The Poverty of Politics and Pre-Requisites of an Anti-Hindutva Front: Moggallan Bharti

Guest post by MOGGALLAN BHARTI

Going by the track record of past four years of Narendra Modi’s government, the only definitive political narrative today is that of the ruling party, characterized by its brand ideological vehemence/ aggression and paralleled by corresponding ideological ennui in the opposition camp. The fact that there is an astronomical rise in hate crimes against Muslims, Dalits, Women and other minorities, silently supported by large numbers of people, underlines the  onset of an ideology, conceptualized by the caste Hindus and institutionalized as Rashtriya SwayamSevak Sangh (RSS).

The electoral success of BJP – the political wing of RSS – only points to a reality which is the logical outcome of the political processes, wherein the Hindu right has been handled with the customary albatross of secularism around all of our necks – defying the social reality of India. In a predominantly caste society, secularism tends to obfuscates real social cleavages and gives preeminence to an idea shaped by the literate elites. That is not to say there is something inherently misplaced with the idea of secularism in this country. Certainly not! On the contrary, it is the dishonesty and the utter insincerity of the India’s political class for whom the politics of secularism remains a mere means to claim political power. Nothing wrong with that too, as long as, this means was directed to its logical end of making an India actually secular. Alas, India’s attempt at constructing a sincere secular society have been halfhearted at its best and nonexistent at its worst, regardless of the secular nostalgia that some people – very sincere and honest people – find themselves attached to.

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Constructing Democratic Rights Activists as Conspirators: Preeti Chauhan

Guest Post by PREETI CHAUHAN

The recent arrest of activists and intellectuals, and raids on various others connected with rights activism across five states in India is a grim reminder of the shrunken space for protest, criticism and dissent in our democracy today. This tendency to muzzle opposing voices has been on brazen display over the past four years though earlier governments had also tried to brand civil rights activists as ‘Maoists’ and as anti-development and anti-progress in a sense. The case against Dr. Binayak Sen, an office bearer of People’s Union for Civil Liberties comes to mind who was also alleged to be a Maoist.

The entire episode raises many questions on the motives of the government for this kind of concerted clampdown on human rights defenders. As of now, the charges against the activists seem far-fetched and entirely fabricated. Most of the activists who are now in jail or under house arrest are long-time members of the civil liberties movement in our country in the post-emergency period. Civil and democratic rights organizations and their activists have faced the charge of being fronts of this and that organization earlier too, and some have been attacked and killed also as in Andhra Pradesh. But what is important to understand is the location of the civil and democratic rights movement vis a vis democracy in India. Continue reading “Constructing Democratic Rights Activists as Conspirators: Preeti Chauhan”

University Teachers Forum Hyderabad Condemns the Raid at Prof Satyanarayana’s House

The following is a statement signed by 143 teachers of Hyderabad, released by the University Teachers’ Forum Hyderabad, condemning the police raid at the residence of Prof K. Satyanarayana recently.

We university teachers of Hyderabad hereby strongly register our protest against the arbitrary, ill-mannered raid on the residence of Dr. K. Satyanarayana, Professor of Cultural Studies and Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at the EFL University on 28 August 2018.

Early in the morning of 28 August, a police team from Maharashtra accompanied by some Telangana policemen and women, forced themselves into the apartment residence of Prof. Satyanarayana and his wife Pavana without showing them any authorizing document and proceeded to ransack and vandalise the entire flat for over eight hours.

The document that they eventually produced authorized the search ostensibly to find Mr. Varavara Rao, who had already been house-arrested at his own flat by another team. There was no mention of any charges against Prof. Satyanarayana himself. In violation of all rules and conventions, this document was in Marathi, was never presented at the time of entering the residence, and no explanation was offered as to the purpose of their raid. The team left having turned the entire flat upside down taking with them three laptops, a tablet and hard drive apart from some books and papers. Prof. Satyanarayana’s accumulation of research done over 30 years is now in danger of being completely destroyed.

An internationally renowned scholar of Cultural Studies and a pioneering author and editor in the field of Dalit Studies, Satyanarayana co-edited the two-volume anthology of New Dalit Writings from South India: No Alphabet in Sight (vol 1) and Steel Nibs are Sprouting (vol 2), Exercises of Freedom, as well as the volume of Dalit Studies, the first effort of its kind.

He has been a Dalit scholar and has devoted his entire time as an academic to the pursuit of knowledge and research into issues affecting dalits.

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Statement Demanding Immediate Release of Writers, Activists and Human Rights Defenders: IIT Kanpur Alumni and Others

We, a group of alumni of IIT Kanpur and others as students, researchers, faculty, staff and other community members affiliated with the same institute strongly condemn the arrest of IIT Kanpur alumna Sudha Bharadwaj (Integrated MSc., Mathematics, 1979-1984) and other activists namely, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao, and the raiding of houses of Anand Teltumbde, K. Satyanarayana and Stan Swamy among many others. These arrests seem to be a mere sequel in an ongoing attempt to intimidate and arrest activists, eminent writers, professors, journalists, and human rights defenders around the country.

Sudha Bhardwaj has a public record of dedicating herself to the most marginalized through her work spanning more than thirty years. She finished her integrated bachelors and masters program of Dept of Mathematics, IIT Kanpur, in 1984. Already socially conscious as a student, by 1986 she had moved to Chhattisgarh working with a workers’ organization and trade union in the mining-industrial belt of central Chhattisgarh. It is here she found her calling as a trade unionist, and later, as a lawyer. We have compiled a short biography of her long journey at https://goo.gl/J6F9kK – it is clear that she dedicated herself entirely to the most vulnerable and powerless, working through the rights and frameworks guaranteed in the Indian constitution. Continue reading “Statement Demanding Immediate Release of Writers, Activists and Human Rights Defenders: IIT Kanpur Alumni and Others”

Condemn the conspiracy of Hindutva fascist forces against democratic students’ organizations

Statement by COSTISA

On September 4th, 2018 in an important Bengali newspaper Anandabazar Patrika, it was declared that the Central Intelligence has marked some organizations in West Bengal which reportedly act as a frontal organization of the “Maoists”. In the list of organizations, a constituent organization of COSTISA, Ambedkar Bhagat Singh Study Circle (ABSC) has been named.

This event has to be looked at in connection with the nationwide crackdown on Human Right activists, Professors, lawyers and poet as a drive to “clear” “Urban Naxals”. This kind of sensational news shows that the central government is utterly desperate to curb and silence any voices that are raised against them. ABSC has been active in raising voices against the commercialization and saffronization of education and condemning nationwide brahminical fascist attacks on Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, and other minorities. The students involved in ABSC have also been an important part of the fee hike movement at 2016 in IIT Kharagpur which compelled the administration for a partial rollback of the semester fees and have stood with all students issues which demanded better democracy and proper student rights in the campus.

With all these facts in mind, the reason behind ABSC becoming an eyesore of the government is clear that they have stood for justice and constitutional rights of our people. The state has been using the tactic of labeling the pro-people organizations in an attempt to mobilize public sentiment against them and other activists. Moreover, the sensation created by these announcements serves the purpose of diverting the people’s attention from the real problems of our nation like unemployment, increasing costs of education, health and livelihood, increasing of attacks on Dalits, Adivasis, and Muslims by the Hindutva fascists, anti-people steps like demonetization and GST etc.

COSTISA condemns this act of which hunting and false sentimentalization by the state. We appeal all the patriotic, democratic, pro-people students and intellectuals to stand and raise your voice against it.

Let us not let our country lose all of the democratic ethos it has!

Coordination of Science and Technology Institutes’ Student Associations (COSTISA)

(www.facebook.com/supportcostisa)

Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC), IIT Madras

Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), IIT Bombay

Students For Change (SFC), IIT BHU

Students For Change (SFC), IMS BHU

Ambedkar Bhagat Singh Study Circle (ABSC), IIT Kharagpur

Forum For Critical Thinking (FCT), IIT Kanpur

Statement against the police raid on Dr. Satyanarayana’s house

Statement by academics in American universities

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the raid on Dr. Satyanarayana and Pavana’s official university residence, conducted by the Pune police as part of their recent raids on activists in India.

Dr. Satyanarayana is currently Head of the Department of Cultural Studies and Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. He has been instrumental in establishing Dalit Studies as an academic discipline and he has co-edited landmark books on dalit studies and vernacular dalit literatures, including Steel Nibs are Sprouting, No Alphabet in Sight and Dalit Studies. Pavana is a lecturer in Hyderabad and a founding member of the Andhra Pradesh Chaitanya Mahila Samakhya, an organization working for women’s rights. She was also editor of the Telugu feminist magazine Mahila Margam. Dr. Satyanarayana and Pavana are the son-in-law and daughter of poet and activist Varavara Rao, one of five people arrested in the raids.

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Three decades after Ameena, ‘Bride-Bazars’ continue to thrive in Hyderabad: Lovish Garg

Guest Post by LOVISH GARG

Ameena Begum was only ten years old when she was married to a man old enough to be her grandfather. The man- a 60-year-old Arab from Saudi Arabia had come to her house in Hyderabad to see Ameena’s elder sister for marriage but found her to be too ‘ugly and dark.’ He instead expressed desire to marry the young Ameena which the father readily agreed in exchange for a paltry sum of Rs 6,000.  She was later rescued by Amrita Ahluwalia- then an air-hostess with Indian Airlines after she found the young girl crying inconsolably on the Hyderabad-Delhi flight in-route to Saudi Arabia.

This incident put the global spotlight for the first time on the practice of ‘bride-shopping’ in the old city area of Hyderabad where minor Muslim girls from poverty-stricken families are married to older, mostly Arab men for a small sum of money. About three decades after this incident of August 1991- nothing much has changed and the practice of Sheikh marriages continue unabated with estimates suggesting around 2000 of such marriages performed only in the last one year.

The genesis of Sheikh marriages can be traced to the late 19th century when the Nizam of Hyderabad started hiring Chaush Arabs from what is the present-day Yemen. These men served as the military guards and later on high positions in the Nizam’s army and administration. The Arabs also brought with them the ritual of offering gifts and dowry to families who would marry their daughters to them. However, when oil stuck in the Gulf and situation in Hyderabad turned chaotic because of the rising peasant movement and later fall of Nizam- many such Chaush Arabs returned to their homelands.

Continue reading “Three decades after Ameena, ‘Bride-Bazars’ continue to thrive in Hyderabad: Lovish Garg”