Category Archives: Politics

The Structural Contradictions of Indian Democracy and the Rise of the BJP : Prof Pratap Bhanu Mehta

[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)

Join us Facebook Live at: https://www.facebook.com/newsocialistinitiative.nsi

Topic: The Structural Contradictions of Indian Democracy and the rise of the BJP

Abstract:

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]

 

Nationwide condemnation of Delhi Police regarding their interrogation of Prof. Apoorvanand

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.

Apoorvanand, Image courtesy Times of India

STATEMENT

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.

Continue reading Nationwide condemnation of Delhi Police regarding their interrogation of Prof. Apoorvanand

Writing about Kalpana, writing about the times: Ranjana Padhi & Laxmi Murthy

Guest Post by RANJANA PADHI & LAXMI MURTHY

There is no cure for mortality, yet there is a lingering sadness and a sense of loss at the passing away of a fellow-traveler, a saheli and a comrade. Any reflection of such lives becomes a reflection of the times. The times when we as women, and as feminist collectives, dared to go against the grain.  The early years of the women’s movement were vastly different from the present reality where much is taken for granted and often celebrated ahistorically as individual achievement. The struggles of the 1980s made strident inroads into challenging the bastions of patriarchy in the form of collective resistance.  Making that vital link in what is a virtually unknown history for an entire generation of young women might help to make sense of the present. Because Kalpana was active to the end, commenting – and raving – even about recent events, through the lens of a sharp feminist politics. 

Kalpana Mehta, 67, a feminist activist of the autonomous women’s movement in India, breathed her last on May 27, 2020 at her residence in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.  Kalpana was diagnosed of the neuron disease called Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in mid 2017.  She gradually lost speech as well as mobility. Even then, she was tuned in to all events through the daily newspaper and communicated her thoughts and ideas through the application Tobii with friends who visited her during this time. Remaining engaged with news and sharing her political concerns and reflections helped her bravely cope with the symptoms of ALS. Also, her characteristic humor and witty rebukes directed at the powers that be were intact to her last breath.  Continue reading Writing about Kalpana, writing about the times: Ranjana Padhi & Laxmi Murthy

क्या राम मंदिर की आड़ में अपनी विफलताएं छिपा रही है मोदी सरकार

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.

Ayodhya: A hoarding of PM Narendra Modi and other leaders put up beside a statue of Lord Hanuman, ahead of the foundation laying ceremony of Ram Temple, in Ayodhya, Thursday, July 30, 2020. (PTI Photo)(PTI30-07-2020 000044B)

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.

( Read the complete article here)

 

Imagining India for Contemporary Politics- What Should the Left Do? : Ravi Sinha

 

(Webinar – Sunday, July 19, 5 pm)

Shakespeare said, what is past is prologue. A simple-minded rationalist may be contented to assume that past is fixed as it has already gone into the making of the present. Nothing can be done to change it. The truth however is that past is being ‘remade’ every day. Imaginations of ancient glories or of humiliating defeats in the distant past are being deployed in contemporary politics all across the world. This phenomenon has been a key element behind the resurgence of rightwing in many countries. Contemporary India is a calamitous example where a perverse variant of mass-democratic politics has been fashioned through the political ideology of Hindutva resulting in serious damage to democracy and to people’s welfare.

Contemporary politics is driven more pressingly to such ideological re-imaginings in the conditions of vigorously competitive electoral democracies. The phenomenon is far more pronounced in countries with a significant minority (religious, racial, linguistic-cultural etc.) that can be portrayed as a historical villain. The majority can, then, be mobilized through the political process of polarisation in which some historical-civilizational-social tectonic plate is deployed in the service of electoral-political objectives. India is a pre-eminent example of this tragic phenomenon.

Invariably, left and progressive forces find themselves handicapped in these circumstances. Attempts to prove that such polarising strategies based on re-imagining the past are malignant turn out to be politically ineffective. A typical response from such forces has been to counter the emotive with the economic and to challenge cultural nationalism with anti-colonial, anti-imperialist nationalism. These strategies have failed miserably. Other social and resistance movements too have attempted partial re-imagining of India’s past from the standpoint of traditionally oppressed communities (Dalit, feminist, native-ist, etc.). While offering some resources to the respective movements, these efforts have failed equally miserably in challenging the Hindutva’s cultural nationalism. The efforts of some of the liberal bourgeois forces, on the other hand, to gain ground by partly imitating the Hindutva forces (variants of soft hindutva) have been no more than a laughing stock. Continue reading Imagining India for Contemporary Politics- What Should the Left Do? : Ravi Sinha

Statement on the Arrest of a Survivor of Sexual Assault in Araria, Bihar: Ambedkar University Delhi Faculty Association

15.7.2020

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.

Trajectory of India’s Democracy and Contemporary Challenges : Prof Suhas Palshikar

[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)

Continue reading Trajectory of India’s Democracy and Contemporary Challenges : Prof Suhas Palshikar

वरवर राव को रिहा करो!

भीमा कोरेगाँव मामले तथा अन्य सभी मामलों में विचाराधीन लेखकों-मानवाधिकारकर्मियों को रिहा करो !

(न्यू सोशलिस्ट इनिशिएटिव, जन संस्कृति मंच, दलित लेखक संघ, प्रगतिशील लेखक संघ, जनवादी लेखक संघ, जन नाट्य मंच, इप्टा, प्रतिरोध का सिनेमा और संगवारी की ओर से जारी साझा  बयान )

State trying to kill Varavara Rao in jail, he needs immediate ...

( Photo Courtesy : New Indian Express)

‘…कब डरता है दुश्मन कवि से ?

जब कवि के गीत अस्त्र बन जाते हैं

वह कै़द कर लेता है कवि को ।

फाँसी पर चढ़ाता है

फाँसी के तख़्ते के एक ओर होती है सरकार

दूसरी ओर अमरता

कवि जीता है अपने गीतों में

और गीत जीता है जनता के हृदयों में।’

–वरवर राव, बेंजामिन मोलेस की याद में, 1985

देश और दुनिया भर में उठी आवाज़ों के बाद अन्ततः 80 वर्षीय कवि वरवर राव को मुंबई के जे जे अस्पताल में शिफ्ट कर दिया गया है। राज्य की असंवेदनशीलता और निर्दयता का इससे बड़ा सबूत क्या होगा कि जिस काम को क़ैदियों के अधिकारों का सम्मान करते हुए राज्य द्वारा खुद ही अंजाम दिया जाना था, उसके लिए लोगों, समूहों को आवाज़ उठानी पड़ी। Continue reading वरवर राव को रिहा करो!

जातिगत भेदभाव को लेकर कब ख़त्म होगा भारतीयों का दोहरापन

भारतीयों के मन में व्याप्त दोहरापन यही है कि वह ऑस्ट्रेलिया में भारतीय छात्रों पर होने वाली ज़्यादतियों से उद्वेलित दिखते हैं, पर अपने यहां के संस्थानों में आए दिन दलित-आदिवासी या अल्पसंख्यक छात्रों के साथ होने वाली ज़्यादतियों को सहजबोध का हिस्सा मानकर चलते हैं.

(फोटो: रॉयटर्स)

(फोटो: रॉयटर्स)

‘जाति समस्या- सैद्धांतिक और व्यावहारिक तौर पर एक विकराल मामला है. व्यावहारिक तौर पर देखें तो वह एक ऐसी संस्था है जो प्रचंड परिणामों का संकेत देती है. वह एक स्थानीय समस्या है, लेकिन एक ऐसी समस्या जो बड़ी क्षति को जन्म दे सकती है. जब तक भारत में जाति अस्तित्व में है, हिंदुओं के लिए यह संभव नहीं होगा कि वह अंतरजातीय विवाह करें या बाहरी लोगों के साथ सामाजिक अंतर्क्रिया बढ़ाएं. और अगर हिंदू पृथ्वी के दूसरे हिस्सों में पहुंचते हैं, तो फिर भारतीय जाति विश्व समस्या बनेगी.’

– डॉ. बीआर आंबेडकर (1916)

वर्ष 1916 के मई महीने में कोलंबिया विश्वविद्यालय में मानव वंशशास्त्र विभाग में सेमिनार में डॉ. आंबेडकर ने ‘भारत में जाति- उनकी प्रणाली, उनका उद्गम और विकास’ (Castes In India- Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development) पर अपना पेपर पढ़ा था.

पेपर पढ़ते हुए उन्होंने इस बात की भविष्यवाणी की थी कि किस तरह एक दिन जाति विश्व समस्या भी बनेगी, उनके बोल थे, ‘अगर हिंदू दुनिया के दूसरे हिस्सों में पहुंचते हैं, तो फिर भारतीय जाति विश्व समस्या बनेगी.’

उनके इस वक्तव्य के 104 साल बाद उसी अमेरिका के कैलिफोर्निया से आई यह खबर इसी बात की ताईद करती है.

ध्यान रहे कैलीफोर्निया राज्य सरकार की तरफ से वहां की एक अग्रणी बहुदेशीय कंपनी सिस्को सिस्टम्स के खिलाफ दायर एक मुकदमे के बहाने यही बात नए सिरे से उजागर हुई है, जिसका फोकस वहां कार्यरत एक दलित इंजीनियर के साथ वहां तैनात दो कथित ऊंची जाति के इंजीनियर द्वारा जातिगत भेदभाव की घटना से है. Continue reading जातिगत भेदभाव को लेकर कब ख़त्म होगा भारतीयों का दोहरापन

Farewell Kalpana Mehta – Remembering a Feminist Activist

The following is a statement Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression  on the passing away of leading feminist activist Kalpana Mehta. This English version was earlier published in Mainstream Weekly.

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) deeply mourns the passing away of Kalpana Mehta in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. The loss of a fellow traveller and a comrade at a time when we are going through a massive public health crisis and continuous clampdown on the right to dissent through arrests and detention is hard to bear. Kalpana has been with WSS ever since its inception in 2009.

Having done B. Tech in Aeronautical Engineering from IIT, Kanpur she had left for the US to pursue a degree in MBA. She came back to India in 1976, as it happened with many other fellow Indians who returned in those times, when the country was reeling under the clampdown of the National Emergency imposed by the Congress-led government in power at the centre. Within a few years in trade union work, she became part of a vibrant and powerful political current that brought to light women’s oppression and subordination in society and the need to organize as women, which was becoming well nigh impossible in the left and socialist movements of those years. Her life and politics have thus been shaped by the emergence of the autonomous women’s movement in the late 70s and early 80s. Kalpana was a co-founder of the autonomous feminist collective Saheli Women’s Resource Centre that was set up in 1981; she continued to remain at the forefront of the women’s movement ever since. Read the full statement here.

कोविड-19 संकट के दौरान मिसाल बनकर उभरा क्यूबा

मार्च महीने में इटली के मिलान में मालपेंसा एयरपोर्ट पर क्यूबाई डॉक्टर्स का दल. (फोटो: रॉयटर्स)

मार्च महीने में इटली के मिलान में मालपेंसा एयरपोर्ट पर क्यूबाई डॉक्टर्स और स्वास्थ्यकर्मियों का दल. (फोटो: रॉयटर्स)

हेनरी रीव, इस नाम से कितने लोग परिचित हैं?

यह अलग बात है कि इस युवा की याद में बनी एक मेडिकल ब्रिगेड की दुनिया भर की सक्रियताओं से तो सभी परिचित हैं, जिसने कोविड महामारी के दिनों में भी अपने चिकित्सा के कामों में- जो अंतरराष्ट्रीयतावाद की भावना को मजबूती देते हुए आगे बढ़ी है, कहीं आंच नहीं आने दी है, जिसका निर्माण क्यूबा ने किया है.

मालूम हो कि हेनरी रीव के बारे में इतना ही हम जानते हैं कि 19 साल का यह अमेरिकी नौजवान था, जो न्यूयॉर्क के ब्रुकलिन स्थित अपने घर को छोड़ते हुए 19वीं सदी के अंतिम दौर में स्पेनिश हुक्मरानों के खिलाफ क्यूबाई संघर्ष से जुड़ गया था.

और क्यूबा ने अपने इस अनूठे स्वतंत्राता सेनानी की याद में मेडिकल ब्रिगेड का गठन किया है जो आज की तारीख में 22 मुल्कों में सक्रिय है.

आप को याद होगा वह दृश्य, जो कैमरे में कैद होते वक्त ही कालजयी बने रहने का संकेत दे रहा था. जब मिलान, जो इटली के संपन्न उत्तरी हिस्से का मशहूर शहर है, वहां अपने डॉक्टरी यूनिफॉर्म पहने एक टीम मालपेंसा एयरपोर्ट पर उतर रही थी और उस प्रसिद्ध एयरपोर्ट पर तमाम लोग खड़े होकर उनका अभिवादन कर रहे थे. (18 मार्च 2020)

यह सभी डॉक्टर तथा स्वास्थ्य पेशेवर हेनरी रीव ब्रिगेड के सदस्य थे, जो इटली सरकार के निमंत्रण पर वहां पहुंचे थे. एयरपोर्ट पर खड़े लोगों में चंद ऐसे भी थे, जिन्होंने तब अपने सीने पर क्रॉस बनाया, अपने भगवान को याद किया क्योंकि उनके हिसाब से क्यूबा के यह डॉक्टर किसी ‘फरिश्ते’ से कम नहीं थे. Continue reading कोविड-19 संकट के दौरान मिसाल बनकर उभरा क्यूबा

Working Class Movement and ‘Sudden Death’ of the 1980s – Challenges For Rebuilding the Left II

 

Let us call it ‘sudden death’ football style – even though, strictly speaking, there was no ‘tie’. Yet, even the highly frayed but continued existence of the earlier Nehruvian legacy (our version of the welfare state) had provided a kind of buffer that had kept in place an intricate balance between labour and capital. The Nehruvian state was no ‘socialism’ but it did represent a ‘social contract’ of sorts that had kept the worst caprices of capital in check and provided a certain legitimacy to issues and demands of labour. The balance was always tilted in favour of capital but was a balance nevertheless. This is what some ideologues of the neoliberal dispensation that succeeded it continue calling socialism – for that gave them the legitimacy, in the post-Soviet 1990s, to institute the unbridled rule of corporate capital. In that sense, there was a tie – and neoliberalism was the tie-breaker.

Protest_Photo, Image New Indian Express

The defeat of working class politics in the 1980s is a story that remains to be told – at any rate, properly analyzed. There are of course, layers and layers to that story  and no single article or even a book can do justice to it but it is nevertheless worth looking at some aspects – not all of which may have been apparent to players involved at that time. But that is precisely why it is so important to look back, especially if we are interested in building a movement in the future, avoiding the mistakes of the past.

Continue reading Working Class Movement and ‘Sudden Death’ of the 1980s – Challenges For Rebuilding the Left II

साझी शहादत-साझी विरासत: वसंत राव और रजब अली को याद करना क्यों जरूरी है ?

वसंतराव और रजब अली। साभार-इंडियन एक्सप्रेस

अहमदाबाद के जमालपुर के पास स्थित वसन्त-रजब चौक कितने लोगों ने देखा है? देखा तो कइयों ने होगा, और आज की तारीख में उससे रोज गुजरते भी होंगे, मगर अंगुली पर गिनने लायक लोग मिलेंगे जिन्होंने चौराहे के इस नामकरण का इतिहास जानने की कोशिश की होगी। मुमकिन है गुजरने वाले अधिकतर ने आज के इस इकहरे वक्त़ में- जबकि मनुष्य होने के बजाय उसकी खास सामुदायिक पहचान अहम बनायी जा रही है- इस ‘विचित्र’ नामकरण को लेकर नाक भौं भी सिकोड़े होंगे।

वह जून 1946 का वक़्त था जब आज़ादी करीब थी, मगर साम्प्रदायिक ताकतों की सक्रियता में भी अचानक तेज़ी आ गयी थी और उन्हीं दिनों यह दो युवा साम्प्रदायिक ताकतों से जूझते हुए मारे गए थे। वसंत राव हेगिश्ते का जन्म 1906 में अहमदाबाद के एक मराठी परिवार में हुआ था तो रजब अली लाखानी एक खोजा मुस्लिम परिवार में कराची में पैदा हुए थे (27 जुलाई 1919) और बाद में उनका परिवार अहमदाबाद में बस गया था। हमेशा की तरह उस साल रथयात्रा निकली थी और उसी बहाने समूचे शहर का माहौल तनावपूर्ण हो चला था।

कांग्रेस सेवा दल के कार्यकर्ता रहे इन जिगरी दोस्तों ने अपने ऊपर यह जिम्मा लिया कि वह अपने-अपने समुदायों को समझाएंगे कि वह उन्मादी न बनें, इसी काम में वह जी जान से जुटे थे, छोटी बैठकें कर रहे थे, लोगों को समझा रहे थे। 1 जुलाई को एक खांड नी शेरी के पास एक उग्र भीड़ ने – जो जुनूनी बन चुकी थी – उन्हें उनके रास्ते से हटने को कहा और उनके इन्कार करने पर उन दोनों को वहीं ढेर कर दिया। Continue reading साझी शहादत-साझी विरासत: वसंत राव और रजब अली को याद करना क्यों जरूरी है ?

Treacherous Road to Make Manu History

Even today the attempt is to whitewash Manusmriti, not shun it. But all is not lost as the ripples of Black Lives Matter have reached Indian shores.

manusmiriti ambedkar hindutva

It was 1927, the second phase of the historic Mahad Satyagrah was on, and Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar led thousands of people in burning the Manusmriti, an act he compared with the French Revolution of 1789. Time and again, in speeches and writings, he categorically opposed the world-view of Manu, the legendary figure to whom are attributed the tenets of the Manusmriti, said to be dated to around 100 CE.

In the book written by scholar and activist Anand Teltumbde, Mahad: The Making of the First Dalit Revolt, published by Navayana in 2017, is recorded the resolution which was proposed by the social activist Gangadhar Sahasrabuddhe, and then read out at the Mahad Satyagrah. It states that the firm opinion of this conference is that the Manusmriti, “taking into consideration its verses which undermined the Shudra caste, thwarted their progress, and made their social, political and economic slavery permanent…is not worthy of becoming a religious or a sacred book. And in order to give expression to this opinion, this conference is performing the cremation rites of such a religious book which has been divisive of people and destroyer of humanity.”

Twenty three years later, Dr Ambedkar marked the promulgation of the Constitution of India as the “end of the rule by Manu”. And yet, 70 years thereafter, a significant section of Indians are still fascinated by Manu and have no qualms in venerating him. Even the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States and large parts of Europe, in which statues of slave-owners and colonialists are being knocked down or disfigured, the Indian followers of Manu have no regrets about deifying him.

( Read the full article here)

Crisis of Working Class Politics – Challenges for Rebuilding the Left

 

In this year of COVID19, the organized ‘working class’ movement completes a hundred years of its history. It was on October 31 1920, that the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the first central trade union organization, came into being. This might be a good occasion to take stock – to look back into history from what can only be described as a very troubled and difficult present – and peer forward into the future.

Workers, the long trek
Workers – the long trek, Image courtesy, The Wire

The year of COVID19 reveals, among other things, the very fragile and unstable nature of this entity called ‘the working class’ in countries like India. The monstrous situation arising out of the pandemic only provides us the window to that long and endless process by which the ‘working class’ is constantly made and remade. In a very important sense, unlike the peasantry which has a far more stable existence (till, for the requirements of Capital, it is uprooted and thrown into urban labour markets), the working class is an inherently structurally unstable social group. Given that its fate is tied to the requirements, caprices and maneouvres of Capital, the working class is not given to us readymade, once and for all. For as long-term changes in industry and technology occur or capital takes flight in the face of worker militancy, the working class too undergoes changes.

Continue reading Crisis of Working Class Politics – Challenges for Rebuilding the Left

कोविड संक्रमण की चेन तोड़ने के लिए मलप्पुरम ने नई ज़मीन तोड़ी है

आज जब पूरे देश में धार्मिक स्थलों को खोला जा रहा है, तब बीते दिनों ‘सांप्रदायिक’ होने का इल्ज़ाम झेलने वाले केरल के मलप्पुरम ज़िले ने अपनी अलग राह चुनी है. कोरोना के बढ़ते मामलों के मद्देनज़र वहां की पांच हज़ार मस्जिदों को अनिश्चितकाल तक बंद रखने समेत कई धार्मिक स्थलों को न खोलने का फ़ैसला लिया गया है.

Minara masjid wears a deserted look on the first day of the holy fasting month of Ramzan, amid unprecedented circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic and a nationwide lockdown, in Mumbai. PTI

लॉकडाउन के दौरान बंद एक मस्जिद. (फाइल फोटो: पीटीआई)

मलप्पुरम, केरल के एकमात्र मुस्लिम बहुल जिले, जहां उनकी आबादी 75 फीसदी है, ने एक इतिहास रचा. तय किया गया है कि जिले की 5,000 मस्जिदें अनिश्चितकाल के लिए बंद रहेंगी.

इस निर्णय के पीछे का तर्क समझने लायक है. क्योंकि राज्य में कोरोना वायरस संक्रमण के मामले बढ़ते दिख रहे हैं, इसलिए यह तय करना मुनासिब समझा गया कि उसके दरवाजे श्रद्धालुओं के लिए बंद ही रहें.

जाने-माने इस्लामिक विद्वान पनक्कड सययद सादिक अली शिहाब थंगल, जो इंडियन यूनियन मुस्लिम लीग के जिला अध्यक्ष हैं, उन्होंने इस खबर को मीडिया के एक हिस्से में साझा किया.

इस तरह जबकि बाकी मुल्क में प्रार्थनास्थल, धार्मिक स्थलों को खोला जा रहा है, मलप्पुरम ने अपनी अलग राह चुनी है.

इस बात पर जोर देना जरूरी है कि आठ मुस्लिम संप्रदायों (denomination) की उस बैठक में, जहां 9 जून के बाद प्रार्थनास्थलों को खोलने के सरकारी निर्णय पर विचार करना था, यह फैसला एकमत से लिया गया.

सभी इस बात पर सहमत थे कि उन्हें इस छूट का इस्तेमाल नहीं करना चाहिए. एक ऐसे वक्त में जबकि कोविड-19 के मामले सूबे में बढ़ रहे हों, मस्जिद कमेटियों और धार्मिक नेताओं ने यह जरूरत महसूस की कि उन्हें सतर्कता बरतनी चाहिए.

खबरें यह भी आ रही हैं कि न केवल मस्जिदें बल्कि इलाके के कई मंदिरों और चर्च ने भी उन्हें तत्काल खोलना नहीं तय किया है.

मिसाल के तौर पर, श्री कदमपुजा भगवती मंदिर जो मलप्पुरम में है तथा श्री तिरूनेल्ली मंदिर जो वायनाड में है, वह बंद रहेंगे.

नायर सर्विस सोसायटी से संबंधित मंदिर भी 30 जून तक नहीं खुलेंगे. एर्नाकुलम-अंगमाली आर्चडाओसिस ऑफ सिरो मलबार चर्च ने भी तय किया है कि उसके मातहत चर्च 30 जून तक बंद रहेंगे.

निस्संदेह इस बात को लेकर इलाके के लोगों में गहरा एहसास दिख रहा है कि राज्य ने जिन भी सावधानियों को बरतने की बात की हो, स्पेशल ऑपरेटिंग प्रोसिजर्स का ऐलान किया है, हकीकत में उन पर अमल करना नामुमकिन होगा लिहाजा कोविड-19 के समुदाय आधारित संक्रमण की संभावना बनी रहेगी.

( Read the full article here)

Can Rest of India ‘Do’ a Mallapuram ?

Ruins of an ancient Jain temple in Arimbra

Ruins of old Jain Style Temple at Arimbra 

Mallapuram, Kerala’s lone Muslim-majority district, made history recently.

The 5,000 mosques in the district would remain closed indefinitely.

Logic behind this decision is simple.

As the state is witnessing spike in Coronavirus infection recently, it was found more prudent to keep the doors closed for devotees. Panakkad Sayyed Sadiq Ali Shihab Thangal, a leading Islamic Scholar and Malappuram district president of the Indian Union Muslim League, shared this news with a section of the media.

Thus while the rest of the country is witnessing opening of places of worship under Unlock 1, Mallapuram has decided otherwise. Continue reading Can Rest of India ‘Do’ a Mallapuram ?

The George Floyd Protests – a view from Philadelphia: Ania Loomba and Suvir Kaul

Guest post by ANIA LOOMBA AND SUVIR KAUL

Protest in Philadelphia, June 7, 2020 (Video by Teren Sevea))

In 2002, when we moved to Philadelphia to join the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, a friend invited us for breakfast to his home in West Philadelphia, abutting the university. We learned then that in May 1985, rowhouses in this area, then a largely African American residential neighborhood, were bombed by the police (a military-grade explosive was thrown down from a helicopter). The police action followed a confrontation with a group called Move, whose members combined Black liberation and environmentalist ideals. When flames spread, the then Police Commissioner decided to “let the fire burn.”11 of the 13 people in the Move house were incinerated; 5 were children between the ages of 7 and 13.

Four years earlier, in another well-publicized case that scarred Philadelphia, a Move associate and Black Panther, Mumia Abu-Jamal was incarcerated for the murder of a police officer; he, considered by many to be a political prisoner, remains in jail. In 1963, just when Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream speech,” a Black family who moved into a white working-class neighbourhood faced a mob of 1500 shouting “Two, four, six, eight—we don’t want to integrate!” In 1967, a man called Frank Rizzo became Police Commissioner, and led a brutal attack on school students who demanded that Black history be included in their curriculum. Dozens were injured. In 1972 Rizzo was elected mayor of the city, a post he held for eight years. His tenure was so notorious for brutality against African Americans that the U.S. Justice Department sued the city’s police department, saying that its use of excessive force “shocks the conscience.” In spite of this terrible history, or more probably because of it, his statue loomed for years near the City Hall, a symbol of racist policing and governance in a city which is 44% African-American and one of the most segregated cities in the country.

Until last week.

Continue reading The George Floyd Protests – a view from Philadelphia: Ania Loomba and Suvir Kaul

Truth Behind India’s Hierarchies of Pain

Perhaps celebrities know that talking about the plight of an animal—who died in a state not ruled by the ruling dispensation at the Centre—is a safe bet

Migrants

Migrants wait for a means of transport to travel to their native places during the fourth phase of the ongoing COVID-19 nationwide lockdown, at Kundali Industrial Area in Sonipat. (Photo: PTI)

The killing of a pregnant elephant has caused national outrage. The elephant had strayed into a village in Palakkad, Kerala, and is said to have been fed a fruit stuffed with firecrackers, which exploded in its mouth. It is impossible to comprehend the tremendous suffering of the elephant, who died a painful death. It is also learnt that people in the region have in the past used incendiary materials to protect their crop from animals, particularly wild boar.

One person was arrested after the matter came to light and few others have been identified. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has promised “justice will prevail”, but one does not know if that includes legal action against the hatemongers—including a former cabinet minister who gave the incident a communal colour by claiming, incorrectly, that the incident occurred in Muslim-majority Malappuram. A sitting cabinet minister also retweeted this fake news, which further vitiated the atmosphere.

In a complaint to the Malappuram Police, a lawyer has urged the police chief to file an FIR against the former minister and others for a “derogatory” campaign against the district.

Now, many Indian celebrities, for example Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli, have said that they are “appalled” by the incident. The chairman of India’s biggest corporate giant, Ratan Tata, has compared the “criminal act” with “meditated murder”. The celebrities, the anchors of 24/7 news channels and many other prominent figures are undeniably upset by the plight of the elephant. But do they also feel the same kind of outrage and disquiet over the communal overtones being imparted to it?

( Read the full article here)

Public Display of Faith Can Wait, Humanity Cannot

It is inevitable that the virus will spread anywhere people gather in numbers.

Faith in India

Representational Image

India went for the world’s toughest lockdown in March, when just about 500 Covid-19 cases had been reported. And it has started withdrawing the lockdown when India has become the seventh-worst pandemic-affected nation, with over 1.91 lakh infections and close to 5,500 deaths. India is registering giant spikes in active cases of Covid-19, but the home ministry has come out with a phased plan to unlock India. The current phase of re-opening will focus on the economy. It has been decided that malls, hotels, restaurants and places of worship will reopen from 8 June onwards.

Concerns over the economic downturn are understandable. The latest GDP data shows the slowest pace of growth in 11 years in the last quarter of 2019-20, and the economy has been hit hard by the Covid-inspired sudden and complete lockdown. But one fails to understand the decision to open religious places at such an early date.

It remains unanswered whether religious places are being thrown open to pre-empt Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, who has announced that her state would open all places of worship from 1 June. It is also not known whether this is being done, as BS Yediyurappa, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, wrote in his letter to the Prime Minister, because devotees are insisting that religious sites be opened.

( Read the full article here )

‘National Populisms’, the Little Man and Big Men

 

Populismo – ISS Conference poster by Filipino artist Boy Dominguez, image courtesy future-agricultures.org

In an earlier post last month, I had discussed the global rise of the Right as related to the revolt of the ‘little man’ (a term I borrow from Wilhelm Reich) and his search for a ‘father-figure’ of authority. I had also argued in that post that the revolt of the little man in itself could not have led to the rise of the Right, were it not for  the ways in which Capital moved to appropriate and channelize that revolt against the Left and Left-of-Centre politics – and regimes that dominated the scene earlier. It is virtually impossible to understand this huge tectonic shift in the politics of the past few decades without understanding the conjunction of the little man and Capital – the Big Men – as it were. No less important, it is impossible to understand this shift without understanding the revolt of the liittle man in relation to the different structures of privilege that appear before us as culturally encoded power relations – as tradition, as ‘our way of doing things’, so to speak.

Continue reading ‘National Populisms’, the Little Man and Big Men