carrying flags and placards of PDSF (Progressive Democratic Student Federation), USDF ( United Students Democratic Front), AISA (All India Students’ Association), Progressive Youth League (PYL) and many from other student-youth organisations were present in good numbers, so were human rights activists from APDR (Association for Protection of Democratic Rights) and those from Bastar Solidarity Network (BSN). Many carried with them their own banners and posters. Like the rally in Delhi, protesters carried with them hand-written, hand-painted and printed placards with the names of civilians recently killed in Kashmir inscribed on it, and through those posters a connection of shared pain and solidarity flowed from the streets of Kolkata to the turbulent and stormy blood-stained streets in Kashmir. Those posters were reaching out to the people of Kashmir with messages that they were not alone in their hour of sorrow, anguish and mourning. Some of the protesters had written verses by the Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali on their posters. One of those many posters summed up the mood of the rally, ‘Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris’.

 

[ Video by Peoples’ Camera]

Continue reading Kolkata Rally against Killings & Mayhem in Kashmir: Dwaipayan Banerjee

Love in the Time of Public Despair: Remembering Kamala Surayya

31 May passed like any day in present-day Kerala – filled with the cacophony of mediocrities and expressions of greed, envy, and hate which have become the new normal. No wonder, then, that most people did not remember that this was the poet Kamala Das/Madhavikkutty/ Kamala Surayya’s death anniversary. I cannot help recollecting that I had predicted that this would happen: that people here would celebrate her death, display sickening sentimentality, and then quickly forget. In life and in death, Surayya never received the critical attention that she deserved as a thinker, nor did those interested in progressive left politics take her forays into politics seriously. In these times of despair, one must, however, turn to her …

Read more on:

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blink/know/seeking-rhyme-in-reason/article8737506.ece

 

 

 

How We Destroy our Future by Proxy – On The Ruination of Ruins: Rahul Sharma

This is a guest post by RAHUL SHARMA

humayun-1-2

Why do we, if at all we do, really care about our material cultural heritage? Is it because it reminds us of what was, and is, good and great in humanity? Or is it the case that we look at a cultural objet and recognise that it is the Ozymandias complex materialized, that even the great and the mighty fail? Or is it that we may never attain the great heights in purity, simplicity, or other qualities we idolize and project on the remnants of the times past?

Or maybe we just want the tourism dollars and euros. Be that as it may, only someone obtuse, or with exaggerated tendency towards the behavior philistine, would say that our cultural heritage, our miniature paintings, our ruins, our tombs, forts, wall paintings, temples, mosques , books, manuscripts, and other things this essay is too short to quantify, are not worth preserving. Also note here that I said we, because we might be a bunch of separate kingdoms and separate principalities earlier, but deep down, we were one people, separated by religion and language, but united (willingly or unwillingly), by the plain and simple fact that you can’t chose your neighbor.

Continue reading How We Destroy our Future by Proxy – On The Ruination of Ruins: Rahul Sharma

Mothers’ Manifesto: Mothers Stand With JNU

Guest Post by ‘Mothers Stand With JNU‘ 

[On Mothers’ Day, 8th May 2106, which was also the 11th Day of the Indefinite Hunger Strike by JNU students in protest against the vindictive measures taken against them by the university authorities, a group that has named itself ‘Mothers Stand With JNU’ joined the protest in solidarity. This is the ‘manifesto’ that they released on the occasion.]

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Continue reading Mothers’ Manifesto: Mothers Stand With JNU

Diary of a JNU Student on Hunger Strike: Pankhuri Zaheer

Guest Post by Pankhuri Zaheer

Water - A Gift for Hunger Strikers. Photo Courtesy, Azhar Amim
Water – A Gift for Hunger Strikers. Photo Courtesy, K. Fayaz Ahmed

“I wanted to bring you something but I didn’t know what to get you so I got you a bottle of water,” says a friend who would perhaps never identify herself as a student activist but since 9th February, like many like her, has been an integral part of the stand with JNU movement.

19 of us have decided to sit on an indefinite hunger strike till the time the farcical report of the High Level Enquiry is not rolled backed in its entirety. Today, April 30th, is the third day of our hunger strike.

Continue reading Diary of a JNU Student on Hunger Strike: Pankhuri Zaheer

Responding to the Challenges of Blue and Red – Reminiscences of a JNU-HCU Alumna: Shipra Nigam

This is a guest post by SHIPRA NIGAM

That the past few months have been cataclysmic is an understatement. Personal tragedies and political catastrophes have exploded within our most cherished spaces, and brought a churning in them.  What was truly transformative was the experience of both the emergence of broad solidarities against right-wing fascism, and of the reminders of multiple registers and contexts within them. These underline the need for multiple conversations to understand both our common struggles, as well as the contradictions within, and to renew a resolve for introspection through them as we move towards real ‘azaadi’.

There is of course an ongoing debate on this, and here I felt that some binaries being invoked in it are not very convincing, while others brought home stark truths that pose challenges to a patriarchal, majoritarian caste hindu ordering of society, within which we are all located at different levels of hierarchy, complicity, and engagement.

I have been part of both public universities under fire right now, and the present brings home the urgency of the dual task of defending the public university as a space for pushing the boundaries of critical thought, and confronting the very hierarchies and complicities with power that shape it. This is necessary even as processes of democratisation and affirmative action take root in public institutions . So these are some reminiscences from an alumna of both these public universities who has been wrestling with articulations and complexities which lie beyond institutional labels or binaries. Continue reading Responding to the Challenges of Blue and Red – Reminiscences of a JNU-HCU Alumna: Shipra Nigam

More Videos from the University of Hyderabad – The Prison is the University, The University is the Prison: Student Videographers from UoH/HCU

Guest Post Compiled from Uploads by Student Videographers from UoH/HCU and their friends

“The only thing to fear is fear itself”

[ Since the mainstream media, particularly television channels, are steadfastly refusing to report the ‘undeclared emergency’ in the University of Hyderabad (also known as Hyderabad Central University – HCU), we at Kafila, (along with many other online platforms, such as Raiot.in, India Resists, Scroll.in, The Wire, RoundtableIndia.in and several youtube channels) are going to continue providing our readers with testimonies by students and faculty from the University of Hyderabad.

Venkaiah Naidu, Bandaru Dattatreya, Smriti Irani and Rajnath Singh (all senior ministers in the BJP government at the centre) and some of their chamchas have probably been on the phone all of the past few days with senior editors and media management to try and ensure that the situation remains unreported, un-commented upon. Or, is it  just the ‘business as usual’ matter of Savarna (Hindu upper caste, usually, but not only, masculine) privilege (and insecurity) playing itself out in newsrooms and edit meetings when it comes to reporting an assertive, articulate, intelligent protest with a very large Dalit-Bahujan component in Hyderabad. Or is it a bit of both?

What other explanation can there be for the almost blanket ban on reportage, analysis and commentary on the extraordinary situation in Hyderabad in most national TV channels? Even the reporting in major newspapers, though better than what exists on TV channels, leaves a lot to be desired. Every major news organization has correspondents in Hyderabad, and even if they are not able to enter the university because of the VC’s orders, they can still definitely speak to the students if they want to, because the students regularly assemble outside the university gates. What prevents them from doing that? What exactly is going on?

After the rage that was sparked by Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder and the crackdown in JNU, the BJP government probably believes that the only way to continue repression is to do it under the cloak of silence. And so, the heavy breathing down the phone lines. And so, the reversion to the Savarna stiff upper lip code of silence – an ‘omertà’ which disables possibilities of translation, or even just transmission of what is going on in Hyderabad.

But this mistaken belief that the media’s silence can translate into public indifference and ignorance about the war that the Modi regime has unleashed on the young, will actually work to create a backlash. It is already destroying the little credibility that the regime has, and eroding a lot more confidence in its media backers.

Young people, in Hyderabad, in JNU, and in countless other campuses, factories and workplaces, are way smarter, way more media savvy than either the idiots who run the show in the BJP, or their mavens in the media can gauge. The young (and their friends amongst their teachers) will make sure that the airwaves resonate with their voices and accounts.

The first video in the series below, all taken from Youtube channels started by students and their friends, has a speaker saying something wonderfully generous – “The only thing to fear is fear itself”. Listen to her, listen to her friends and comrades. Share this post widely. Defeat the collaborative exercise of repression and censorship undertaken by the Modi regime and the mainstream media on this issue.

Jai Bhim, Lal Salaam, Inquilab Zindabad !  – Kafila ]

With thanks to the Justice for Rohith Youtube channel, from which these videos are taken.

Mera Piya Ghar Aaya: Umar Khalid and Anirban Return to JNU and the Students’ Struggle

I have come home a little while ago from Jawaharlal Nehru University after listening to Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya take back the night. As I drove home  through the quiet streets of Delhi after midnight it occurred to me that somebody should whisper into Narendra Modi’s ear that he should now start stocking up on sleeping pills. (Maybe Baba Ramdev’s enterprise makes some that he could prescribe to the Prime Minister, unadulterated). With young people like Umar and Anirban as his adversaries, the Prime Minister can only have sleepless nights ahead of him. It is perhaps fortunate for him that the team from Madame Tussaud’s came by and did their job yesterday. Because from now on, his real skin tone will only envy the lustre of his wax work. Umar and Anirban, and their friends, took away the little remaining shine that Modi had left at midnight.

Continue reading Mera Piya Ghar Aaya: Umar Khalid and Anirban Return to JNU and the Students’ Struggle

Save Democracy, Release Umar, Anirban and SAR Geelani, Enact Rohith Act – JNU Marches again in Delhi

For the fourth time since the early February, students, faculty and their friends marched in Delhi. Once again, there were thousands of people, walking from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar. This time, there was focused attention on the demand for the release of the detained JNU students – Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, the DU Professor S.A.R Geelani, solidarity with JNU Prof. Nivedita Menon and the poet-scientist Gauhar Raza against their media trials, and a direct attack on the creeping fascism of the Modi regime. Here are some moments from this march.

(Thanks to Aniket Prantdarshi, Kavita Krishnan, Samim Asgor Ali and Anish Ahluwalia, ‘We are JNU’ for their photos and videos, which I have taken from their Facebook pages and Youtube Channels)

Continue reading Save Democracy, Release Umar, Anirban and SAR Geelani, Enact Rohith Act – JNU Marches again in Delhi

Long Nights of Revolution, Dancing, Music and Poetry are Ahead: Veer Vikram

[ Here are five joyous excerpts of recordings from a recent night on the JNU campus – after Kanhaiya Kumar came back –  recorded by a young person called Veer Vikram. We do not know who Veer Vikram is, but came across his Youtube Channel, and were struck by the raw freshness of the voices and of the footage. So we are sharing them with you, saluting the generosity of Veer Vikram, who recorded these and uploaded them on to Youtube for everyone to enjoy. May there be many long nights of joy, music, dancing and poetry – in campuses, factories and neighborhoods – everywhere  Think so what a beautiful sight a ‘vishaal jan jagaran’ (as distinct from a ‘bhagawati’ jagaran) can make in different corners of Delhi, and in every city and town where young people can no longer take the rubbish offered by TV channels and the Modi regime. The revolution will be danced, sang, dreamt, recorded, uploaded, downloaded, shared and enjoyed. No more words necessary ]

A Conversation about the Meaning of the word ‘Azadi’ (‘Freedom’) in the Wake of Events at JNU

Signal to Noise Ratio

There has been a lot of talk about what exactly ‘Azadi’ (freedom) means, especially in the wake of Kanhaiya Kumar’s post release midnight speech at JNU on the 4th of March. So lets talk some more. No harm talking. If there is noise, there must also be a signal, somewhere.

Kanhaiya Kumar clarified in his electrifying, riveting speech that his evocation of Azadi was a call for freedom ‘in’ India, not a demand, or even an endorsement of a demand for freedom ‘from’ India.

This may come as a sigh of relief to some, – Kanhaiya , the man of the moment, proves his ‘good’ patriotic credentials, leading to an airing of the by now familiar ‘good nationalist vs. bad nationalist’ trope. And everyone on television loves a nationalist, some love a good nationalist even more.

Perhaps this was a way of dealing with a bail order that was at the same time a gag order.

[ P.S. : Since writing this last night, a more careful reading of the bail order has suggested to me that the actual terms of bail are not so bad after all. Bail is in fact granted, as far as I can see, fairly unconditionally. Kanhaiya is not asked, for instance, to step down from his position in the students’ union, nor are restrictions placed on his movement and activity. So in technically legal sense, the bail provisions need not be interpreted in a tightly restricted manner. The egregious political hortations, the references to infection, antibiotics, amputation and gangrene, which are over and above the legal instructions, are indeed terrible, but operationally, they have no executive authority backing them.]

But to say just that the text of the bail order is what shaped Kanhaiya’s midnight speech would be ungenerous, and miserly, especially in response to the palpably real passion that someone like Kanhaiya has for a better world, and for a better future for the country he lives and believes in. I have no doubt about the fact that coming as he does from the most moderate section of the Indian Left (the CPI – well known for their long term affection for the ‘national bourgeoisie’ despite the national bourgeouisie’s long term indifference/indulgence towards them), Kanhaiya is a genuine populist nationalist patriot [I have corrected ‘nationalist’ to ‘patriot’ here in response to the criticism and suggestion held out by Virat Mehta’s comment – see below in the comments section] and a democrat moulded as he says, equally by Bhagat Singh and Dr. Ambedkar. There is a lot to admire in that vision, even in partial disagreement. And while some may not necessarily share his nationalism, this does not mean that one has to treat it with contempt either. I certainly don’t.

Continue reading A Conversation about the Meaning of the word ‘Azadi’ (‘Freedom’) in the Wake of Events at JNU

Consolidated Solidarity Statements in Support of JNU

JNU Solidarity Poster

Kafila posted a set of solidarity statements recently in support of the students, faculty and autonomy of JNU. We are posting another set, received from the following organisations:

  1. First-Decade JNU Graduates and Other Graduates – 548 signatories.
  2. Faculty, Staff and Students at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
  3. California Students and Faculty. California, U.S.
  4. Current Fellows of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Study, JNU, Delhi.
  5. Colorado College, Colorado, U.S.
  6. Faculty at DePaul University, Chicago, U.S.
  7. Faculty, Students and Staff, Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and University of Rhode Island, Providence, U.S.
  8. McGill and Concordia Universities, Canada.
  9. Canadian Academics from Various Universities.

Please click on Read More below for the statements and signatories:

Continue reading Consolidated Solidarity Statements in Support of JNU

Chalo Dilli! Report on 23 Feb Protest March for Rohith Vemula: Saagar Tewari

This is a guest post by SAAGAR TEWARI

Rohith Protest 3

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IMAGES COURTESY: INDIAN EXPRESS

The call for a protest rally by the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, constituted in the aftermath of Hyderabad Central University research student Rohith Vemula’s suicide galvanised large number of students and activists on 23rd February. On a bright sunny day, thousands descended on the streets of central Delhi marching from Ambedkar Bhawan to Jantar Mantar. The attendance was perhaps lower and the organization less cohesive than the JNU protest rally of 18th February. However, it trumped its predecessor in terms of attracting a far-wider political cross-section of the voices openly choosing to dissent against the current ruling establishment. The protestors proudly displayed anti-Brahmanism banners, flags, badges (featuring excerpts of Rohith’s suicide note) and even a radical inversion of Modi-style masks (featuring Rohith Vemula’s smiling face) thereby signaling that the same youth-brigade which was instrumental in BJP’s rise to political power in 2014 has started turning against it.

Continue reading Chalo Dilli! Report on 23 Feb Protest March for Rohith Vemula: Saagar Tewari