The Constitution of India should be seen as a work-in-progress – not because it has been amended ever so often by different governments but because it has been taken over by ‘we, the people’, repeatedly, especially since the 1990s. The ‘authorized’ interpreters of the Constitution and Law are no longer its sole interpreters. The continuous battles over its interpretation in the courts of law are only one way in which meaning is contested. But from the dalits reclaiming it as “Babasaheb’s Constitution” to the pathalgadi movement of the Jharkhand adivasis and finally as the banner of citizenship movement today, its meaning has been contested time and again in the streets and in villages.
It is customary, in most secular-nationalist and left-wing circles, to invoke the “great values of the national movement”, which is seen as synonymous with the “freedom struggle”, which in turn is reduced to the “anticolonial struggle”. On 15 August 1947, India attained Independence from colonial rule and on 26 January 1950, “we, the people of India” gave to ourselves the Constitution of India. The anticolonial struggle came to an end in August 1947 but that did not mean that all the currents that comprised the larger “freedom struggle” – the jang-e-azadi – got their freedom. We perhaps need to make a distinction today between the “freedom struggle” (that is still ongoing) and the “anticolonial nationalist” movement.
We need to state emphatically that the “freedom struggle” of different social groups is not – and never was – reducible to the “anticolonial struggle”. There were many different strands and currents that either functioned at a distance from mainstream nationalism , or even worked in opposition to it.
The question that is uppermost on most people’s minds today is what will happen to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and how long will the protests continue? The home minister Amit Shah declaring that the Act will not be withdrawn and the government will not move an inch, regardless of the protests, is a direct challenge to the people of India. With the Supreme Court looking the other way, taking up challenge thrown by Shah can only mean one thing now: if the Act does not go, the regime must. Mass movements have been known to bring down oppressive regimes, and even in the recent past, we have seen that happen in different parts of the world.
Subsequent developments, however, also indicate that often forces emerge that basically take advantage of the mass movements to hijack them and install equally unpopular regimes – a matter we need to discuss very seriously. I will briefly return to this ‘political question’ later as it is of utmost importance that we grasp the possibilities and dangers inherent in the present moment.
Beginning this week, we are starting a column which will appear every Thursday. The name of this column, ‘Parapolitics’, is meant to indicate something that happens all the time, outside the formally designated sphere of politics, or what is sometimes called ‘the political’ by political theorists. As a matter of fact, most of such politics – parapolitics – takes place everyday and is deeply tied to our everyday lives. It is also what we may call ‘existential politics’: the dalit boys flogged by upper caste men inside a police station in Una, the woman of Unnao, whose family is decimated by the rapist’s henchmen, the mob-lynching to which Muslims are subjected on a daily basis, the farmer or the unemployed who commits suicide, the displaced adivasis or the workers who fight back – all these are instances of things deeply political but occurring away from or beneath the ‘proper’ domain of politics. The ‘proper domain of politics’ – that of state/government, parties, elections, alliances and so on – has repeatedly historically revealed its fundamental disconnect with such existential politics. Indeed, whenever faced by mass protests, the first response by the political class is to reduce it to the purported machinations of ‘opposition parties’. It cannot think of people, ordinary people, coming out in autonomous action. We might recall the response of the UPA government, at the height of the anti-corruption movement, challenging the locus standi of the protesters with the questions: ‘who are you?’ or ‘who has authorized you?’ etc Parapolitics is that unauthorized politics of everyday life, which often bursts out into the open but may also simply go on under the surface without any necessary public manifestation.
The most striking aspect of the present upsurge of popular anger around the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), as has been widely noticed, is the way defiant young women have become the face of the struggle. I am not referring here only to the women whose iconic images are circulating everywhere today, but also to the sheer number in which they have come out and the power with which they have been speaking their mind before the media. And they belong to all communities.
Sustained reportage by dogged and principled journalists and investigation by citizens’ groups have gradually begun to illuminate the terrible darkness around anti CAA protests in UP over December 2019. Every single one of these has exploded the narrative fostered by the UP government, police and compliant local media, of violent mobs destroying public property and attacking police.
We have all noted that massive marches against the CAA have taken place all over the country, but have “turned violent” only in BJP ruled states. The various reports that are now emerging, reveal the extent to which the UP police either acted as a violent mob itself, or used police informers or local RSS organizations to start stone pelting and other such acts to disrupt non-violent marches, and to provide an excuse for violent police action.
A public hearing on state action in UP will be held in Delhi on January 16th, 2020, bringing together all the information collected by different groups of people who have visited different parts of the state.
This article that explores the enjoyment of violence, epsecially in the social media world, in the wake of the brutal violence perpetrated by the Yogi Adityanath regime in Uttar Pradesh. It should be read as a sequel to Jaya Sharma’s earlier article published in Kafila in June last year.
‘Maza aa gaya Yogiji maza…Lathi aisi lagi ki maza aa gaya…’
Maza is a word used often in tweets in response to police attacks on CAA-NRC protestors in UP. Unlike it’s staid, sanskritized counterpart anand, maza has a charge, a buzz and could translate into English as ‘thrill’. ‘Thrilling Yogiji thrilling’… ‘The way the lathi struck…thrilling’. I’ll return to such tweets to explore the following questions.
Might it be that there is an erotic charge to political violence? Might it be that the erotic charge is not limited to those who perform the violence but also animates the millions who hear, see or read that such violence has been meted out? Well beyond “not caring”, might it be that they “get off” on such violence? Can the proactive, enthusiastic support for political violence be understood only in terms of “ordinary folk” being corrupted by evil leaders? Might we also need to see what within the collective psyche could be pushing them towards a terrible kind of enjoyment of such violence? Continue reading The Yogi and the Erotics of Violence: Jaya Sharma→
It was difficult to miss the smugness with which the Home Minister of India (HM) addressed a TV show he had orchestrated through one of the infamous godi (lapdog) media after the central cabinet had approved Rs 39.41 billion for updating the National Population Register (NPR) and Rs 85 billion for Census 2021 operations.The show was meant to dispel the misgivings about the link between NPR and the nationwide NRC—National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC). In meetings across the country and within the Parliament, the HM had been proclaiming or rather threatening to carry out NRIC. However, his enigmatic statements did nothing to allay the grave fears people across India have about NPR, given the government’s obsession and resolve to identify what they call illegal residents. There is no doubt that instead of pressing concerns such as unemployment, alarming fall in per capita consumption and an extraordinary economic slump, of late the single-minded focus of the regime is on dividing the Indian people into different categories, branding, imprisoning and even throwing some out of India. Continue reading Nationwide NRC -The Devil at the Heart of India’s Draconian Digitalization: CP Geevan→
(A series of protests have been held in Netherlands against CAA by the Indian diaspora since last few days. There was a protest at International Court of Justice ( ICJ) based in Hague on 30 th December. It was the fifth protest in last ten days. Pasted below a statement issued on the occasion.)
Statement for Press Release: ICJ Protest
In light of the recent events in India, a group of Indian diaspora residing in the Netherlands, deeply disturbed by the turn of events have decided to protest against the Government of India before the Peace Palace. The protest is directed against the enactment of Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (“Act”) followed by gross perpetration of human rights violation against its citizens by the Government of India. Continue reading Statement Issued by ‘Netherlands against CAA’ (Citizenship Amendment Act)→