A year ago, Pakistan’s national elections brought in a new government led by the Pakistan Tehreeq e Insaf (PTI) and headed by the former-cricketer-turned politician, Imran Khan. Khan had been drifting in the political wilderness for 22 years, waiting for providence to appoint him Prime Minister. As the 2018 elections loomed, this was not looking possible. However, a series of legal cases of corruption started being levelled against the serving PM, Nawaz Sharif, and efforts were made to atrophy others from the major parties of the PML-N and PPP (who had signed the ‘charter of democracy’ to prevent military intervention in civilian governance). The methods of these moves made it clear that the ‘establishment’ was betting on a new horse. Khan was not taking any risks though.
Six months before the national election, he entered marriage for the third time (with no less controversy than his previous marriages) to Bushra Maneka who was also his spiritual guide or pirni. A mother and a grandmother, there was speculation that Bushra divorced her husband for the higher cause of marrying the PM-in-waiting. In the days prior to the summer election, Khan performed Umrah in Mecca with Bushra, and was seen prostrating at a shrine in Pakistan and accessorised with rosaries and amulets in preparation for the polls.
The German acceptance for stolpersteine plaques helps them honour victims of Nazism. One wonders if it will ever be possible to take up similar projects in this part of South Asia.
Hier Wohnte Bernhard Marx
‘Here lived Bernhard Marx
Year of Birth 1897
It was while walking past a desolate street in Bonn that we stumbled upon some brass plates on which the names of the members of a family were engraved. The name Bernhard, supposedly the head of this family, was engraved on the first plate, followed by three to his right: Erna Marx Geb Hartman, (born 1899), Helena (1929) and Julie (1938).
This was an ill-fated Jewish family from Bonn, deported to the dreaded Minsk concentration—rather extermination—camp that was brutally murdered just four days after they got there. The youngest, Julie was barely four when she died.
Estimates of how many died in this camp over a period of two years vary but at least 65000, mainly Jews, perished there until it was liberated by the Soviet forces.
The young researcher who was our host and guide to the city said that the brass plaques, raised on stone, are called stolpersteine. Stolper means to stumble in German and steine means stone. The idea behind erecting stolpersteine is to raise awareness about events that took place in the late thirties and early forties in this region, when millions of innocent people—Jews, Romas, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and political dissidents—were sent to the gas chambers or brutally killed by the Nazi regime.
The most remarkable development during his time in Brussels was the penning down of the Communist Manifesto, which firmly established Marx as well as Engels as the intellectual leaders of the working class movement.
Lived in Brussels from February 1845 to March 1848
He celebrated New Year’s Eve 1947/48 together with the “Deutscher Arbeiterverein” and the “Association Democratique” in this place
The plaque put on a building which housed a restaurant ‘Le Cygne, The Swan’ now is the only memory left of the days when history was ‘made’ here. According to legend, it is the same place ‘[w]here the First International had convened’ and Marx and his lifelong friend and comrade Engels ‘[h]ad written the Communist Manifesto’.
No doubt it was the same place when Marx, Engels, Mozes Hess – who was another early luminary of socialism and who supposedly had influenced Engels about communism – and other associates of the surging workers movement pondered over many of those ideas which have been memorialised in the opening sentences of the Manifesto, “A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism….”
May be the historic slogan ‘Workers of the World Unite, You have nothing to lose but your chains’ which later reverberated throughout the world – whose echoes are still heard – had its ‘humble’ beginning in one of those very rooms, where Marx and his close associates used to educate workers about their exploitation.
Scores of people sitting in this particular restaurant which was serving them sumptuous food and choicest drinks were completely oblivious of all those details. Few of them rather looked at us with a sense of disbelief and dismay, when they witnessed us taking photos of the nondescript wall which had the plaque put on it. Perhaps they looked more satisfied that they are enjoying food at a place which is situated on the Grand Place or Grote Markt, which is the central square of Brussels and is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe and is also part of UN Heritage.
In May 2019, the party of the Hindu Right, Bharatiya Janata Party, under Narendra Modi, won a spectacular electoral victory.
The victory seemed to defy common sense – why did conversations of life and livelihood not dominate the election? Why did the thuggery of the Hindutva vigilantes seem inconsequential to vast numbers of ordinary, decent people? Why is an aggressive, masculine fundamentalism so normalized in our society today?
In other words, why didn’t the issues that matter, seem to matter? The question goes deeper than electoral arithmetic. It asks if Modi and the BJP have not only changed the electoral map, but also begun to corrode social norms.
This book, based on Modi’s first five years as prime minister, is a warning for the next five.
Subhash Gatade is a left activist and author. He is the author of Charvak ke Vaaris (Hindi, 2018), Ambedkar ani Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (Marathi, 2016), Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India (2011) and The Saffron Condition (2011). His writings for children include Pahad Se Uncha Aadmi (2010).
Serious Irregularities in the Conduct of General Elections, 2019
We are a group of former civil servants that takes up, from time to time, matters of exceptional national interest, seeking to remind our cherished democratic institutions of their responsibility to uphold the lofty ideals of the Constitution. We write to you today to draw your attention to the several very troubling and still unexplained issues pertaining to the conduct of the General Elections, 2019, by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
This essay is the first of a two-part excerpt from the booklet by Nagraj Adve, Global Warming in the Indian Context: An Introductory Overview (Ecologise Hyderabad, 2019). This covers the basic science of global warming, the roots of the problem, and how inequality relates to climate change. The second piece, to appear soon, will focus on impacts in India, both on humans and other species, and the reasons for urgencyin tackling the problem. You can read the second part here.
What they told us in Gujarat
A few years ago, a group of us went to northern and eastern Gujarat to find out how climate change was affecting small farmers there. In villages in eastern Gujarat, they told us that the wheat and maize crops had been getting hit for some years during winter. Wheat and maize are important sources of nutrition for poor households in these and nearby regions. But because winters have been getting warmer, the dew (os) had lessened, or stopped entirely for the last few years. For those without wells—most of them poor households—dew is the only source of moisture for their crop. With less or no dew falling, either their crop dried up, or they were being forced to leave their lands fallow.
When we asked them why the winters had been getting milder, the people’s response there was interesting: “Prakruti ki baat hai (it has to do with Nature).” They did not consider it imaginable that human beings had the power to alter Nature on this scale. We do.
The recent spate of attacks on dalits in the state is an indicator of the fact that the unfolding project of RSS’s Hindu Rashtra has entered a new phase where the community is being construed as the ‘new other’.
When I was born, I was not a child
I was a dream, a dream of revolt
that my mother, oppressed for thousands of years,
Still it is untouched in my eyes
Covered with wrinkles of thousand years, her face
her eyes, two lakes overflowing with tears
have watered my body….
– Sahil Parmar (Noted Gujarati Poet)
‘You are Welcome to Enter … Village of Hindu Rashtra’!
It was around two decades ago that headlines in a few national newspapers reported the ‘arrival’ of Hindu Rashtra in parts of Gujarat. A few inquisitive journalists had even displayed photographs detailing the nascent phenomenon then.
The shock generated by the news died down in a short while.
Hardly anybody then could have a premonition that it won’t take much time for the idea of Hindu Rashtra to gain wider acceptability across India with a commonsense gaining ground rather getting consolidated where religious minorities were increasingly understood as ‘the other’.
Could it be said that the recent spate of attacks on dalits — leading to at least three deaths in the past one month in the same state, coupled with growing instances of life of insecurity of many concerning their lives or their continued deprivation by the dominant castes, is an indicator of the fact that the unfolding project of Hindu Rashtra has entered a new phase where dalits are being construed as the ‘new other’, one who could wreck the project of ‘Hindu Unity’ from within.
Perhaps it is too early to draw any such conclusion, but portents are there for everyone to see.