Category Archives: Politics

Sacred Cows, Disposable Humans

The Bulandshahr mob killings show that the Hindutva Supremacist world view, which has complete apathy and indifference toward human life and puts a four-legged animal on a pedestal, is on the ascendance.

mob lynching

“It is a curious people. With them, all life seems to be sacred except human life.”

– Mark Twain on Indians.

A single quote sometimes remains the sole memory of a leader.

Giriraj Kishor, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader, can be considered a classic example to demonstrate the thought behind Mark Twain’s quote. Kishor had rather (in)famously said, “Cow is considered more sacred than human beings in the Puranas(Hindu scriptures)”. The occasion was a tragic one when five Dalits — who were carrying dead cows — were lynched by a vigilante mob in front of a police station (Dulina, Jhajjar in Haryana, October 2002) with many senior government officials turning mute spectators.

The spectacle-type killing was followed by another grotesque drama when police personnel, who by their inaction had connived with the crime, promptly sent the dead cows for examination, and filed cases against the dead Dalits over cow ‘slaughter’.

Kishor died few years ago but the worldview he represented, which has complete apathy and indifference towards human life and which puts a four-legged on the pedestal, is on the ascendance.

( Read the full text here : https://www.newsclick.in/sacred-cows-disposable-humans)

Under the Shadow of ‘Holy Book!’

Inching Towards Majoritarian Democracy

Image result for madhu dandavate

( Madhu Dandavate)

1.

These are times when the state of democracy is a cause of worry everywhere. With the emergence of populists, demagogues of various hues as custodians of the future of their countries, growing fascination for illiberal ideologies among masses in different parts of the world, the concern is not misplaced and it is apt that we are having this brainstorming where our focus would be on India itself.

‘Working Group on Alternative Strategies’ – which comprises of some of the finest public intellectuals and activists of our times – need to be thanked that they have been organising such seminars since last thirteen years and in this way commemorating the life and works of Prof Madhu Dandavate, a great Parliamentarian and Socialist ideologue. Continue reading Under the Shadow of ‘Holy Book!’

100th day of Shahidul Alam’s Detention – Eminent South Asians Write to Bangladesh Prime Minister

Today, it is 100 days of the detention of acclaimed photographer and cultural activist Shahidul Alam. On this occasion, Arundhati Roy, Aparna Sen, Vikram Seth, Romila Thapar, Amitav Ghosh, Shabhana Azmi, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Nandita Das, Mohammad Hanif, Anish Kapoor among other eminent persons from across South Asia have written a letter to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed demanding his immediate release.  on the 100th day of his detention.

Shahidul 3

H.E. Sheikh Hasina Wazed
Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Prime Minister’s Office
Dhaka, Bangladesh
13 November 2018

Subject: Appeal for release of Shahidul Alam on 100th day in custody

Your Excellency:
As well-wishers of Bangladesh and supporters of its 166 million citizens’ struggle for dignity, social justice and prosperity, we are distressed by the continued imprisonment of photographer and cultural activist Shahidul Alam. Since the founding of the nation in 1971, the people of Bangladesh have led by example, fighting poverty, ending social injustices and being standard-bearers of participatory development. This advance has been made possible by the democratic spirit of the people, who have challenged military rulers and autocrats alike. As well-wishers of Bangladesh, we fear that these gains are in danger due to the rising political intolerance and denial of fundamental freedoms.

Shahidul Alam is a Bangladeshi citizen, but the rest of us in South Asia are also proud to call him our own, for the values of truth, justice and social equality he promotes. His work and activism are respected all over our region and beyond, with innumerable friends who admire his concern for the voiceless and marginalised. One example is his latest work highlighting the tragedy of the Rohingya people, who have been given refuge in Bangladesh by your Government.

Since Shahidul Alam was forcefully taken from his home on the 5th of August, he was remanded first in Detective Branch custody for seven days and, then held at Dhaka Central Jail at Keraniganj. He is accused of ‘hurting the image of the nation’ while reporting on protests by young students demanding road safety.
It is clear to us that the case of Shahidul Alam is being used as a means to suppress criticism by others in civil society. His arrest and continued detention appear to be manifestation of an intolerant political atmosphere, an attempt to threaten and silence the voice of Bangladeshi citizens. With the country preparing for general elections, this is a time when there should be more space for debate and discussion, not less.

As believers in the rule of law, we are shocked to learn that government lawyers continue to oppose Shahidul Alam’s release on bail using various stratagems and delays intended to deprive him of his fundamental rights to liberty and due process. Across South Asia, politicians and citizens have fought for the right to speak, and to write, and it is astonishing to us that a government today, especially one which seeks to harness technology for progress, should choose to use a law to proscribe online speech to jail a citizen.

Prime Minister,

We the undersigned urge you to ensure the release of Shahidul Alam on this, the 100​th​ day of his detention. We look forward to Bangladesh retaining its place as an exemplar of
participatory democracy in South Asia.

Sincerely,
1. Akram Khan, London
2. Amar Kanwar, New Delhi
3. Amitav Ghosh, Goa
4. Anish Kapoor, London
5. Aparna Sen, Kolkata
6. Arundhati Roy, New Delhi
7. Ashok Vajpeyi, New Delhi
8. Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Kolkata
9. Dayanita Singh, New Delhi
10. Ina Puri, Kolkata
11. Jayadeva Uyangoda, Colombo
12. Kanak Mani Dixit, Kathmandu
13. Laila Tyabji, New Delhi;
14. Manjushree Thapa, Toronto
15. Mohammed Hanif, Karachi
16. Moushumi Bhowmik, Kolkata
17. Nandita Das, Kolkata
18. Nimalka Fernando, Colombo
19. Patricia Mukhim, Shillong
20. Pooja Sood, New Delhi
21. Rachana Singh, New Delhi
22. Raghu Rai, New Delhi
23. Rajdeep Sardesai, New Delhi
24. Ramchandra Guha, Bangalore
25. Romila Thapar, New Delhi
26. Salima Hashmi, Lahore
27. Sanjay Kak, New Delhi
28. Sanjoy Hazarika, Shillong
29. Sankha Ghosh, Kolkata
30. Shabana Azmi, Mumbai
31. Sushila Karki, Kathmandu
32. Vijay Prashad, New Delhi
33. Vikram Seth, New Delhi
34. Vrinda Grover, New Delhi

Time to Dump Blasphemy Laws

Can the countries from this part of Asia walk in the footsteps of Ireland?
Blasphemy Laws

Mera azm itna bulund hae, Parae sholon se dar nahin.

Mujhe dar hae tu atish e gul se hae, Ye kahin chaman ko jala na dein

(my confidence in self is strong, I’m unafraid of foreign flames

I’m scared those sparks may ignite, that in the blossom’s bosom lay )

— Shakeel Badayuni’s couplet which was very dear to Salman Taseer who was assassinated by Islamists

Know Meilana, a 44-year-old ethnic Chinese Buddhist from Indonesia, whose conviction under Indonesia’s controversial blasphemy laws, caused an uproar in the country, merely few months ago. The only ‘offence’ registered against her was that this woman from Sumatra had merely complained about ‘the volume of adzan or call to prayer, from her local mosque’. Her complaint was considered ‘blasphemous’ and even triggered an anti-Chinese riot in which several Buddhist temples were burnt.

(Read the full article here : https://www.newsclick.in/time-dump-blasphemy-laws)

Bharatiya Janata Party or Bharatiya Jumla Party !

Review of ‘Truth in Fetters : Broken Promises and Shattered Unity’

Image result for media house ram puniyani truth in fetters

“Change is in the air”!

A retired academic who had his last assignment as Vice Chancellor of a leading university said to me the other day, while we were discussing the contemporary political scenario. Frankly admitting that he had supported Modi’s candidature then and had even discreetly campaigned for him, during 2014 elections, he said that what a ‘disaster’ it has been these last four and half years to our polity with him at the helm of affairs.

What surprised me more was that he was from Eastern UP and belonged to one of the dominant upper castes in the region. Continue reading Bharatiya Janata Party or Bharatiya Jumla Party !

Keep Calm and Carry On: Dealing with Patriarchal Carpet Bombing in Kerala

For all women in India, what is happening in Kerala should be an eye-opener.  This is how Indian society rewards you for reaching the top, aspiring seriously to be on top, and actually asking questions to authorities about why they keep drawing on women’s energies and resources while simultaneously undermining the very ground on which they survive. In Kerala, two things are going on: there is on the one hand, a vicious gang led by Rahul Easwar which is openly threatening women who would dare to enter Sabarimala with the worst kinds of violence, on the other, the horrid misogyny of the press was revealed at the press conference held by the Women in Cinema Collective who expressed their deep disquiet at the way in which the organization of cinema actors, AMMA, and its president Mohanlal, were eager to protect oppressors and ignore survivors. Also, even male intellectuals who have been very supportive of feminist and gender justices causes have been named in the MeToo campaign among journalists in Kerala.

Kerala is a society where, in the past twenty years, we have seen women come up everywhere — in journalism, literature, academics, cinema, architecture, engineering, art, management, sports, trade unionism, activism. Women in Kerala have been the force of social democratizing as evident from the struggles ranging from the Munnar tea garden workers’ struggle to the brave nuns protesting against sexual violence. For sure, a very large number of women in Kerala are ultra-conservative, and that is apparent both in their presence in the muck that Easwar and his gang are raking up in Kerala, as well as in the shameless way in which some of them were emboldened to hurl caste insults at the Chief Minister of Kerala. This is therefore reminiscent not so much of the Battle of Britain in World War II, but for the Battle of Stalingrad — which was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe, even as there was hand-to-hand combat on the ground for control of the tiniest slices of the city, and where the city residents were often subject to the terrors of both the Nazi and the Soviet sides alike.

If you want to see male hubris overflowing, please take a look at this video, of https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FWomeninCinemaCollectiveOfficial%2Fvideos%2F249328929064857%2F&show_text=0&width=267“>the press conference held by the Women in Cinema collective. All I can tell us all is, Keep Calm and Carry on. After all, unlike in the World War II, the ammunition of these creeps need not hurt us at all; it can make it only more powerful.

 

 

 

The Impossible Gandhian Project and its Limits – Remembering the Mahatma Today

Gandhi, Nehru and Azad, Wardha 1935, image courtesy Governance Now

Majboori ka naam Mahatma Gandhi (Roughly: Compulsion thy name is Mahatma Gandhi)

I have grown up hearing this expression and have often wondered about its meaning and at the almost proverbial status acquired by it. Whose majboori or compulsion was Gandhi really? Well, at one level, everybody’s, for practically every current within the anti-colonial struggle was uncomfortable with his presence and his leadership. Jawaharlal Nehru had even remarked once that after independence, his fads would have to be kept in check. All nationalists who fought for independence from colonial rule (as opposed to the pseudo-nationalists who tried to convert it into a cow-protection movement) had their gaze fixed on the state. They wanted control of that coveted instrument – that was the crux of their anticolonial struggle. There were others like BR Ambedkar, who too invested a lot in the state but realized that the state in the hands of the nationalists would be a disaster for his people. But no one among them (poet-thinkers like Tagore apart) was prepared to look beyond the state. And Gandhi’s disavowal of the state – and of politics as such – was something that no one could digest. More than anything else, that was what made him a majboori for this set of people who could only lay their hands on their object of desire as long as Gandhi was in the leadership – for he alone could move millions like no one among his contemporaries could.

But my hunch is that these were not the people who coined this expression. Gandhi was a bigger majboori for another set of people who were, ironically, equally disinterested in the state and its ‘capture’ – at least till recently. Yes, these were the different currents of the Hindutva Brigade (VD Savarkar of the Hindu Mahasabha and his followers and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). They had to tolerate Gandhi – that is exactly what their majboori meant – till they could finally eliminate him. And it was one Nathuram Godse, with connections to both Savarkar and the RSS, who eventually killed him. There were earlier attempts too on Gandhi’s life – all from upper caste Hindus (one lot being Chitpavan Brahmins). Continue reading The Impossible Gandhian Project and its Limits – Remembering the Mahatma Today