Category Archives: Politics

Bangladesh: Faces of Emergency and Human Rights Issues

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Cholesh Richil had no charges of corruption or criminal activity in Bangladesh, which is ruled under emergency and a civilian caretaker government, backed by the army. An outspoken leader of the Garo indigenous community, who live in the Modhupur area north of Dhaka, Cholesh had been campaigning against the construction of a so-called ‘eco (ecology) park’ on their ancestral land, on the grounds that it would deprive them of their land and means of livelihood. He was arrested by the Joint Forces (army and police) personnel on 18 March 2007 and taken to Modhupur Kakraidh temporary army camp. Tortured for several hours before being taken to Madhupur Thane Health Complex, he was declared dead the same evening.

After Choesh Richil’s body was handed over to the Garo community church on 19 March, his family observed multiple bruises, nails missing from his fingers and toes, and cuts and scratches consistent with blade wounds. His testicles had been removed. Local government officials have stated that an ‘administrative inquiry’ into the case has been initiated, but none are aware of the terms of reference or the progress of the inquiry.

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Why Hindol Sengupta needn’t fear Mayawati

hindol-senguptamayawati

Baba Hindol and Behen Maya

Please read this very important post on the CNN IBN website’s otherwise dull blog section. It has been written by Hindol Sengupta who covers fashion and suchlike for them. His point is that he can’t relate to Mayawati, and finds it ironic that the “backbone of the knowledge, entreneurial [sic] economy” should be a “non-vote bank”. He says that his class of people, his ‘type’ – People Like Us, to use a cliche – “rejoice every time Manmohan Singh takes stage” but alas, even he couldn’t win a Lok Sabha election from South Delhi.

The reason why I think it is an important post is that unlike most other PLUs, Sengupta makes no claim to ‘objectivity’. When Youth for Equality / United Students / other ‘anti-reservationists’ oppose reservations, and speak about Dalits/OBCs, they claim to be doing so with a claim to ‘objectivity’, that is, they do not admit that the viewpoint(s) they are putting forward are of a certain section of society that is influential in shaping public opinion despite being in a minority.

Sengupta admits not only his discomfiture with a democratically elected Mayawati but also that his discomfiture stems from his background, from who he is. He describes himself and his ilk as “middle-class, educated, metro-bred, Christian-education raised, young.” That would abbreviate into MEMCRY, but let’s just use the word ‘yuppie’.

It is quite extraordinary and laudatory for a yuppie to admit his distance from the political rise of the ‘low-class, neo-literate, village-bred, government school-raised, middle aged’. Such an admission is a rarity, and it is exactly what the ‘anti-anti-reservationists’ want the ‘anti-reservationists’ to admit. Continue reading Why Hindol Sengupta needn’t fear Mayawati

Learning from China

Here is an article by Aseem Shrivastava, who suggests that there is a grimmer lesson to be learnt from China than the corporate flunkies would have us believe. Turning Mumbai into Shanghai? More like turning Nandigram into Shenzen…

The Indian Predicament
SEZS: Behind the Curtain
By ASEEM SHRIVASTAVA

“Few cities anywhere have created wealth faster than Shenzhen, but the costs of its phenomenal success stare out from every corner: environmental destruction, soaring crime rates and the disillusionment and degradation of its vast force of migrant workers”

–“Chinese Success Story Chokes on Its Own Growth”

The New York Times, December 19, 2006.

Within the short span of a few decades China has become the envy of the world. Corporate managers across the globe lose sleep worrying about “the China price”. Real wages and working conditions rivaling those of industrializing, pauperizing Britain two centuries ago have enabled the country to leave far behind any global competitor who has to worry about such inconvenient matters as labor laws and environmental regulations. Thus has accelerated the inter-national race to the bottom that has generated fear since the early days of this phase of corporate globalization. The labor force in the global economy doubled overnight in the early 1990s (from 1400 to 2900 million) when China, India and the Eastern Bloc nations joined it after the fall of the Berlin Wall, under Bush I’s “New World Order.” If real wages and the share of wages in national income have fallen sharply in recent times, and if inequalities have risen dramatically at the same time, the answer to the riddle lies in this quiet accretion, cashed in on by China-based corporations who have set the pace. The logic of capital has inveigled the entire world into a race of totalitarianisms–which inevitably enrich the few and pauperize the many in

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Comprador Intellectuals on the War-Path

[comprador: 1. An intermediary; a go-between. 2. A native-born agent in China and certain other Asian countries formerly employed by a foreign business to serve as a collaborator or intermediary in commercial transactions. Source: American Heritage Dictionary. A word once popularized in the writings of Mao Tsetung, this meant simply a foreign agent. We could more profitably deploy it here to describe those who have abdicated their position as critical intellectuals to the demands of power. ]

A friend who teaches in Kolkata University was once accosted by a group of SFI [acronym of the CPM’s student-wing] activists asking for ‘donations’. You have of course to be familiar with the political culture of West Bengal – first under the Congress regime and then ably carried on under the CPM – in order to understand what ‘donation’ or ‘chaanda’ means. Ordinary mortals tremble when CPM supporters come to ask for chaanda, be it for the Durga Puja or for students’ elections. This brave man happened to tell them that he would not give donations to the SFI or CPM as he disagreed with their politics. As the students were leaving the room, one of them returned to tell him, “Sir, Amaar naam Ratna Sarkar. Kichhu dorkaar hole bolben.” [Sir, my name is Ratna Sarkar (name changed for obvious reasons). Please let me know if you need something]. The very mention of the name was supposed to reveal in a flash to this foolhardy teacher, who at 50 years plus, continues to remain a ‘senior lecturer’, that she was the daughter of one of the most powerful state CPM leaders. A daily occurrence in West Bengal. A silent terror inscribed in daily life.

This friend needs also to be mentioned here today because he has had a fairly compelling thesis for sometime now. Civil society in Bengal, he suggests, has been decimated ever since the CPM/LF came to power. In the pre-Left Front days, he argues, it was the Leftist intelligentsia that constituted the critical voice, interrogating the excesses of power. Not any more. What can such an intelligentsia be called but comprador, who have ‘sold their conscience’ to the party line – to resort to a mild polemical Leninism. But alas, such intellectuals are not merely the Sunil Gangopadhyays in Bengal who have fallen in line not because of party commitment but maybe some other calculations; after all they have to live in CPM ruled West Bengal for quite some more time to come. Such are also the seventeen intellectuals who have issued the statement in defense of the West Bengal government.

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Touchable Crimes: Gohana Nay Kizzhevanamani

Investigations by the police or the intelligence officials in highly contested cases have an uncanny ability of looking weird in an unabashed manner.

The recent chargesheet filed by the CBI, which had been asked to look into the attack, and arson, at a Dalit (Valmiki) basti in Gohana, once again vindicates this thesis. According to a newspaper report the chargesheet into the 2005 Gohana riots in Haryana has ‘..revealed that some people in Balmiki Basti had set their houses on fire themselves, allegedly for compensation.” The chargesheet talks of CBI’s observations that ” extensive burning was observed in 19 out of 28 houses. Of these, nine houses were inspected thoroughly and it appeared that in these houses the “simulated arsoning” was carried out, which are yet “to get compensation”. Continue reading Touchable Crimes: Gohana Nay Kizzhevanamani

The Ghost of the Middle Ground

Uncertainty, Ambiguity and the Media Response to Efforts to Secure a Commutation of the Death Penalty for Mohammad Afzal Guru and An Enquiry into the Events of December 13

Shuddhabrata Sengupta, January 1, 2007 (posted earlier on the Sarai-Reader List)
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‘Now is the Winter of Our Discontent made Summer by the Pleasing Light of Television’

At the beginning of each new year, it is customary to take stock of what has happened in the last 365 days, and reflect on options for the future. I don’t want to speak for the entire year (let’s leave the year end newspaper and magazine supplements and the TV round-ups to do that). But I do want to look at this bleak now, the ongoing “winter of our discontent”, especially as it has played out on that hallowed and late, lamented entity called the ‘middle ground’.

This ‘middle ground’ is a territory currently under the occupation of large bastions of the mainstream media in India. It was on the parched soil of the ‘middle ground’ that the beast called public opinion was so eagerly sought to be beaten into shape (or pulp, depending on your point of view) in a daily gladiatorial during the course of the last few months. While this has always been the case, it did come into especially sharp focus ever since the question of the execution of Mohammad Afzal Guru came back on to what is sometimes called the ‘national agenda’ in late September – early October 2006. What began during our brief autumn rapidly gathered momentum as winter set in.

The thick fog that descends on Delhi with the onset of deep winter is a time where plots are laid ‘in deadly hate’, and ‘dangerous inductions, drunken prophecies, libels and dreams’ are aired by means of strategems that have every reason to be called ‘subtle, false, and treacherous’. Had William Shakespeare been writing a draft of Richard the Third in Delhi during an early twenty first century winter, he might have set the bleak iambs of the opening soliloquy in a television studio, and made the actor speaking them wear the pressed suits of a certain variety of senior journalist or news anchor, or the uniform or distinguished plain-clothes attire usually to be found adorning the person of an operative of the special cell of the Delhi police, or the Intelligence Bureau. Perhaps there might even be some actors who could essay both roles (a certain kind of journalist and intelligence operative) with practised ease, because there is so little left nowadays, to distinguish between the two functions. Call it what you will, embodied intelligence, or embedded journalism.

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