Category Archives: Mirror Worlds

Maya Bazaar

Its 6.30 am on a mid-May Sunday morning in Bombay, India’s favourite metropolis-on-the-sea. Like a sudden gift from a dying relative, an unseasonal chilled breeze is blowing in from the ragged beaches of the city. I put my sandals on and go downstairs from my flat to meet three friends; all of us having decided to do what Bombay dwellers do periodically – use a Sunday to make friends with the city again, to momentarily cease the war that rages, unbidden, every other day of the week. Continue reading Maya Bazaar

A Media Simulated Ecstasy?

Amidst the blood lust evident in the mass media in the run up to and especially the aftermath of the judgement on Kasab, comes a slight relief in the form of the following story in The Telegraph, Calcutta.  Sociologist Andre Beteille, not particularly known for his radical and loony views, said “It appears that people want vengeance — not justice,” underlining that  “the media’s role is crucial in whipping up passions. I’m not really surprised”.

A photograph and some extracts:

Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam outside the court after the death sentence was delivered on Thursday. (PTI)
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam outside the court after the death sentence was delivered on Thursday. (PTI)

May 6: Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam was asked outside court this afternoon: “Sir, what’s your score?”
Nikam figured out the question in a split second, beamed like a gladiator and replied with a chilling echo of Ab Tak Chhappan: “Thirty-eight death penalties and over 600 life terms.”

Clap, clap, clap….

The crowd, not entirely made of journalists, could not resist the temptation to celebrate. Crackers were burst, drums beaten, cheers whooped, effigies hanged and mock funerals held in an outbreak of exultation. “Death to Kasab! Hang him! Hang him!” they cried; Nikam waved heroically and flashed more Vs — the prize fighter who’d delivered the knockout punch for India…

Trickster City

Trickster City, the English translation of Behrupiya Shahar, a collection of writings on Delhi by young writers was launched on the 12th of February at Sarai. During the event the writers performed segments from their new work which is excerpted below for those who missed the event, or those who simply want to read the texts. The details of Trickster city is also provided below the text.

Translation of the writers’ text

Azra Tabassum:

They say in Delhi, there are no red lights; there are only the hands of strangers.

We, along with all our co-writers of Trickster City, who are among the audience, welcome you all. We would like to thank Ankur and Sarai, along with whom we have made, through Cybermohalla, a generative space. A space where we pose and think through our most challenging questions. We thank all our co-travellers, who argued and debated with us, challenged us further as we wrote and questioned. Continue reading Trickster City

Asim Butt (1978-2010)

Self-portrait as Christ. 1998. Oil on board, paper, and wax palimpsest.

Karachi-basd artist Asim Butt committed suicide yesterday by hanging himself to death. He was only 31, and his work made waves. Part of the Stuckist art movement, he made figurative paintings, most notably a series of seven portraying a dog’s carcass. He was also a graffiti artist, painting red the walls of Karachi. His best known graffiti work was the eject symbol painted all over towards the end of General Musharraf’s rule.

Read this moving tribute by a journalist friend and this one with a lot of links at You can pay homage here, but most of all, see his pictures and paintings on his own Facebook profile.

As one of the tributes on Facebook reads, good people die early.

Ai Weiwei’s (Chinese Artist) Statement: Guest Post from Monica Narula

Dear All,

I would like to share with all Kafila readers something that my friend Monica Narula posted recently on the Reader List about the intimidation that the well known Chinese contemporary artist, Ai Weiwei has faced, in connection with his support for the currently detained dissident rights activist Tan Zuoren in Chengdu. This is an introduction to Ai Weiwei in the current context and a text of his recent statement released in the context of the harrassment (including beatings by police) that he has had to go through. Please read and share widely.




Avant-garde artist Ai Weiwei, one of China’s foremost public  intellectuals, was recently detained and beaten by police when he  attempted to testify at the show trial of dissident Tan Zuoren in  Chengdu. Harassment and threats are connected, in part, to his “Names  Project,” a performative intervention which aims to compile, publish,  disseminate, and memorialize the names of the thousands of children  who were crushed to death en mass in their “crumbling tofu  construction” schools (the rotten fruits of official corruption and  kickbacks) during the May 12, 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake, while  neighboring government buildings stood intact. The State has strong- armed bereaved parents into silence, refused to investigate government  corruption, and barred the victims’ names from public release. Ai  Weiwei’s vocal defiance has led to his censorship, intimidation,  threats and now arrest and beating.

Having spent the first 2 decades of his life with his father, the  revolutionary poet Ai Qing, in a cadre labor reform camp for errant intellectuals, Ai Weiwei understands that no one in China, no matter  how “high profile” is ever “safe. Thus, he has chosen to push the  State as far as he can in an attempt to reclaim the public sphere for  critical discourse, and champion the cause of free speech and genuine  citizen and human rights in China. As such, he has willingly put  himself in a great deal of danger. His recent statement merits  reposting. I hope that you will pass this on and share it with others  who believe in the need to nurture and support critical public intellectuals, especially in places like China, where there are so few
such clarion and courageous voices.

Ai Weiwei’s Statement

“Watch out! Have you prepared yourself?” —

Ai Weiwei: “I am ready.  Or, perhaps I should say that there is nothing to prepare, no way to  prepare myself. A person–this is all of me–is something that can be  received by others. I offer up all of myself. When the time comes when  it is necessary, I will not hesitate, I won’t be ambiguous about it.  If there is anything that I am reluctant to leave behind it is the  wondrous miracle that life has brought me. And that miracles are that  every one of us is the same, that people are equal in this game, as  well as the fantasies that come along with playing it, and our  freedom. I regard every kind of intimidation, from any kind of  ‘authority or power’ [sic – the character is for quanli as in  ‘rights’, but from the context this appears to be a typo, perhaps?],  as a threat to human dignity, rationality and reason–a threat to the  very possibility of opposition. I will learn to face and confront this.”

Where there is no police: Kumar Rana

This is a guest post by KUMAR RANA

Where there is no police – what a wonderful state that would be. It’s a place that many have dreamt of, at least at some point of time if not all through the life. What a wonderful land that would be where one can eat or fast,  sleep or remain awake,  work or rest, move in or move out  completely freely, where her wishes would not be monitored by the police. So the episodes in Khejuri in East Medinipur and Lalgarh, in West Bengal, had apparently made some of the citizens happy: what a relief, there is no police.

But, alas, it was only a dream. Because there was the state and a state without police is as alive as a dead animal, the khaki was quickly replaced by lungi or jeans, and the gun by perhaps more lethal AK47 and its sort.
Continue reading Where there is no police: Kumar Rana

Maoist Violence in Lalgarh, West Bengal, Must be Condemned

The inevitable has happened. As soon as the election results came out and the wall of fear collapsed and mass anger against the ruling CPM became evident, the Maoists waiting in the wings have come out into the open. However, what is happening today in Lalgarh and other parts of West Bengal cannot be justified by pointing at the CPM’s totalitarian terror in the Bengal countryside.

According to reports, the violence, killings of CPM activists and members, especially in Lalgarh, has now acquired unprecedented proportions. CPM members are being driven out of their homes or killed. The offices of the party have been targeted on a large scale, not just in Lalgarh but elsewhere in West Bengal.

Continue reading Maoist Violence in Lalgarh, West Bengal, Must be Condemned

Elementary Aspects of Popular Insurgency in West Bengal

Violence has erupted once again. This time in Khejuri – a place in the vicinity of Nandigram, which was the base from where the CPI(M) launched its operation ‘recapture Nandigram’ on 14 March 2007. This was the red fort where the arms were collected and the goons brought in to liberate Nandigram. As one news report had put it:

‘Along with arms and ammunition, CPM flags and helmets of the kind worn by police were seized from the hideout, triggering suspicion that the men had donned uniforms and joined security forces on the day of the firing. Cellphones found on them showed they were in touch with senior CPM leaders, sources said.’

Khejuri is also the place where, just a little over a month ago, violence had flared up again. This time it was followed by the killing of Prasanta Mondol and the alleged rape of his wife. Prasanta Mondol was one of those who had left the CPI(M) two months ago and become one of the important Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders in Khejuri. The spiral unleashed by that round of violence has continued through till after the election results were out. Continue reading Elementary Aspects of Popular Insurgency in West Bengal

Swat Flogging and Public Outrage: Beena Sarwar

[This article was first published in Dawn 12 April 2009. It is reproduced here courtesy South Asia Citizens Web. The recent reports of the most spine-chilling instance of flogging of a young woman by Taliban goons unleashed a wave of indignation across Pakistan. This comment by Pakistani journalist Beena Sarwar is self-explanatory. For all the political illiterates and those given to anti-Muslim hate-speech in this country, this report and the innumerable discussions and posts on sites like Chowk, should indicate how much the Taliban and terrorism are hated and resisted by ordinary ‘secular’ people and women’s and human rights groups in Pakistan. They should indicate that ‘Islam’ and ‘being Muslim’ are themselves intensely contested ideas. But of course, we know that nothing can teach these hate-mongers anything, for they are the mirror-image of the Taliban. And as for us, as the old song goes: hum korea mein hum hain hindustan mein/ hum roos mein hain, cheen mein japan mein…And one might add: Pakistan mein bhi hain aur sare jahaan mein

(There we are in korea and in hindustan/in russia we are, in china and in japan/and in pakistan too we are, we’re in the whole wide world…)

It is people like us there who must fight the Taliban, and people like them here who must fight the Hindutva fascists  – always, relentlessly…Even when in the minority and especially when the political parties and leaders desert en masse. – AN]

Demo against womans flogging, courtesy LA Times
Demo against woman's flogging, courtesy LA Times

In the “flogging video’s” undated footage shot with a cellphone in Swat (judging by the language and clothes) a man whips a woman in red, her pinned face down on the ground and encircled by men. The leather strap strikes her back as she cries out in pain.

The video, circulated on the Internet before local television channels broadcast it, caused a furore both in Pakistan and internationally. What caused the outrage? The public punishment meted out to a woman — or the fact that it was broadcast?

Continue reading Swat Flogging and Public Outrage: Beena Sarwar

Fight Terror – Stop Thinking

Oxford Book Store in Mumbai was visited by a cop about ten days ago, and offered a friendly caution to be “careful” about stocking books and CDs related to Pakistan, as the shop might be “targeted” after the recent terror strikes in Mumbai.

Trick question: The reason the cop dropped in was

a) to reassure the store that they would receive police protection in case such threats materialize

b) to pass on a message from Raj Thackeray

(Hint. Looks like there are two options, but there is only one)

Continue reading Fight Terror – Stop Thinking