Category Archives: Politics

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.

Continue reading The Ghost of the Middle Ground

Why Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV is Broadcasting Sunday Mass

By SOPHIE McNEILL

Sophie McNeill is a reporter with SBS Television Australia, her blog from Lebanon can be found at http://www9.sbs.com.au/

[Note from NM: I received this from nothing2report@gmail.com, and was struck by how this kind of complex reporting is almost non-existent in India, at least in the English media . How often do reporters actually speak to participants in a rally, going beyond the media-designated ‘stars’ who are present (whose own sincerity and commitment the media itself then paints as being ‘merely for publicity’ – it’s a vicious cycle.) How much political protest by non-party citizens’ groups gets covered at all except as traffic disruptions or if it has been ‘newsworthy’ because of stars/violence/self-immolations? How many reports in print or on the 24 hour TV news channels actually give the consumer a sense of what the issues are, what are the debates, or try to go beyond the Big Fight format of For and Against? Do news reporters do any background research ever? How many 6th of Decembers have passed with no coverage at all of huge-to-small (differing from year to year) secular protests by a range of people from Gandhians to the ultra left; but with two predictable photographs every year – one of recognizable Muslims and another of the Shiv Sena/Bajrang Dal protesting and celebrating respectively, counterposed on front pages of newspapers?
Apart from being an exemplary piece of reportage, Sophie McNeill’s article below give us a fascinating insight into politics in Lebanon.
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A truck laden with yellow Hezbollah flags drives past the Christian neighbourhood of Gemayzeh early Sunday morning in downtown Beirut. There’s a picture of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on the windscreen, but it’s not his name that the young men on board are chanting. “General, General!” yell these young Shiite boys.

Their chant is for the leader of Hezbollah’s largest Christian ally, the former General Michel Aoun. And this van captures an important dynamic that many of the international and Lebanese press have omitted from their coverage of the last few days — that almost a quarter of the crowd at the huge anti-government protests have been Lebanese Christians. Continue reading Why Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV is Broadcasting Sunday Mass

Repression and Resistance in Oaxaca

By Luis Hernández Navarro, Opinion Editor at La Jornada in Mexico, where parts of this text were published. He is a collaborator with the Americas Program online at www.americaspolicy.org
Translated by Katherine Kohlstedt.
A profound political crisis is shaking up Mexico. The rules that regulate the balance of power between elites have been violated. From above, there is no agreement or any possibility for one in the short term.A severe crisis in the model of control has eroded relationships of domination in many parts of Mexican national territory. People accustomed to obeying have refused to do so. People who think they are destined to rule have been unable to impose their command. Those from below have become disobedient. When those on the top want to impose their opinion from above, in the name of the law, they are ignored from below. Nowhere is the breakdown in control and the effervescence of rebellion as obvious as in the state of Oaxaca.

Oaxaca is a state plagued with social problems. It is a Mexican tourist enclave, surrounded by poverty where people survive on remittances sent by migrant workers abroad. Within its territory one finds land struggles, confrontations between caciques(local bosses ) and coyotes (migrant smugglers), local government conflicts, ethnic revenge, fights for better prices for agricultural products, and resistance against the authoritarian state.

Since May 15, Oaxaca has been in the throes of its most massive and significant social movement in recent history. The protest begun by Section 22 of the national teachers’ union (SNTE, for its initials in Spanish) soon became the expression of the social contradictions in the state. It is not at all unusual that teachers mobilize for pay raises around the time of the contract negotiation. This time it has gone well beyond a union struggle to fuse protests of many groups. Oaxacan society has come out in force to show its solidarity with the teachers and add in other demands and grievances. Around 350 organizations, indigenous communities, unions, and non-profits have jointed to form the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO). Continue reading Repression and Resistance in Oaxaca

The Dalit ‘Betrayal’ of Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan

Karan Thapar of CNBC -TV18 recently presented a half-hour debate on whether Dalits have a better future adopting English rather than one of the so many Indian languages. Some of us followed it keenly because we knew where it was comig from and also the dramatis personae – Chandrabhan Prasad(CP), Yogendra Yadav(YY) and Alok Rai(AR) – all very dear friends, and people who have been deeply engaged with the politics and practice of languages in North India. It was a one-sided debate from the moment it started: clear victory to Chandrabhan Prasad from the word go, first of all, because he had managed to pitchfork his provocative stance into a full scale discussion in the national press and the big media. Think about it: it has taken him just three consecutive annual Macaulay’s birthday parties to friends, to bring it to the attention of a much wider number of intellectuals and a larger public. It was a victory for his own brand of Gandhigiri – that you could very much debate and advance your cause while having fun: ‘chicken, mutton, daaru and daliton ki kuchh samasyayein’ is his style, in his own inimitable words. This is not to say that he does not believe in agitational politics. He does that as well.The debate was also one-sided because CP’s interlocutors did not have convincing answers to his extremist views on language and religion and the coupling of the two, which had to inevitably sneak into the discussion, considering en mass dalit conversions were fresh in media memory. For example, when Karan Thapar probed CP on why he suggested Dalits take flight from Hindi and Hinduism; was it because he hated Hinduism? CP had perhaps an obvious but pithy answer: I did not choose to hate Hinduism, Hinduism never loved me!YY and AR looked aghast and betrayed at the idea of rejecting Indian languages, for Dalits, after all, were communicatively, politically and experientially rooted in these languages, beginning with Marathi, most of the(autobiographical) dalit literature was written in indian languages. They went on, the NRI example of turning away from one’s language is not a healthy one: look how they have all become Hindutva supporters, etc. etc. CP of course rubbished this secular middle class sentimentalism by citing Ambedkar’s example, that he always wrote in English and he did so knowing very well that it is not the Dalits who would read him!

Continue reading The Dalit ‘Betrayal’ of Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan

The Social Forum Phenomenon

The Idea of Open Space

The recent years have seen the rise and spread of local, national, regional, thematic and global social forums, inspired directly and indirectly by the World Social Forums (WSF) and its Charter of Principles. Any Social Forum, inspired by the WSF, and the WSF itself is conceived as an open space that facilitates the coming together of people to engage with each other on diverse social-political issues, and to oppose neo-liberalism and the domination of the world by Capital and any form of imperialism. They are committed to building a planetary society directed towards fruitful relationships among Humankind and between it and the Earth. Indian social and political activism has shown tremendous energy for the Forum in these years: Activities of the WSF process in India were initiated in early 2002, and were designed to set up and build a World Social Forum process in the country, towards hosting the Asian Social Forum in Hyderabad in 2003 and subsequently the World Social Forum in Mumbai in 2004. And now, the proposed India Social Forum in Delhi from 9 to 13 November 2006 marks the initiative to further advance the movement against neo-liberal globalisation, sectarian politics, casteism, patriarchy and militarization. Continue reading The Social Forum Phenomenon