Attacks on the media have become more “sophisticated”, such as stopping advertisements, which adds to the threat of violence.
In the first week of October came news from Jammu that the government-allotted apartment where Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of Kashmir Times has lived for twenty years, had been ransacked. The act was allegedly perpetrated by the relative of a former member of the Legislative Council. The intruders tried not to be photographed in the act by Bhasin, but later she published them and wrote on social media about how her “jewellery, silverware and other valuables” were taken by them in “connivance with the [Jammu and Kashmir] Estates Deptt and some police personnel”. Bhasin had not been served a show-cause notice to vacate the flat.
Soon after the office of her newspaper, located in the Press Enclave area in Srinagar, was also sealed, again without giving its legal owner or editor any reason. “Today, Estates Deptt locked our office without any due process of cancellation & eviction, same way as I was evicted from a flat in Jammu, where my belongings including valuables were handed over to ‘new allottee’,” Bhasin wrote.
One is suddenly reminded of the various storms the oldest and most-circulated newspaper published from Jammu and Kashmir has faced all these years. In 1983, some 200 Hindu right-wing lumpen, armed with batons and sharp weapons, barged into the offices of Kashmir Times in Jammu and attacked the editor at the time, Ved Bhasin. This attack followed a news report published by the then forty-year-old newspaper, which had apparently “hurt” their sentiments. The grand old man of English journalism, as Ved Bhasin was known in Jammu and Kashmir, survived the attack and continued his work with renewed vigour.
If the post-Mandal Dalit Bahujan upsurge was an expression of the democratic revolution, the advent of Adityanath’s BJP government constituted the beginning of a counter-revolution that is on the way to consolidating itself in Uttar Pradesh.
The facts of the case are well known, even though the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh is trying, ever so hard, to produce a different narrative by resorting to the usual Hindutva tactic of assigning it to an international conspiracy. It is typical of the utterly farcical and shoddy nature of the Indian police (and maybe indicates the regime’s over-confidence) that it in the name of collecting evidence of the conspiracy, it has done a cut-and-paste job from an American site, even forgetting to delete references to ‘NYPD’ and ‘white supremacism’! Incidents of gang-rape and murder have since also happened elsewhere in the state, notably in Balrampur and Bulandshahr. We are witnessing the heinous episode of the Hathras gang rape and murder when the memory of the Unnao rape case in which then BJP leader Kuldeep Sengar was accused, is still fresh in our minds. The victim’s father died in police custody, having already been very badly beaten by Sengar’s brother and their goons, a video of which was proudly circulated on social media. Some other members of the family were killed in an accident when a truck with a blackened number plate hit their car. In a second rape case, in the very same Unnao, two years later, a 23-year old woman who had been raped and was on the way to a hearing of the rape case, was caught and set ablaze by five men and died soon after that. In the first case, the rape-accused was a ‘popular’ figure – a Rajput leader – in whose support demonstrations were organized after he was arrested. In the second case, the girl was a Lohar (a blacksmith jati) while those who brutalized and killed her were Brahmins.
Are these really coincidences? That the rapist in these ‘paradigmatic’ cases is always an upper caste (Rajput or Brahmin) and the woman always lower caste, or at any rate powerless in class terms? And are these really about sex? The answer to the second question has of course been provided to us by long years of meticulous and painstaking research by feminists the world over: rape is always about power. It is about caste, community, race and gender based power – gender is certainly not unimportant in this particular kind of display of power but sex is not the issue here.
It is the first question that merits closer attention here. The fact that in these type of cases the rapist is almost always an upper caste man is doubly interesting. We already know, in a very generic and commonsense way, that this is how the caste power of the upper-castes and powerful landed interests is asserted over the Dalit Bahujan castes. I am reminded of some short stories by Mohandas Naimishray, where he talks of this mode of asserting power as a regular practice. In’ Apna Gaon’, ‘Saali chamari, thakur se zuban ladati hai!’ (you Chamar bitch, you dare to talk back to a Thakur!) is how the Thakur curses the hapless Dalit woman before five Thakur men pounce upon her in a description that is not unlike what we read ever so often in accounts of gang rapes in newspapers. In another story, ‘Reet’ (custom), he describes the age old practice of newly wed Dalit women being forcibly taken away to the Thakur’s place on the very first night, where they would be raped. In this story, Bulaki’s wife too is taken away by the Thakurs on the first night.
‘The landlord did what he liked with her, tormenting her body and bruising it. After all, who did he have to fear! In the morning, she was thrown out like joothan [left over food] for her family members.’
The Democratic Revolution
I recount these literary narratives from some of the most poignant fiction that emerged from Dalit literature in Uttar Pradesh in the 1990s, simply in order to underline that naked, untramelled power over the lower castes, is what the Thakurs and other upper castes lost with the democratic revolution of the 1990s. And it was the democratic revolution of the post-Mandal 1990s that made possible the emergence of writings such as Naimishray’s or Om Prakash Valmiki’s widely-acclaimed autobiography, Joothan (1997). It is literature that is not really fictional but in some sense, docu-fiction. Look at this world that Dalit literature of that period presents before us – and then look at what is happening in Yogi Adityanath’s UP today and you will immediately get what is going on there.
For the intervening period in the state saw a major reversal of power relations, especially with the rise of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP). The rise of the Dalit Bahujans and of the BSP and SP, especially Mayawati’s stints in power, actually saw the reversal of the power dynamic in the rural areas as well. So powerful was the immediate impact of that upsurge that within a year of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the BJP lost power in the state, and only won state elections in 2017, three years after coming to power at the centre, in 2014, when the counter-revolution really began. The Congress too wilted in the face of the Dalit Bahujan upsurge and had all but disappeared for almost three decades.
I should perhaps state here, in parenthesis, that the term ‘democratic revolution’ here should not be understood in the Marxist sense of a ‘bourgeois-democratic revolution’ – for there is nothing democratic about the bourgeoisie, nor anything essentially bourgeois about democracy. That was but a specific and momentary historical conjunction of the two in nineteenth century Europe, whereafter democracy was quickly yoked into the service of liberalism that was the ideology of capitalism par excellence. The democratic revolution, rather, is to be understood as the process whereby the demand for and claims to equality are made and rapidly extended to different arenas of social life, leading to ‘the end of a society of a hierarchic and inegalitarian type, ruled by a theological-political logic’. (Laclau and Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy).
In a very important sense, the democratic revolution of the 1990s reconfigured power equations, even if the demand for equality was not specifically raised and theorized in the context of that upsurge. The very ferocity of the upper caste counter-attack, in the form of the anti-Mandal agitation, ensured that the question of power was foregrounded. However, neither ‘self respect’ of yore, nor ‘social justice’ of this period are really demands for equality. Nonetheless, it is true that the demand for reservations in education and employment was no longer made in the language of ‘safeguards’ as Ambedkar had been forced to do, but was being raised in conjunction with Ram Manohar Lohia’s ‘picchda maange sau mein saath‘ (backwards demand 60 percent in employment – that is to say, in proportion to their percentage in the population). To the extent that it did pose a serious challenge to the deeply hierarchic and inegalitarian society, sanctioned by Hindu dharmashastras, it was a profoundly democratic revolution.
The Revolution Derailed
In retrospect, it does seem that the democratic revolution seemed destined to be derailed partly because it could not seize, head-on, the full meaning of its own claims. For a large part, the movement remained fixated on the superficial semiotics of power in purely caste terms. The giant statues built by Mayawati, often derided by critics, are emblematic of this fixation. A more radical claim of equality, in contrast, would have proceeded to the next stage of breaking the economic power of the landlords, Thakurs in particular, simultaneously finding ways of strengthening Dalit economic power. The call for the formation of a Dalit bourgeoisie, despite the power of its innovativeness, seemed to have remained so trapped within the logic of neoliberalism, that any idea of redistribution was beyond its horizon of vision. The hostility of its chief enunciator, Chandra Bhan Prasad, to Marxism, ensured that it remains simply at the level of a ‘get rich quickly’ mantra for those who are in a position to do so. However, this is not just about Chandra Bhan Prasad but of the entire range of parties that were vehicles of the democratic revolution. All of them remained trapped within the larger world of neoliberal thinking and had practically no economic vision of their own. Having arisen in the era of the collapse of socialism and the larger disenchantment with Marxism and the sense that neoliberalism was the only game in town, all these parties totally shunned the economic question.
There was another reason for the derailment of the revolution that had started becoming apparent soon after the victory of the SP-BSP alliance in UP in 1993. As the panchayat polls drew nearer, it became clear, as Naimishray himself had explained to me once, that the pact between the two parties was merely political; at the social level there wasn’t any real connection, and the social conflicts had started playing out as soon as the question of local power came up on the agenda. The unfortunate and difficult realization for those who believed in Kanshi Ram’s agenda of Bahujan unity was that it was the powerful among the OBCs who were the immediate and proximate oppressors of the Dalits. This was evident not just in UP but across different states. It was in this context that Mayawati embarked upon her programme of wooing the powerful Brahmins and even Rajputs (the ‘sarvajan’ slogan) – rather than say, the utterly powerless non-Jatav Dalits and the non-Yadav, non-Kurmi OBCs. The lure of power was also beginning to become its own justification.
In a sense, the Unnao rape accused, Kuldeep Sengar provides quite a telling illustration of what happens all too often to revolutions. His being a Rajput did not prevent him from retaining his local power by aligning himself, now with the BSP and now the SP, getting elected and serving as MLA of both these parties respectively. Had he turned over a new leaf? Certainly not. If I had the space, I could show how the character of the CPI(M) and the Left Front changed rapidly after accession to power in 1977, as erstwhile enemies joined the new arrangements of power. Sengar was not doing either BSP or SP a favour. He knew that his remaining MLA would be the key to his power in a context when both the BJP and the Congress has ceased to be claimants of power.
That was the interregnum when the erstwhile powerful groups were being forced to negotiate with the parties of the revolution – and these parties mistook it as their strength. They thought they had broken the back of the powerful upper castes, whereas the latter were simply biding their time and waiting for the right opportunity to present itself before them.
That opportunity came in 2014. Both the SP and BSP had already revealed their feet of clay and in any case, election studies figures show, they had already started losing votes and supporters even among their own social base. All this happened quite sometime before the 2014 election that then became the occasion, with Narendra Modi at the helm, for the upper castes in UP to hit back. Now confident that these parties would not even be able to mop up their own base, the BJP moved rapidly to become the party of counter-revolution. The party’s unprecedented and breathtaking performance in UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections set the stage for the recapture of the state in 2017. The decision to make Yogi Adityanath – not a BJP insider – the chief minister was a shocker for many, even among many of those sympathetic to the party. But in retrospect, both the 2014 and 2017 victories were not simply BJP victories; they were part of this upper caste, especially Thakur bid to recapture the state.
What is happening in the state should not therefore be read simply in party terms. Any party in control of the situation, especially one with a Hindutva platform, should have been keen and able to show to the whole world that it acts in favour of the most poor and oppressed Dalits. That would win lasting support from these sections and forever doom the prospects of Dalit parties and organizations. But the BJP under Yogi Adityanath is clearly not going to go that way, for the simple reason that this is the time for the counter-revolution to consolidate itself.
The moral of the story is this: Social and political spaces never lie in a limbo or a state of ‘equilibrium’ of any sort and the minute you relax your guard, the adversary takes the upper hand. Especially if age-old power configurations are disturbed. And leaving battles half-fought can lead to the most disastrous consequences, as we are seeing in UP today.
We condemn the horrific rape and murder of a young Dalit woman from Hathras, UP.
We stand with the family in their sorrow. Extend support, solidarity and rage.
We demand immediate action against the state officials responsible for mishandling the case, destroying key evidence, and further traumatising the family and community.
SHAME ON THE STATE THAT STANDS WITH THE GUILTY. SHAME ON THE STATE THAT INCREASES THE IMPUNITY WITH WHICH UPPER CASTE FORCES COMMIT VIOLENCE AND HATE CRIMES.
Today, over 10,000 people from all walks of life, cutting across caste, religion, gender, occupation and community came together from almost every state in India and more than a dozen countries across the world such US, UK, Canada, Australia, UAE, Hong Kong, Japan, Nepal, Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia etc to demand justice for the heinous rape, brutalising attack and murder of a young Dalit woman from Hathras.
In a sharp statement condemning the incident, they got together to say that “despite a continuing saga of countless other cases of brutal sexual assault and murders especially of young Dalit women the conscience of this nation does not seem to be shaken enough to do anything serious to stop the systematic targeting of women, Dalits and the poor.”
While there is a historicity to these incidents, but under CM Yogi’s rule, Uttar Pradesh has only gone from bad to worse. Crimes against women and Dalits have increased, and police have been given unlimited powers without any accountability. Today UP tops the charts for atrocities against Dalits, it also tops the charts for crimes against women.
हम बारीकी से विश्लेषण करें तो हम पाते हैं कि वर्ष 2014 के बाद भारत में लिबरल जनतंत्र के बरअक्स हिन्दुत्व की जो बहुसंख्यकवादी सियासत हावी होती गयी, उसके कई तत्व इसी आंदोलन /सरगर्मी में मजबूती पाते गए हैं।
ग्रीक पुराणों में मिनर्वा को ज्ञान, विवेक या कला की देवी समझा जाता है, जिसका वाहन है उल्लू।
उन्नीसवीं सदी के महान आदर्शवादी दार्शनिक हेगेल का ‘फिलॉसाफी आफ राइट’ नामक किताब का चर्चित कथन है, ‘‘मिनर्वा का उल्लू तभी अपने पंख फैलाता है, जब शाम होने को होती है’’; (Only when the dusk starts to fall does the owl of Minerva spread its wings and fly.) – कहने का तात्पर्य दर्शन किसी ऐतिहासिक परिस्थिति को तभी समझ पाने के काबिल होता है, जब वह गुजर गयी होती है।]
अपनी अतीत की ग़लतियों की तहे दिल से आलोचना करना, साफ़गोई के साथ बात करना, यह ऐसा गुण है, जो सियासत में ही नहीं बल्कि सामाजिक जीवन में भी इन दिनों दुर्लभ होता जा रहा है। इसलिए अग्रणी वकील एवं नागरिक अधिकार कार्यकर्ता जनाब प्रशांत भूषण ने अपनी अतीत की ग़लतियों के लिए जब पश्चताप प्रगट किया तो लगा कुछ अपवाद भी मौजूद हैं।
दरअसल इंडिया टुडे से एक साक्षात्कार में उन्होंने ‘इंडिया अगेन्स्ट करप्शन’ आंदोलन जिसका चेहरा बन कर अण्णा हजारे उभरे थे – जिसकी नेतृत्वकारी टीम में खुद प्रशांत शामिल थे – को लेकर एक अनपेक्षित सा बयानदिया। उनका कहना था कि यह आंदोलन ‘संघ-भाजपा’ द्वारा संचालित था। ईमानदारी के साथ उन्होंने यह भी जोड़ा कि उन्हें अगर इस बात का एहसास होता तो वह तुरंत अण्णा आंदोलन से तौबा करते, दूर हट जाते।
विडम्बना ही है इतने बड़े खुलासे के बावजूद छिटपुट प्रतिक्रियाओं के अलावा इसके बारे में मौन ही तारी है या बहुत कमजोर सी सफाई पेश की गयी है।
Democracy Dialogues Lecture Series Organised by New Socialist Initiative – 3 rd Lecture
Topic: State of the Judiciary and Reforms Required Speaker: Prashant Bhushan, eminent Supreme Court lawyer and civil rights activist Date and Time: Sunday, September 20, 2020 at 6 PM IST
Zoom and Facebook Live details in the poster below.
[New Socialist Initiative Presents Democracy Dialogues – Lecture Series
The idea behind this series – which we call ‘Democracy Dialogues’ – is basically to initiate as well as join in the on-going conversation around this theme in academic as well as activist circles.
The inaugural lecture in the series was delivered by Prof Suhas Palshikar on 12 th July 2020. The theme of Prof Palshikar’s presentation was TRAJECTORY OF INDIA’S DEMOCRACY AND CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES, Professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta delivered the second lecture on THE STRUCTURAL CONTRADICTIONS OF INDIAN DEMOCRACY AND THE RISE OF THE BJP on 16 th August 2020 ]
Statement issued by JNUTA, representing the voices of JNU faculty
The JNUTA condemns the arrest by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police of former JNU student, Umar Khalid, under the draconian UAPA. This is yet another instance of the never ending witch hunt being conducted by the Delhi Police in the name of inquiring into the February 2020 riots in Delhi, an inquiry with which Umar Khalid had been voluntary cooperating. The JNUTA notes that Umar Khalid had also been one of those specially targeted during the vicious slander campaign unleashed against JNU in February 2016 and had then been charged with ‘sedition’. That smear campaign fuelled by sections of the media had put his life in danger and in 2018 he fortuitously survived a murderous attack against him. Since then he was supposed to be under the ‘protection’ of the Police and yet he is accused of having been part of a ‘conspiracy’ for instigating the violence in North-East Delhi. It is clear, therefore, that his safety is at risk even when he is in custody and not just because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is disheartening when the Constitution is not followed in letter and spirit, but the balm of monetary compensation will not fix the problem.
Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K, he knew he had done nothing wrong but one morning, he was arrested.
These opening lines of Franz Kafka’s classic novel, The Trial, published just over a century ago, in 1925, still ring true.
Joseph K, the novel’s protagonist, is cashier at a bank. On his 30th birthday, two unidentified agents arrest him for an unspecified crime. The plot of the novel revolves around his efforts to deduce what the charges against him are, and which never become explicit. Joseph K’s feverish hopes to redeem himself of these unknown charges fail and he is executed at a small quarry outside the city—“like a dog”—two days before his 31st birthday.
Kafka, a major figure of 20th century-literature died of tuberculosis in 1924, when he was barely 40 years old. He had wanted all his manuscripts, including of the unfinished The Trial, destroyed after his death, but close friend and executor of his will, Max Brod, ignored the instruction and the world gained a strong literary indictment of an apathetic and inhuman bureaucracy and how completely it can lack respect for civil rights.
Kafka’s novel resonates with us today for it is not difficult to spot people who have been wronged by our system. Their endless wait for justice, especially those charged with petty crimes, or those who spend the prime of their lives behind bars on concocted charges, is on open public display.
राष्ट्रीय शिक्षा नीति 2020 के दो मुख्य भाग हैं, स्कूली शिक्षा और उच्च शिक्षा. हम इन दोनों क्षेत्रों का मूल्यांकन करेंगे. किसी भी नीति की तरह इस शिक्षा नीति में भी कुछ स्वागत योग्य कदम हैं, कुछ कमियाँ हैं, कुछ बातें छूट गई हैं और कुछ खतरनाक पहलू हैं. हम तीनों पक्षों को चिन्हित करने का प्रयास करेंगे. दुर्भाग्य से इस नीति के दो अलग अलग अंग्रेजी प्रारूप सरकारी वेब साइटों पर उपलब्ध हैं. एक 60 पृष्ठों का और एक 66 पृष्ठों का है. दोनों की अंतर्वस्तु में भी महत्वपूर्ण अंतर है पर इन प्रारूपों में तिथि नहीं दी गई, इस लिए यह तय करना संभव नहीं है कि कौन सा नया है और कौन सा पुराना है. इस विमर्श हेतू हमने 66 पन्नों वाले दस्तावेज़ का प्रयोग किया है.
काफी समय से एकविषयक कालेज जैसे बीएड कालेज, इंजीनियरिंग कालेज या बिना विज्ञान संकाय या केवल विज्ञान संकाय के +2 स्कूल तो चल ही रहे थे पर हाल ही में एक विषयक विश्वविद्यालयों का चलन बढ़ा है. जैसे स्वास्थ्य, खेल, संस्कृत, बागवानी विश्विविद्यालय इत्यादि. ऐसे एकविषयक संस्थानों में छात्रों को समग्र विकास का मौका नहीं मिलता. उनका दृष्टिकोण बहुत सीमित हो जाता है. इस लिए बहुविषयक शिक्षा संस्थान विषयों एवं छात्रों दोनों के समग्र विकास के लिये आवश्यक हैं. इस कमी को नयी शिक्षा नीति में रेखांकित किया है और दूर करने का निर्णय लिया गया है. यह स्वागत योग्य कदम है. स्कूल को छात्रों तक सीमित न रख कर एक ‘सामाजिक चेतना केंद्र’ के तौर पर विकसित करना, कम्पार्टमेंट परीक्षा के साथ स्कूली छात्रों को अंक सुधार हेतु मौका देना, सार्वजानिक एवं स्कूल पुस्तकालयों का विस्तार एवं इन के लिए आवश्यक कर्मचारियों की व्यवस्था, मातृभाषा में शिक्षा को बढ़ावा देने का संकल्प, छात्रों को अपनी रूचि के अनुसार ज़्यादा विविध विषयों में से चुनाव चुनाव का मौका, जैसे कदम स्वागत योग्य हैं.
Signatures kept coming in even as we closed the campaign in order to collate them. We are adding at the end of the statement, some names received between our closing and releasing the statement to the media. We are aware that there are many more who wanted to sign but we had to close it, in order to release the statement on time.
We reproduce below a statement signed by over 720 signatories, in solidarity with Prof K. Satyanarayana, who has been summoned by the NIA today, along with senior journalist KV Kurmanath.
The signatories, from across different professions, include luminaries such as Professors Noam Chomsky, Barbara Harris-White, Jan Breman, Susie Tharu, Sumit Sarkar, Tanika Sarkar, Prabhat Patnaik, John Harris, Gyan Prakash, Rajeswari Sunder Rajan and Utsa Patnaik; leading writers and poets like K. Satchidanandan, Mridula Garg, Geeta Kapur and Gita Hariharan, artists like Sudhir Patwardhan and Vivan Sundaram.
It is an expression of the great respect that Prof K Satyanarayana commands among different sections of people, including a large number of students, that so many people added their names to this statement of solidarity in such a short time.
We, the undersigned academics, journalists and concerned citizens strongly condemn the fresh round of harassment and arrests of academics and activists by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is trying to implicate them in the Bhima Koregaon case. After Partho Sarathi Ray, the NIA has now summoned Prof Satyanarayana and senior journalist KV Kurmanath to appear before it on 9 September. And even as these summons were being served, the NIA has also arrested Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor of the Kabir Kala Manch in connection with the same case.
Dr. K. Satyanarayana is Professor at the Department of Cultural Studies at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. He has been instrumental in establishing Dalit Studies as an academic discipline and has a formidable reputation as a scholar and teacher.
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.
In May 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs constituted a Committee to recommend reforms in criminal laws in India with NLU Delhi. The National Level Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws (henceforth, the NLUD Committee) is to review and recommend changes to the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act in 90 odd days. On 26 June 2020, responses were solicited from experts on ‘questionnaires highlighting issues in the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and Indian Evidence Act’ for which experts were invited to register. The Committee has uploaded a questionnaire, extended time for experts to reply and announced concessional consultation with non-experts. 68 Bare Acts, and 89 Law Commission Reports, along with some links and some op-eds by committee members are uploaded on the website, as resources for experts. The Open Consultation can be accessed for a period of two months starting from 17 July 2020 to 16 September 2020. This process is virtual since the process of reviewing and revising criminal law is being performed during a pandemic.
Our Professor turned 54 on August 16, while in the custody of NIA. Prof. Hany Babu M.T. from the Department of English, University of Delhi was arrested on July 28 by the NIA in a series of ongoing harassment of academics, and activists who have been vocal against the government and its policies. This act of suppressing dissenting voices in academic spaces by the State threatens the very fabric of the Indian democracy. Prof. Babu has been a strong advocate for social justice, and has worked strenuously in the anti-caste movement. As a professor of linguistics, his classes have always been about demanding an equal space for the varying languages in India and looking at English as an emancipatory language. His teachings have made, and continue to make students critically approach caste supremacy hidden within the rubric of the Indian language structure. He has always highlighted the need for equality amongst language, and language speakers. Continue reading To Sir, With Love – Birthday Greetings for Professor Hany Babu From His Students→
On the afternoon of 23 February 2020, communal violence broke out in Gokulpuri, a neighborhood in North-East Delhi. From there, it quickly spread to several other areas — including Seelapur, Shivpuri, and Jafrabad — raging on for four days before the situation was finally brought under control. In all, 53 people were murdered, a majority of them Muslim. Hundreds of families, mostly Muslim, were also displaced from their homes and are yet to return as it is still too dangerous. The attacks coincided with Donald Trump’s diplomatic visit to New Delhi on 24 February. This coincidence is one reason why the violence received widespread international media coverage. While large sections of the Indian domestic media have framed the violence as a “communal riot,” it is fairer to describe the events as a state-abetted pogrom against the Muslim community, that was not adequately protected — and, in some cases, was actively attacked — by the Delhi Police.
[Democracy Dialogues Lecture Series ( Webinar) Organised by New Socialist Initiative]
Date and Time: Sunday, August 16, 2020, at 6 PM IST (8.30 AM EST in the US)
Topic: The Structural Contradictions of Indian Democracy and the rise of the BJP
This talk explores the deep social transformations that have made the dominance of the BJP possible. It will take a longer view of the trajectory of Indian democracy and explore the profound changes in social and economic identities underway that have prepared a propitious ground for the rise of the BJP.
The Speaker: Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta
Internationally renowned scholar and political scientist Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta taught at Harvard, at New York University and at JNU. He was the Vice Chancellor of the Ashoka University till recently and served as the President of the premier think tank, Centre for Policy Research. Educated at Oxford and a Ph.D. from Princeton University, Prof Mehta is a columnist at Indian Express, a leading public intellectual and a bold and thoughtful voice for reason and justice. Among many honours and prizes to his credit, he is recipient of the Infosys Prize, the Adisheshiah Prize and the Amartya Sen Prize.
[New Socialist Initiative Presents
Democracy Dialogues – Lecture Series
The idea behind this series – which we call ‘Democracy Dialogues’ – is basically to initiate as well as join in the on-going conversation around this theme in academic as well as activist circles.
We feel that the very idea of democracy which has taken deep roots across the world, has come under scanner for various reasons. At the same time we have been witness to the ascendance of right-wing forces and fascistic demagogues via the same democratic route. There is this apparently anomalous situation in which the spread and deepening of democracy have often led to generating mass support for these reactionary and fascistic forces.
Coming to India, there have been valid concerns about the rise of authoritarian streak among Indians and how it has helped strengthen BJP’s hard right turn. The strong support for democracy here is accompanied by increasing fascination towards majoritarian-authoritarian politics. In fact, we would like to state that a vigorous electoral democracy here has become a vehicle for hindutva-ite counterrevolution.
The inaugural lecture in the series was delivered by Prof Suhas Palshikar on 12 th July 2020. The theme of Prof Palshikar’s presentation was TRAJECTORY OF INDIA’S DEMOCRACY AND CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES]
We stand firmly with Apoorvanand, our friend and fellow member of the Kafila collective, as we do with all those being interrogated and framed by Delhi Police for the violence in Delhi. We also stand with all political prisoners of this fascist regime.
Before you read the statement below, endorsed by over a thousand people from different parts of India, take a look at this detailed expose of how the Delhi Police is trying desperately to cook up a conspiracy theory that will leave the actual planners and executors of the anti Muslim pogrom in Delhi in January, to roam free, while arresting and intimidating hundreds of people who peacefully and non-violently protested the unconstitutional CAA. Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta carefully dissects the anti CAA Whatsapp groups out of which the Delhi Police is trying to concoct a bizarre narrative, in The Wire.
On August 3, 2020 the Special Branch of the Delhi Police called in Prof. Apoorvanand, well-known writer, public speaker and Professor of Hindi at Delhi University, where he spent 5 hours, for an interrogation in connection with the Northeast Delhi riots. The police have seized his phone. This comes close on the heels of the interrogation of many other intellectuals and activists.
A day when authorities feel free to haul in the nation’s leading public voices to police stations, merely because they speak against the policies and ideology of the ruling government, is a day we must all be deeply concerned. Also, a day when we must overcome all fear, to stand up for each individual’s right to disagree, dissent, and thereby deepen our democracy. For this democracy today faces its most serious crisis since independence, far more critical than Indira Gandhi’s Emergency 45 years ago. As concerned citizens who love and value our democracy, and our country, we must speak out before it is too late and all voices of freedom are silenced forever.
यह मानने के पर्याप्त आधार हैं कि राम मंदिर के भूमि पूजन के लिए चुना गया यह समय एक छोटी रेखा के बगल में बड़ी रेखा खींचने की क़वायद है, ताकि नरेंद्र मोदी और उनकी सरकार की बढ़ती असफलताएं जैसे- कोविड कुप्रबंधन, बदहाल होती अर्थव्यवस्था और गलवान घाटी प्रसंग- इस परदे के पीछे चले जाएं.
अयोध्या में राम मंदिर के भूमि पूजन से पहले लगा प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी और अन्य नेताओं का एक होर्डिंग. (फोटो: पीटीआई)
बीते दिनों जनाब उद्धव ठाकरे द्वारा अयोध्या में राम मंदिर के प्रस्तावित भूमि पूजन को लेकर जो सुझाव दिया गया है, वह गौरतलब है.
मालूम हो कि आयोजकों की तरफ से जिन लोगों को इसके लिए न्योता दिया गया है, उसमें महाराष्ट्र के मुख्यमंत्री का नाम भी शामिल है, उसी संदर्भ में उन्होंने इस बात पर जोर दिया है कि ‘ई-भूमि पूजन किया जा सकता है और भूमि पूजन समारोह को वीडियो कॉन्फ्रेंसिंग के जरिये भी अंजाम दिया जा सकता है.’
उनका कहना है कि इस कार्यक्रम में लाखों लोग शामिल होना चाहेंगे और क्या उन्हें वहां पहुंचने से रोका जा सकता है? कोरोना महामारी को लेकर देश-दुनिया भर में जो संघर्ष अभी जारी है और जहां धार्मिक सम्मेलनों पर पाबंदी बनी हुई है, ऐसे में उनकी बात गौरतलब है.
गौर करें कि ऐसा आयोजन जिसका लाइव टेलीकास्ट भी किया जाएगा, कोई चाहे न चाहे देश में जगह जगह जनता के अच्छे-खासे हिस्से को सड़कों पर उतरने के लिए प्रेरित करेगा.
और अगर दक्षिणपंथी जमातें इस बारे में अतिसक्रियता दिखा दें तो फिर जगह जगह भीड़ बेकाबू भी हो सकती है और केंद्र सरकार और गृह मंत्रालय द्वारा जारी गाइडलाइंस की भी धज्जियां उड़ सकती हैं.
We are publishing below a statement by about 350 current and former students of Hany Babu, condemning his arrest on cooked up charges, and expressing solidarity with him.
Students’ Statement of Solidarity: Release Prof. Hany Babu
We, the undersigned former and current students of Prof Hany Babu M.T., condemn his arrest by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday and stand in firm solidarity with him. Prof. Babu is a noted academic, a well known anti-caste activist, and a member of the committee formed for the defence of G.N. Saibaba, a former Delhi University professor who is over 90% disabled, and wheelchair bound. Prof. Babu has maintained his innocence since the illegal raid at his Noida apartment last year in September by Pune police. The raid, which was conducted without a warrant, resulted in the Pune Police confiscating Prof. Babu’s laptop, mobile phones, two booklets printed for the G.N. Saibaba defence committee and two books which are publicly available in bookstores and libraries. The nature of his alleged ‘crime’ remains unclear because the NIA’s warrant is, in our opinion, deliberately vague with clearly fabricated accusations. According to news reports, the ‘evidence’ that has apparently led to Prof Babu’s arrest was based off of an e folder on his hard disk. He was, however, not given a hash value for his laptop.
We believe this is a direct attack on education, activists and the academic space at large. It is outrageous that on 23rd June Prof. Babu was summoned to Mumbai from Noida during a pandemic. His summon and arrest cannot be seen in isolation. Activists like Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, Gulfisha Fatima and Sharjeel Usmani were also arrested during the ongoing pandemic which mandates social distancing. Overcrowded jails have now become the new Covid19 hotspots. Activists arrested earlier, like Sharjeel Imam, Akhil Gogoi, and Varavara Rao, and, according to recent news reports, many other prisoners, have also tested Covid positive. We demand Prof. Babu’s immediate release, and reaffirm our complete solidarity with our Professor, Dr. Hany Babu. We also demand the release of all political prisoners who were arrested in cases related to the Elgar-Parishad, as well as the anti-CAA protestors booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act, which makes bail almost impossible under medical and humanitarian grounds despite the ongoing pandemic.Continue reading Release Prof Hany Babu – A Statement of Solidarity from his Students→
क्या कोई जानता है 21वीं सदी की शुरुआत में चकवारा के दलितों के एक अहम संघर्ष को? जयपुर से बमुश्किल पचास किलोमीटर दूर चकवारा के दलितों ने गांव के सार्वजनिक तालाब पर समान हक पाने के लिए इस संघर्ष को आगे बढ़ाया था। अठारह साल का वक्फा गुजर गया जब दलितों ने इस संघर्ष में जीत हासिल की थी, जिसमें तमाम मानवाधिकार संगठनों एवं प्रगतिशील लोगों ने भी उनका साथ दिया था। (सितम्बर 2002)
विश्लेषकों को याद होगा कि इस संघर्ष में तमाम लोगों को डॉ. अम्बेडकर द्वारा शुरू किए गए ऐतिहासिक महाड़ सत्याग्रह की झलक दिखायी दी थी जब मार्च 1927 में हजारों दलित एवं अन्य मानवाधिकारप्रेमी महाड़ के चवदार तालाब पर जुलूस की शक्ल में गए थे और वहां उन्होंने पानी पीया था। जानवरों को वहां पानी पीने से कोई मना नहीं करता था, मगर दलितों को रोका जाता था। (ज्यादा जानकारी के लिए देखें: Mahad – The Making of the First Dalit Revolt – Dr Anand Teltumbde, Navayana)
चकवारा में बाद में क्या हुआ इसके बारे में तो अधिकतर लोग नहीं जानते होंगे।
Ambedkar University Delhi Faculty Association (AUDFA is alarmed to hear of and strongly condemns the arrest of a survivor of gang rape along with two social workers (including former AUD student Tanmay Nivedita), at the office of the Judicial Magistrate (1st Class) in Araria, Bihar on 10 July 2020. The arrest was ordered during the course of recording of the survivors’ statement under section 164 CrPC in relation to a case of gang rape which took place just days earlier, on 6 July 2020.
It is further disturbing that the hon’ble court appears to have registered offence at the fact that the survivor sought the presence and support of two social workers prior to actually signing her statement under section 164 CrPC in the said case. The right of a survivor of sexual assault/rape to the presence of caregivers for psychological support is well established and is specifically noted in the Justice Verma Committee Report (2013, Appendix 8). Instead of recognising the right of the survivor to psychological support, the Judicial Magistrate, Araria District, thought it fit to order the arrest of the survivor and the two social workers under sections of the IPC, including 353 and 228, on grounds of “obstructing the work of public servants”.
The absence of sensitivity in dealing with cases of sexual assault, and the unfortunate use of power to discipline a survivor of gang rape for seeking psychological and social support at a time of deep trauma, lays bare the deeply worrisome reality of the functioning of the criminal justice system that survivors of sexual assault face on a regular basis. AUDFA unequivocally condemns these arrests and stands in solidarity with the arrested persons.
[Inaugural Lecture of ‘Democracy Dialogues’ Series ( Webinar) Organised by New Socialist Initiative, 12 th July 2020]
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( Prof Suhas Palshikar, Chief Editor, Studies in Indian Politics and Co-director, Lokniti at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, delivered the inaugural lecture in the ‘Democracy Dialogues’ Series initiated by New Socialist Initiative.
In this lecture he attempted to trace the roots of the current moment of India’s democracy in the overall global journey of democracy, the extra-ordinarily ambitious and yet problematic foundational moment of Indian democracy and the many diversions India’s democracy has taken over time. He argued that unimaginative handling of the extra-ordinary ambition and Statist understanding of the ‘power-democracy’ dialectic formed the basis for easy distortions of democratic practice and that while populism and majoritarianism are the current challenges, they are by no means only special to the present and therefore, even as critique and course-correction of present political crisis is urgently required, a more long-term view of the trajectory of Indian democracy is necessary.
Here follows a detailed summary of his presentation prepared by Dr Sanjay Kumar)
How discrimination is integrated into the daily lives of the Indian diaspora still needs to be understood.
What happens to caste when Indians migrate to Western countries? Do their feelings of being born superior or inferior, their belief in the purity-pollution ethic, just melt away? The “model minority” has tried to avoid a conversation on this issue but it returns to haunt them time and again. Now the American state of California is at the centre of yet another caste controversy.
The last serious discussion around Indian-Americans and caste took place in 2015, when the California State Board of Education initiated a regular ten-year public review of the school curriculum framework. The conservative Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and the South Asian Histories for All Coalition (an interfaith, multi-racial, inter-caste coalition) clashed over HAF’s proposed interventions, which essentially sought to erase caste from the syllabus. The Coalition took the position that evidence and record of the injustices of caste and religious intolerance in South Asian must not be erased.