Around two weeks back, just about a week after the ritual of Women’s Day celebrations in Thiruvananthapuram, a 49-year-old woman decided to go get herself some pain medication at 10 30 at night, after all home remedies failed against her persistent body ache. She lives in the beating heart of the city of Thiruvananthapuram in a rented house. This house is in a leading middle-class residential locality, full of houses, usually very quiet. She is , however, not a typical owner-resident. An employee at a local firm earning a very modest salary, she has lived alone for years in rented accommodation, raising her young daughter. The daughter is now a confident young woman who has worked for some years and now seeks to expand her career options. The rent takes up nearly half of her income, but mother and daughter have struggled together to protect each other.Continue reading Can we now practice some love? Thoughts on safety and feminism from Kerala
Category Archives: Law
The Lady Vanishes – Justice and Law in Our Age: Dilip Simeon
Guest post by DILIP SIMEON
[Names and publications of cited authors are listed at the end of the essay.]
The sophists taught, rather publicly, the view that the summit of happiness is to combine the appearance of justice with actual injustice: Gregory McBrayer (2015), p 44
To speak of justice has always been to plunge into a metaphysical abyss, especially as the issue has been intractable since (at least) Plato’s most famous work, The Republic was written some twenty-five centuries ago. Not least has been the permanently contentious issue – named the theological-political problem by Leo Strauss – of whether we should live according to divine or human guidance. But to speak of justice in India is confront our deeply divided souls; and in the most horrendous cases, to stare evil in the eye.
If Mrs Indira Gandhi dreamt of a ‘committed bureaucracy,’ our current rulers appear to be bent upon the complete domestication of civil society by their ideological enterprise. This requires a committed judiciary too, for which aspiration clues are ample, because they conspire in broad daylight. It was inevitable that some members of the judiciary were and continue to be complicit in this totalitarian project. We should be grateful that there are men and women of courage and conscience within. One of them was named Judge Loya.Continue reading The Lady Vanishes – Justice and Law in Our Age: Dilip Simeon
An Open Letter to the National Leadership of the AIDWA : Struggle in Unity for Equality, or Struggle in Unity against Impunity?
To the National Leadership which is currently participating in the 13th National Conference of the AIDWA in Thiruvananthapuram.
Dear sisters in struggle
I write to you from Kerala, where the CPM is currently in power for a second time, a rare achievement indeed, in a state where power changes hands usually in each election. I know that most of you hail from places where the CPM is very far from power. I know the difference that makes to activism.Continue reading An Open Letter to the National Leadership of the AIDWA : Struggle in Unity for Equality, or Struggle in Unity against Impunity?
The Phantom of Bombay House: Upal Chakraborty
Guest post by UPAL CHAKRABORTY
[Published below is the story of a long fight against harassment and for justice by someone who took his corporate job and the interests of his company seriously, little knowing what it could lead to. It gives a glimpse into the corporate culture even among what are known to be the best corporate entities. ]
There was a gentleman whose name propped up frequently inside the Tata Group headquarters “Bombay House”, but he was more known by his sobriquet – the “Phantom of Bombay House”. He was considered a recluse and shunned social get-togethers as far as possible. Not a soul has ever seen him inside the premises, yet he held an 18.4% stake in the Tata Group. The gentleman was none other than the Late Pallonji Mistry, the father of the previous Group Chairman Cyrus Mistry whose family owned around 18% share of the Group. Tata professionals including Ratanji himself, reportedly, looked up to him for professional support.
It is unfortunate, therefore, that during the stewardship of his son, the episodes described in this article could take place. Mr. Mistry personally may or may not have been aware but for some strange reason the Group chose to turn a blind eye to a series of sordid happenings and preferred to side with an individual whose criminal acts were proved beyond any reasonable shade of doubt.The individual concerned, Mr. Tarun Kumar Samant or Tarun Kumar Sawant, can arguably be described as the new Phantom of Bombay House after the demise of Mr. Pallonji Mistry.Continue reading The Phantom of Bombay House: Upal Chakraborty
Police Violence against the Fisher People on the Kerala Coast: A People’s Account
Below, I share a write-up by Johnson Jament, an academic researcher from the coast of the Thiruvananthapuram district, where an intense struggle against the Adani Port Project has been unfolding. Arrayed on opposing sides are the fisher people who have inhabited the coast since the past 500 years (according to historical record) and more, whose livelihoods are at stake, and the Adani Port Project, supported by the combination of natural resource predators and the CPM-led government of Kerala. The leadership of the CPM (though not the ranks, or at least all of the ranks) can be quite fairly described as a ‘post-socialist oligarchy’, and hence their support of Adani Ports is pretty understandable. The battle has been equally one of wits too, with the Kerala government pulling out all their progressive aces, including the longtime literary-cultural acolytes of the CPM but also some of the (former) stars of Kerala’s oppositional civil society — notably, the poet and critic, K Satchidanandan! Questioned about his stance, this early teacher of Euro-Marxism of a whole generation claimed that the conflict was because of ‘binary thinking’ that supporters and opponents of the Port project both equally indulge in, forgetting notably, that something like ‘structural contradiction’ may be becoming evident in and through this struggle. Perceiving it, of course, is not indulging in binary thinking.Continue reading Police Violence against the Fisher People on the Kerala Coast: A People’s Account
Who are these ‘Hindus’? The Tragedy of Vizhinjam and the Despicable Cruelty of the Majority
The struggle against the ecologically-fatal Adani seaport being built at the seaside village of Vizhinjam in south Kerala is probably the first large-scale instance of ‘accumulation by dispossession’ in the history of this state. The state — the ruling government, the police, and judiciary — hold hands now in their effort to dispossess the large population of fisher people whose home this coast has been since centuries, for the convenience of predatory capital. As usual, the port-building commenced after massive ‘opinion-building’ exercises by all the major political parties among their supporters in the port-affected villages, promising them golden futures (now that the resources of the sea, which they had depended on for centuries, were robbed, in the course of some seventy years since the 20th century, through the commercialization of fisheries). Doing fieldwork in those areas around 2013, I remember how hard it was to even broach the topic without provoking massive, sometimes, violent, disagreements — it has divided the people completely and left the major social force there, the Latin Catholic Church, quite confused. Now, after 2018, the ecological destruction wrought by this foolish act of greed is nakedly evident for all with eyes to see; and most residents of the sea coast are convinced that in just a few years, the sea will take everything, including the houses built with sweat and tears, labouring for years abroad, even.Continue reading Who are these ‘Hindus’? The Tragedy of Vizhinjam and the Despicable Cruelty of the Majority
മാറുന്ന ഭരണകൂടം, നവബ്രാഹ്മണിക പിതൃമേധാവിത്വം, ദണ്ഡനീതി ഫെമിനിസം കേരളത്തിൽ — 5
ഫെമിനിസ്റ്റ് ദണ്ഡനീതി നിയമ ഉപകരണങ്ങൾ നിരോധിക്കണമെന്നോ അവ തീർത്തും അപ്രസക്തമാണെന്നോ അല്ല ഈ ലേഖനത്തിൽ ഞാൻ വാദിച്ചിട്ടുള്ളത്. നേരെ മറിച്ച് അവ ഉപയോഗിക്കുമ്പോൾ ജനാധിപത്യവും മനുഷ്യാവകാശങ്ങളും ലിംഗാനീതിയ്ക്കെതിരെയുള്ള പോരോട്ടങ്ങളുടെ സാധ്യതകൾ തന്നെയും അധികാരത്തിൻറെ മേൽ-കീഴറ്റങ്ങൾ കാണാനാകാത്തവിധം പിളർന്ന വായിലകപ്പെട്ടു പോകും വിധം അവരെ പുണരുന്നത് അങ്ങേയറ്റം അപകടകരമായിരിക്കും എന്ന മുന്നറിപ്പ് വായനക്കാരുടെ മുന്നിൽ വയ്ക്കാനാണ് എൻറെ ശ്രമം.Continue reading മാറുന്ന ഭരണകൂടം, നവബ്രാഹ്മണിക പിതൃമേധാവിത്വം, ദണ്ഡനീതി ഫെമിനിസം കേരളത്തിൽ — 5
മാറുന്ന ഭരണകൂടം, നവബ്രാഹ്മണിക പിതൃമേധാവിത്വം, ദണ്ഡനീതി ഫെമിനിസം കേരളത്തിൽ –4
ദണ്ഡനീതി ഫെമിനിസവും നവബ്രാഹ്മണ പിതൃമേധാവിത്വവും
കേരളത്തിൽ ഇരുപതാം നൂറ്റാണ്ടിൽ രൂപമെടുത്ത ബ്രാഹ്മണിക പിതൃമേധാവിത്വത്തിന് സവിശേഷസ്വഭാവങ്ങളുണ്ടായിരുന്നു. ഇരുപതാം നൂറ്റാണ്ടിൽ ഉയർന്നുവന്ന നവവരേണ്യസമുദായങ്ങളെ — നവോത്ഥാന വ്യവഹാരത്തിൻറെ വാഹകങ്ങളെ — പണിതെടുത്ത അടിസ്ഥാന അധികാര-കൂടങ്ങളിൽ ഒന്നായിരുന്നു നവബ്രാഹ്മണിക പിതൃമേധാവിത്വം.Continue reading മാറുന്ന ഭരണകൂടം, നവബ്രാഹ്മണിക പിതൃമേധാവിത്വം, ദണ്ഡനീതി ഫെമിനിസം കേരളത്തിൽ –4
മാറുന്ന ഭരണകൂടം, നവബ്രാഹ്മണിക പിതൃമേധാവിത്വം, ദണ്ഡനീതി ഫെമിനിസം കേരളത്തിൽ –3
സംരക്ഷക-അന്നദാതാ ഭരണകൂടവും ദണ്ഡനീതി ഫെമിനിസവും
കേരളത്തിലിന്ന് രാഷ്ട്രീയരംഗത്തും ഭരണരംഗത്തും (ഉദ്യോഗസ്ഥകളല്ലാത്ത) സ്ത്രീകളുടെ പ്രാതിനിധ്യവും അധികാരവും ഇടതുഭരണത്തിനു കീഴിൽപോലും കുറവാണ്. ഇടതുരാഷ്ട്രീയക്കാരികൾക്കു പോലും സ്വന്തമായ രാഷ്ട്രീയസ്വാധീനവലയം ഉണ്ടാക്കാൻ അനുവാദം ഇല്ലെന്നതിന് തെളിവ് ഇപ്പോഴത്തെ സർക്കാർ തന്നെ തന്നിട്ടുമുണ്ട് — ശൈലജ ടീച്ചറെ മാറ്റി സർക്കാരിലെ ആൺ അധികാരികളെ തികച്ചും ആശ്രയിച്ചു മാത്രം നിലനില്പുള്ള മറ്റൊരു സ്ത്രീയെ അവരുടെ സ്ഥാനത്ത് പ്രതിഷ്ഠിച്ചതോടെ. പാർട്ടി അധികാരശ്രേണികളിൽ സ്ത്രീകൾ കുറയുകയും കീഴ്ത്തല-കാലാളുകളുടെ കൂട്ടത്തിൽ അവരുടെ സാന്നിദ്ധ്യം ഉയരുകയും ചെയ്യുന്നുണ്ട്. പൊതുവെ ഭരണനയതലത്തിൽ ഫെമിനിസ്റ്റ് സ്വാധീനം കുറഞ്ഞിട്ടുമുണ്ട് (മഹിളാ സമഖ്യയിലും കുടുംബശ്രീയിലും ഇതു പ്രകടമാണ്). എങ്കിലും സ്ത്രീശാക്തീകരണ സർക്കാരെന്ന പ്രതിച്ഛായ നിലനിർത്താൻ ഇപ്പോഴത്തെ സോഷ്യലിസ്റ്റ്- അനന്തര ദുഷ്പ്രഭുത്വത്തിൻറെ വാഹനമായ സിപിഎമ്മിനും അവർ നയിക്കുന്ന സർക്കാരിനും കഴിഞ്ഞിട്ടുണ്ട്.Continue reading മാറുന്ന ഭരണകൂടം, നവബ്രാഹ്മണിക പിതൃമേധാവിത്വം, ദണ്ഡനീതി ഫെമിനിസം കേരളത്തിൽ –3
മാറുന്ന ഭരണകൂടം, നവബ്രാഹ്മണിക പിതൃമേധാവിത്വം, ദണ്ഡനീതി ഫെമിനിസം കേരളത്തിൽ — 2
മലയാളി ഫെമിനിസത്തിലെ ‘ദണ്ഡനീതിനിമിഷം’?
ദണ്ഡനീതി ഫെമിനിസം (Carceral feminism) എന്ന സങ്കല്പനം ഇന്ന് ലോകഫെമിനിസ്റ്റ് ചർച്ചകളിൽ സുപരിചിതമാണ്. പോലീസ്, കോടതി, ശിക്ഷ, തടവ് മുതലാവയുൾപ്പെടുന്ന ഭരണകൂടശാഖയെ മുഖ്യമായും ആശ്രയിച്ചുകൊണ്ട് സ്ത്രീകൾക്കെതിരെയുള്ള എല്ലാത്തരം ഹിംസയും പരിഹരിക്കാമെന്ന വിശ്വാസത്തിൽ ഊന്നിനിൽക്കുന്ന ഫെമിനിസ്റ്റ് പ്രയോഗങ്ങളെയും ചിന്തയെയുമാണ് അത് സൂചിപ്പിക്കുന്നത്. പാശ്ചാത്യ ഫെമിനിസത്തിൽ ഏറെ പഴക്കമുണ്ടെങ്കിലും അത് 1980-90 ദശകങ്ങളിൽ അമേരിക്കൻ ഫെമിനിസത്തിലെ പ്രമുഖ ധാരയായി ഉയർന്നുവന്നു. ലൈംഗികത്തൊഴിലിനെപ്പറ്റിയുള്ള ചർച്ചകളിലാണ് സമീപകാലത്ത് അതിൻറെ പുനരുജ്ജീവിതരൂപം പ്രത്യക്ഷമായത്.Continue reading മാറുന്ന ഭരണകൂടം, നവബ്രാഹ്മണിക പിതൃമേധാവിത്വം, ദണ്ഡനീതി ഫെമിനിസം കേരളത്തിൽ — 2
മാറുന്ന ഭരണകൂടം, നവബ്രാഹ്മണിക പിതൃമേധാവിത്വം, ദണ്ഡനീതി ഫെമിനിസം കേരളത്തിൽ — 1
സംശയത്തിൽ നിന്ന് സ്വീകാര്യതയിലേക്ക്
കേരളത്തിൽ ഫെമിനിസത്തിൻറെ രാഷ്ട്രീയപരിണാമത്തെ മാറുന്ന ഭരണകൂടത്തിൻറെ പശ്ചാത്തലത്തിൽ മനസ്സിലാക്കാനൊരു ശ്രമമാണ് ഈ എഴുത്ത്. ഫെമിനിസം എന്ന പേര് സ്വയം അവകാശപ്പെടുന്ന രാഷ്ട്രീയം ഇവിടെ 1980കളിലാണ് പൂർണമായ അർത്ഥത്തിൽ പ്രത്യക്ഷമാകുന്നത്.Continue reading മാറുന്ന ഭരണകൂടം, നവബ്രാഹ്മണിക പിതൃമേധാവിത്വം, ദണ്ഡനീതി ഫെമിനിസം കേരളത്തിൽ — 1
When ‘With the Survivor ‘ Rings Hollow: Observations on the Rage over the Civic Chandran Case
The internet frenzy over the Civic Chandran case has reached a new zenith over the two highly problematic — deeply elitist, sexist, logically and empirically flawed — anticipatory bail orders issued to the accused by the Sessions Court. There was a strange silence about the first one which was stuffed with elitist statements, and an even stranger pause over the blatantly sexist and conservative order before the active condemnation of the latter began to be voiced over the internet. Even stranger, because there is far more tolerance of elitism among the internet woke-folk than of conservative sexist understandings of the appropriate clothing for women’s bodies in Kerala. The three-day break from expressions of outrage did not, and still does not make sense.Continue reading When ‘With the Survivor ‘ Rings Hollow: Observations on the Rage over the Civic Chandran Case
गुजरात में हुए सामूहिक बलात्कार और हत्याओं के 11 दोषियों की समय से पहले रिहाई को तुरंत रद्द किया जाए!
For complete list of signatories and statement in English, see here.
न्याय के लिए बिलकिस बानो के 20 साल के संघर्ष में हम उसके समर्थन में एकजुट हैं
हम मांग करते हैं कि सामूहिक बलात्कार और हत्या के 11 दोषियों की समय से पहले रिहाई को तुरंत रद्द किया जाए!
न्याय के लिए संघर्ष कर रहे सभी बलात्कार पीड़ितों पर इसका अत्यघिक नकारात्मक और बुरा असर पड़ेगा !
हम भारत के सर्वोच्च न्यायलय से इस फैसले को जो कि न्याय पर एक गंभीर आघात है, को पलटने की मांग करते हैं
हम भारत के सभी नागरिकों को अपील करते हैं कि वे इस अन्याय के खिलाफ और बलात्कार पीड़ितों के समर्थन में खड़े हो
15 अगस्त 2022 की सुबह, 75वें स्वतंत्रता दिवस पर राष्ट्र को संबोधित करते हुए भारत के प्रधानमंत्री ने महिला अधिकार, गौरव और नारी-शक्ति के बारे में बात की। उसी दिन दोपहर में ‘बिलकिस बानो’, एक महिला जो उसी ‘नारी – शक्ति ’ की मिसाल के रुप में पिछले 17 साल से न्याय की लम्बी लड़ाई लड़ रही है, को पता चलता है कि वे लोग जिन्होंने उसके परिवार के लोगों को मार डाला, उसकी 3 साल की मासूम बच्ची का कत्ल किया, उसके साथ सामूहिक बलात्कार किया और फिर उसे मरने के लिए छोड़ दिया, वो सभी जेल से बाहर आ गए हैं और आज़ाद हो गए हैं। किसी ने उससे उसके विचार नहीं पूछे या उसकी सुरक्षा के बारे में जानने की कोशिश नहीं की। किसी ने उसे नोटिस भी नहीं भेजा, किसी ने नहीं पूछा कि एक सामूहिक बलात्कार की पीड़ा से निकली महिला को अपने बलात्कारियों की रिहाई के बारे में सुनकर कैसा मेहसूस हुआ। Continue reading गुजरात में हुए सामूहिक बलात्कार और हत्याओं के 11 दोषियों की समय से पहले रिहाई को तुरंत रद्द किया जाए!
Justice for Bilkis! Appeal to Supreme Court to restore faith in the justice system on 75th anniversary of Independence
FULL TEXT OF STATEMENT IN ENGLISH AND COMPLETE LIST OF SIGNATORIES AFTER THE SUMMARY BELOW.
FOR STATEMENT IN HINDI SEE HERE
20 years after horrific gang-rape and mass murders in Gujarat, about 6000 citizens speak out in support of Bilkis Bano’s continuing struggle for justice!
Demand the revocation of the premature release of 11 gang-rapists and mass murderers in Gujarat.
Appeal to the Supreme Court of India to undo this grave miscarriage of justice. Call upon citizens to stand with all victims of rape against such an injustice.
Coming together to express their shock and horror at the pre-mature release of 11 men convicted of gang-rape and mass murder, about 6000 ordinary citizens, grassroots workers, movements and organizations working for the rights of women, for human rights, peace, secularism, against caste oppression, for disability and queer rights and other peoples’ movements, activists, eminent writers, historians, scholars, filmmakers, journalists and former bureaucrats and many more, came together to say:
“On the morning of August 15, 2022, in his Independence Day address to the nation the Prime Minister of India spoke of women’s rights, dignity and Nari Shakti. That very afternoon Bilkis Bano, a woman who embodied that ‘Nari Shakti’ in her long and daunting struggle for justice, learnt that the perpetrators who killed her family, murdered her 3 year old daughter, gang-raped and left her to die, had walked free.”
Continue reading Justice for Bilkis! Appeal to Supreme Court to restore faith in the justice system on 75th anniversary of Independence
Carceral Feminism and the Punitive State: Why I am not with the Mob — 3
In the light of the above history it seems no surprise at all that mainstream feminists in Kerala do not seem to need a critique of the punitive state at all. Nor are they really troubled by the withdrawal of the welfare state or its perversion, even in matters that crucially affect women and children. Being moored in it, even the withdrawal of the welfare state from even support services to child-victims of sexual violence (citing ‘convenience’ which turned to be ‘convenience’ for the government alone), and the stuffing of crucial committees dealing with the welfare of and justice to women and children with dubious candidates with nepotistic connections – has rarely excited significant united protest from Kerala’s mainstream feminists.
Indeed, in a recent case of baby-abduction in which the infant born to Anupama Chandran, the daughter of a local CPM leader, in her relationship with Ajith, a dalit man, was trafficked with the active connivance of child welfare officials, this feminist mainstream was mostly silent; many prominent voices in it were rallied against the aggrieved mother; some of them even participated in the unspeakable cyber-lynching of the couple, spreading rumours and making unfounded accusations. Though the large numbers of young sexual violence victims belong to the oppressed castes, and though the Anupama-Ajith case was plainly one of caste hostility and violence, these features did not trigger animated responses from the feminist mainstream. These tepid or hostile responses are in sharp contrast to the manner in which sexual harassment campaigns are conducted. Continue reading Carceral Feminism and the Punitive State: Why I am not with the Mob — 3
Carceral Feminism and the Punitive State: Why I am Not With the Mob — 2
In the 1980s, when the first feminist articulations began to be heard in Kerala, left-leaning feminists often sought to maintain a critical distance from the state, emphasizing its inherently patriarchal nature. This was not surprising as feminists of that generation had radical-Marxist roots or strong connections with it. Radical Marxism in that generation was clearly suspicious of the state – quite unlike the mainstream left.Continue reading Carceral Feminism and the Punitive State: Why I am Not With the Mob — 2
Carceral Feminism and the Punitive State: Why I am not with the Mob — 1
I have never been a carceral feminist anytime in my life. Right now, there is a massive tide of abuse and misrepresentation of non-carceral feminism in Kerala, so much so that any suggestion of solutions to the problem of sexual harassment outside the framework of the state is immediately dubbed anti-woman and anti-feminist. Carceral feminists are so warped, they seem to be totally unseeing of the fact that the debate has always been about the significance of the state and its instruments in the generally agreed-upon goal of gender justice, and not really about who is the true, or truer feminist. Indeed, this is strongly reminiscent of the mass attack on the sex worker activist Nalini Jameela years back and the anti-carceral feminists who were prepared to hear her out and stand with her. I remain a non-carceral feminist, rejecting the binary between carceral and anti-carceral feminism. I refuse the insistence that proportional punishment is irrelevant in dealing with sexual misconduct. I refuse to see ‘Men’ — I will not buy the idea that all male bodies share the same privilege and power and hence must be dealt with in the same way. I write the following in this spirit. If I am banished from the feminist mainstream for this, so be it.Continue reading Carceral Feminism and the Punitive State: Why I am not with the Mob — 1
CCG Open Statement on the Sedition Provision in the Indian Penal Code
Statement by Constitutional Conduct Group
We are a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. Our group has no affiliation with any political party, and we, as its members, believe in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Constitution of India.
On May 11, 2022, a chorus of appreciation greeted the Supreme Court’s interim orders on a batch of cases which had challenged the constitutionality of the sedition provision contained in Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Supreme Court’s order was an interim one, viz. to keep in abeyance this section and all related pending trials, appeals and proceedings until further orders. While we would, like others, wish to applaud this decision of the Supreme Court, we feel that, at present, it deserves only a muted cheer. Continue reading CCG Open Statement on the Sedition Provision in the Indian Penal Code
The Hindu deity as juristic person – A dangerous path, yet again: Rahul Govind
Guest post by RAHUL GOVIND
Gyan Vyapi Mosque and Kashi Vishwanath Temple (Image courtesy Indian Express)
The present controversy over several religious sites threatens to tread yet again the path that led to the communal mobilization, riots and destruction of the Babri Masjid. The popular press also repeats several legal arguments without always analysing their import. In the present cases, just like in Ayodhya, a key point that we hear time and again is that when it comes to the Hindu deity’s property, such property is perpetual and therefore even if a temple was destroyed centuries ago, the legality of the Hindu deity’s property remains unimpeded, thereby becoming the basis of a reclamation. It is therefore important to understand the legal concept of the Hindu deity’s juristic personality. Continue reading The Hindu deity as juristic person – A dangerous path, yet again: Rahul Govind
Axing Scholarships, Denying Opportunities
When Government itself Does Not Have Any Qualms in rationalising Drona Mindset
[H]istory has come to a stage when the moral man, the complete man, is more and more giving way, almost without knowing it, to make room for the . . .commercial man, the man of limited purpose. This process, aided by the wonderful progress in science, is assuming gigantic proportion and power, causing the upset of man’s moral balance, obscuring his human side under the shadow of soul-less organization.
—Rabindranath Tagore, Nationalism, 1917
( Quoted in ‘Not for Profit – Why Democracy Needs Humanities, Martha Nussbaum, Princeton University Press, 2010)
A single story is sometimes enough to tell how an institution functions and how it needs to be overhauled.
Aruna’s long struggle to get overseas scholarship is one such story.
Son of landless agricultural labourers from Orissa, this bright student, belonging to a socially oppressed community, had applied to get a overseas scholarship via the National Overseas Scholarship – which awards scholarships to students from SC, ST, Denotified tribes etc – and even had lost two years in bureaucratic wrangling despite the fact that he had already got admission into Essex University.
Thanks to the timely intervention of a group of Ambedkarite thinkers from Nagpur, who filed a petition in the Delhi Highcourt on his behalf , which ultimately ruled in the student’s favour.
It would be cliche to say that Aruna’s struggle is an exception.
Story of Vishal Kharat is qualitatively no different who is still trying to get a scholarship for the last two years and has discovered to his dismay that the scholarship portal itself does not work properly.
Instances galore how this ambitious scheme which was launched in the wee hours of India’s independence when Nehru was the Prime Minister and a great scholar and freedom fighter Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a Cabinet Minister for education, has been left to go slowly into oblivion.
The latest decision by the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment, to not to fund scholarships for marginalised students keen to study India’s history, culture abroad, is just another indication of how it is being implemented.
We can recall that it was the year 2012 when UPA government led by Congress was in the saddle this scheme was extended to Humanities as well and every year 100 students from the socially deprived, oppressed communities started receiving it but with the change of power at the centre things started changing drastically.
Like many of its earlier decisions, this decision to axe scholarship to study humanities abroad was taken without consulting the stakeholders involved in the process or without even giving a hint of how the government wants to proceed in this unique empowerment initiative. The fact that the final date to apply for this scheme is to expire on 31 st March and when there was hardly anytime left to young scholars who are keen to study abroad, to search for alternate path to fulfill their dreams.
The rationale being provided by the powers that be appears unconvincing.
It talks of utilising rich availability of repositories, records as well as books available in Indian institutions and various experts on this subject of India’s culture, civilisation etc and divert the resources thus saved to study other subjects like Science, technology.
It is rather difficult to believe this claim but even if for the sake of discussion we concede, can it be said with certainty that the existing faculty and these institutions would be sensitive to the issue or the concerns of emerging talents from the oppressed, exploited sections of our society, and would be accommodating as well! Fact is that even Higher Educational Institutions are not free from exclusions, discrimination on the basis of caste, gender, community and despite constitutional provisions for affirmative action existing since decades, the character of the academia in most of these institutions is very much exclusive mainly dominated by the so called upper castes.
Cases of discrimination faced by students from such Institutions keep piling up leading even to many unfortunate incidents – rightly called as ‘institutional murders’ of many such talents.
The stories of suicides of the likes of of RohithVemula, ( HCU, Hyderabad) ; Payal Tadvi ( Medical College, Mumbai,) or Fathima Latheef ( IIT Madras) and many of their ilk cannot be seen as exceptions.
A related point is the status of academic freedom in India.
With the ascendance of right-wing politics world over the very idea of academic freedom has come under attack globally – including India
Thanks to the majoritarian turn in the Indian politics where religious minorities are being further marginalised and invisibilised – the ambience which exists here within the academia itself is a pale shadow of its earlier situation. It is becoming increasingly difficult nay impossible to have a critical, open minded discussion on themes, topics which are found not palatable to the ruling dispensation which is a prerequisite for any healthy educational institution.
We have before us cancellation of international seminars on innocuous themes even like Scientific Temper or teachers being hauled to courts after taking up discussions about ‘Kashmir within the class ‘ or for engaging in open ended discussion about nationalism inside class or students-teachers being charged with sedition for protesting about highhandedness of the government.
Secondly, with the rightwing holding reins of power with a brutal majority, has also led to radical changes in the content of humanity studies playing mythology over facts e.g. there are allegations how the draft history syllabus pushed by the UGC presents a theory of the origin of caste system which relates to the advent of the ‘Muslim rule’ here.
Can we ever accept that these bright students opting for scholarships abroad who have themselves experienced caste, community or class based deprivation, discrimination in their younger days, would be ever ready to easily gulp down such trash as intellectual discourse.
This decision to axe funds to socially oppressed sections to study humanity abroad very much gels with the overt concerns of the people in power which are evident in the New Education Policy 2020 which envisions restoring the the role of India as a ‘Vishwa Guru’ and interestingly remains silent on caste and other discriminations and even does not talk about reservations. It clubs SC / ST, OBC and minority communities as an acronym SEDGs – Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups.
What needs to be underlined that this step by the Ministry has raised concerns among the members of the international academic community, and scholars of India spread all over the world as well and in an open letter addressed to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment they have demanded that the government withdraws this immediate changes in the policy.
It emphasises how ‘[t]he argument that one need not go abroad to study India is intellectually flawed and will only serve to isolate Indian scholarship from the rest of the world.’ and these amendments attest to a lack of understanding of how interdisciplinary research is conducted today, where natural sciences, law, history, sociology and the humanities work together beyond national boundaries.
Another important point which it make that how it will further negatively impact women recipients of this scholarship who are already ‘disproportionately under-represented in scientific and technological disciplines and tend to more easily find opportunities in the Social Sciences and Humanities’
Last but not the least it also displays the great hiatus between the outwardly, strong image of the ruling dispensation and how paranoid, insecure it is about deeper fault lines of the Indian society.
Perhaps it worries that with increasing interest of the academia of the west in what is happening to the largest democracy in the world, and the study of caste and its attendant asymmetries receiving special attention by them, and also dalit activists, scholars there pursuing it at various levels there, these exclusivist hierarchies have rapidly attracted attention. Not some time ago the California State University system added caste to its non-discrimination policy, prohibiting caste-based discrimination or bias across its 23 campuses.
The ruling dispensation knows very well that the more students from dalit, adivasi and other deprived sections of society go out to study abroad, it will have to be ready to face many such embarassing moments because whereas it itself is keen to invisibilise caste once for all, and even clubbed all these sections – the SC / ST, OBC and minority communities as an acronym SEDGs – Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups; the reality as it exists would continue to haunt it.
Linking Voter Id & Aadhaar – A Dangerous Move : Constitutional Conduct Group
Statement by Constitutional Conduct Group
We are a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. As a group, we have no affiliation with any political party but believe in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Constitution of India.
We are issuing this open statement to voice our grave apprehensions regarding the provision in the recently enacted Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 to link the Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC-Voter ID) issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) with the Aadhaar card issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an agency of the Government of India.
Continue reading Linking Voter Id & Aadhaar – A Dangerous Move : Constitutional Conduct Group