When Charlatans Become Ideologues – The Real ‘Prisoners of the Binary’

Present day Hindus are probably the strongest opponents of Marxism. They are horrified at its doctrine of class-struggle. But they forget that India has been not merely the land of class struggle but she has been the land of class wars. – B. R. Ambedkar, Philosophy of Hinduism.

I often find myself in a bind over whether or not to respond to supposed RSS ideologues, given that they simply trade in lies and hatred with the supreme arrogance of ignorance. One such is the upcoming star on the RSS horizon, a gentleman called Rakesh Sinha, who like the rest of his pack (led by the supreme leader) is currently engaged in a cheap attack on the outgoing Vice-President, Hamid Ansari. His piece in the Indian Express today (linked above) is an  instance of a combination of all these things. So, why should one bother about such a character? Why take him and his discourse seriously? Well, someone had better respond because, because, for one thing they are in power, and are going to teach generations of students that valorous ‘Hindus’ like Maharana Pratap won all the wars, though by some magic, ‘Muslims’ continued to rule for about 8 centuries! For another, there are enough gullible types who really think these people ‘have a point of view’, which should be debated.

As we have repeatedly seen, their ‘having a point of view’ has nothing to do with debate. It is to be enforced by gangs of gorakshaks, anti-romeo squads, hoodlums deciding what will or will not be taught in universities and schools, what will be written, how people should dress and love – and when nothing works, ‘win’ a ‘debate’ like Arun Jaitley claimed they did, by simply arresting the opponents and slapping sedition charges on them. Given this, I do not really address, in person, the ideologue, Rakesh Sinha, who has now made it a fine art to pick up some phrases from the toolkit of what is understood as ‘postmodernism’ by many. Wasn’t it postmodernism, one can  hear them say, that said all viewpoints are equally valid and ‘everything goes’? Wasn’t it postmodernism that challenged the hegemony of Western thought, its logocentrism, its Rationalism (with a capital R) from within that very tradition? Wasn’t it postmodernism again, that by decentering West’s logocentrism, actually gave these RSS-type creatures the gumption to claim that their utterly unsubstantiated viewpoint about the past too was as valid as that of historians who struggled with evidence, painstakingly putting together texts, artefacts and procedures of dating in order to produce a plausible account of the past?

Continue reading “When Charlatans Become Ideologues – The Real ‘Prisoners of the Binary’”

Beneath the Veil – Lipstick Under My Burkha and Debates around the Uniform Civil Code (UCC): Debaditya Bhattacharya and Rina Ramdev

Guest post by DEBADITYA BHATTACHARYA and RINA RAMDEV

*Disclaimer: Even as news pours in of Pahlaj Nihalani’s ouster as CBFC chief, consider this essay an earnest tribute to the man who is ‘alleged’ to have beeped sense out of Indian cinema. We repeat, merely ‘alleged’ – since we go on to prove otherwise.*

Let us start out with a basic methodological premise – that forms and effects of ideological mensuration cannot exhaust the life of cinema, or even be adequate to an understanding of the ways in which a film-text lives. To that extent, the ferocious debates around how much or how little of Lipstick Under My Burkha qualifies as feminist material have only generated a fair share of readings. While acknowledging the need and value of these aligned readings, we would also urge a look at cinema’s ‘coming into being’ as something more than an image or a text or a performative medium. Often, in our haste for neat hermeneutic closures, reading a film as cognitive-critical material could tend to a negation of the very relationship between the cinematic object and the everyday. The site of a film’s meaning is necessarily in excess of its narrative unfolding as viewing experience. It lies in the negotiations of its object-world – which includes the plot, the actors, the techniques of representation, the exhibition-settings, the infrastructures of distribution and marketing strategies, discourses around its production and release, celebrity-scandals or pre-release promotions, box-office statistics, publicity routines and review ratings, as well as non-audience expectations – with the other object-worlds of thought, feeling and belief. With that note of ‘methodological caution’, as one might call it, we would argue that a movie like Lipstick is also more than just a story of four women as desiring subjects, grappling with their own bodies to secure the most intimately ‘fundamental’ right to dream.

Continue reading “Beneath the Veil – Lipstick Under My Burkha and Debates around the Uniform Civil Code (UCC): Debaditya Bhattacharya and Rina Ramdev”

An Anthem for Kerala: Mojitopaattu

In these days in which Indo-Gangetic barbarians seethe with rage against Kerala and unleash all sorts of false propaganda about the state of affairs here, I have been thinking about my own love for and quarrels with this place. My relation to it has been largely critical, as a Malayali woman born and raised here who has endured, and continue to endure, much second-rate treatment. More than anyone else, I realize, it is Malayalis who have criticized Kerala.  Not surprising, then, is the fact that one of the most ardently-discussed themes in public politics here in the past decades has been the critique of the entrenched imagination of Kerala, and its exclusions. Not for nothing, too, have the struggles of marginalized people here demanded not just material gains, but the reimagining of Kerala in more expansive terms. And newer and newer groups of excluded people keep renewing it – most recently, the LGBTIQ+ people.

Our love for Kerala is a cursing, stumbling love – but love above all.

That’s why I think Anitha Thampi’s poem  Mojitopaattu (The Mohito Song) ought to be our anthem. Anitha is undoubtedly one of Kerala’s most perceptive poets of the present, capable of delving into the depths of the present cultural moment and surfacing with inscrutable yet pervasive feelings and moods and weaving these into words. Our crazy love of Kerala which cannot be but critical is brilliantly caught in this poem In it, this love comes alive as moonlight falling on this place which illuminates erratically, sways madly, and disappears without notice; this loving looks as hard and risky as a drunk’s faltering steps along a rough bylane through treacherous yet playful moonlight; this love eddies through the blood of two and a half generations and comes awake even as the whole world sleeps. Long before the Indo-Gangetic barbarians even noticed us have we felt this mad love, and it will take more than vituperative slander to kill it.

Below is my translation of Mojitopaattu – and I take Anitha’s suggestion that it a song, and a drunken one, seriously. I hope someone sets it to music and it becomes the anthem of crazy-lovers of Kerala.

 

 

Four-five sprigs fresh mint

Two spoons sugar
Juice of three limes
Vodka, two measures and a half 
Soda
Ice

Hey you, swayin’-shakin’-rollin’
 on night-time alley that’s runnin’
all o’er earth that’s green and shinin’
Banana-leaf-like, straight and gleamin’*
Hey sweet moonlight, 
who you be,
you be man or you be woman?

Hey you, fallin’ easy-loose-y
You for real, or just a feelin’?
Hey you singin’ , spreadin’-creepin’
Who you be to sunshine beamin’?

Hey you lurchin’, fallin’, stumblin’
on each an’ ev’ry greenly leafling  
Hey bright moonshine,  distilled-dried blood, bluish, 
two and a half generations bleedin’
Who be you?

You be me, or you be you?

*Kerala, that lies at the foot of mountains like a bright green banana leaf beside the sea.

( Anitha Thampi , ‘Mojitopattu’)

 

And here is the original, much more terse and controlled in its use of language, but a paattu all the same:

 

മൊഹീതോപ്പാട്ട്

നാലഞ്ച് തളിർപ്പുതിന

രണ്ടു സ്പൂൺ പഞ്ചസാര

മൂന്നു നാരങ്ങാ നീര്

രണ്ടര വോഡ്ക

സോഡ

ഐസ്

 

നാക്കിലമണ്ണിൻ∗

രാവൂടുവഴിയൂടെ

 

ആടിയാടിപ്പോകുന്ന പൂനിലാവേ നീ

ആണാണോ പെണ്ണാണോ?

അഴിഞ്ഞഴിഞ്ഞു തൂവുന്ന പൂനിലാവേ നീ

നേരാണോ പൊളിയാണോ?

പാടിപ്പാടിപ്പരക്കുന്ന പൂനിലാവേ നീ

വെയിലിൻറെ ആരാണോ?

 

പച്ചിലകൾ തോറും തപ്പിത്തടഞ്ഞു വീഴും

രണ്ടരത്തലമുറ നീലിച്ച വാറ്റുചോരപ്പൂന്തെളിനിലാവേ നീ

ഞാനാണോ നീയാണോ?

 

∗കേരളം

 

 

 

 

 

Under the sign of security – Why the bogey of ‘the illegal Bangladeshi immigrant’ is so powerful across urban Indian homes: Sahana Ghosh & Rimple Mehta

Guest Post by SAHANA GHOSH & RIMPLE MEHTA

From the night of July 11 when Zohra Bibi did not return home to the evening of July 16 when union minister Mahesh Sharma, member of parliament for Gautam Budh Nagar, UP met with residents of Mahagun Moderne, much has transpired. Promptly after the minister’s assurances of ‘justice’ and even retribution to the flat-owners, the settlement of tin walled shacks in which Zohra Bibi and other workers like her lived with their families was demolished the next day. Many of the ‘facts’ of the matter remain disputed – while Zohra Bibi maintains that she neither admitted to the theft of cash nor hid in the basement of the building, the allegation that her employers Harshu and Mitul Sethi harassed and detained her, confiscating her mobile phone is denied by them. Meanwhile, thirteen men, a majority of them Bengali Muslims from West Bengal, arrested from the workers’ settlement are denied bail on the charge of attempted murder on the might of three FIRs filed by residents of Mahagun Moderne and languish in judicial custody. The Noida police are yet to commence any investigation of the Sethis as required by the FIR filed by Zohra Bibi and her husband Abdul Sattar. What does this language of the riot, of murderous mobs with which residents of the swanky apartment complex took to social media with #MaldainNoida accomplish? As security cards, required by domestic and other workers to enter the gated community, were revoked for 80-odd workers under the cry of ‘ban the Bangladeshi maid’, the bogey of the illegal Bangladeshi immigrant reared its ugly head. Continue reading “Under the sign of security – Why the bogey of ‘the illegal Bangladeshi immigrant’ is so powerful across urban Indian homes: Sahana Ghosh & Rimple Mehta”

Have Indian Muslims become the new ‘Make in India’ Punching Bag? Sabiha Farhat

Guest Post by Sabiha Farhat

[ A month ago from yesterday, a teenager called Junaid was lynched and murdered on a train in Haryana. Sabiha Farhat writes in the wake of visiting his house and meeting his family. The news cycles may have moved on to other stories, but we need to keep remembering Junaid, and why he was killed. – Kafila]

Once upon a time there  was a 15 year old boy called Hamid, who went shopping on the day of Eid with his Eidi .  A few days ago there was Junaid who went shopping on the eve of Eid.  Premchand’s Hamid was an orphan and lived with his grandmother in extreme poverty.  Junaid lived surrounded with love of his brothers, a sister, a doting mother, father and friends. Instead of the old, decrepit house of Hamid,  Junaid’s house has two rooms, it is not falling apart but it’s size and unplastered walls, do speak about the economic condition of his family.

As we approached Khandawli, Junaid’s village in Ballabhgarh a fear gripped me.  I did not have the courage to walk upto the house.  Junaid was brutally murdered on 22nd and here I was on 25th.  It was too soon, my mind said.  I should have let Eid pass.  But how could I have prepared Sewai in my house when a mother like myself had lost a young, healthy, happy child to hindutva fanatics?  I am a mother, I was angry and ashamed at home. And here, standing outside Junaid’s door, I was weak and helpless. Useless too.

Continue reading “Have Indian Muslims become the new ‘Make in India’ Punching Bag? Sabiha Farhat”

Women’s Cricket – Rules Based Only on Gender Stereotypes Need to Go: Surabhi Shukla

This is a guest post by SURABHI SHUKLA

Playing for the Oxford University Women’s team and the Oxford Cricket Club, I have noticed three different rules for women’s cricket. These may be observed in other countries as well. I argue that these rules are based only on gender stereotypes about women’s inferior sporting abilities and even if were once instituted to encourage them to join the game, have now outlived their utility. 1. The women’s match ball is lighter than the men’s ball (also true at the international level). 2. The women’s match boundary is smaller than the men’s and; 3. One of my coaches here told me that the men’s bat is different from the women’s. This is incorrect, and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) website states that both men and women are entitled to use Type A bats for one-day internationals. However, I include this point in my analysis because regardless of a rule, these kinds of statements from a coach translate into the lived experience of a female cricketer, and act as a rule for them.  Continue reading “Women’s Cricket – Rules Based Only on Gender Stereotypes Need to Go: Surabhi Shukla”

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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