Guest Post by AFIYA ZIA
A year ago, Pakistan’s national elections brought in a new government led by the Pakistan Tehreeq e Insaf (PTI) and headed by the former-cricketer-turned politician, Imran Khan. Khan had been drifting in the political wilderness for 22 years, waiting for providence to appoint him Prime Minister. As the 2018 elections loomed, this was not looking possible. However, a series of legal cases of corruption started being levelled against the serving PM, Nawaz Sharif, and efforts were made to atrophy others from the major parties of the PML-N and PPP (who had signed the ‘charter of democracy’ to prevent military intervention in civilian governance). The methods of these moves made it clear that the ‘establishment’ was betting on a new horse. Khan was not taking any risks though.
Six months before the national election, he entered marriage for the third time (with no less controversy than his previous marriages) to Bushra Maneka who was also his spiritual guide or pirni. A mother and a grandmother, there was speculation that Bushra divorced her husband for the higher cause of marrying the PM-in-waiting. In the days prior to the summer election, Khan performed Umrah in Mecca with Bushra, and was seen prostrating at a shrine in Pakistan and accessorised with rosaries and amulets in preparation for the polls.
Continue reading The Politics of Piety in Naya Pakistan: Afiya Zia
The excerpt below is translated by DARSHAN SUBRAMANIAM. The note that follows is by J Devika.
Continue reading Against Aachaaram: Srinarayana Guru
This is to announce a new series of postings I will be doing, relating to aachaaram in Kerala.
Aachaaram is loosely translated as ‘customary practices’ or ‘customary rituals’, but in 19th century Malayali society, it referred to a massive, inter-connected, all-pervading web of practices, rituals, and ideas which bolstered the domination of the upper-castes — in Kerala’s context, this meant the Brahmin-sudra nexus — over the lower castes. It touched the most intimate and personal aspects of a person’s life; through it, the allegiances and the labour of lower caste communities were extracted to benefit the upper castes. The lower-caste assertions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries here, through which modern democracy became a possibility at all, were directed against this web. Aachaaram, however, survived this phase through shrinking its spatial presence to savarna homes and temples; later, after the re-consolidation of brahmin-sudra power, towards the end of the 20th century, the rise of spiritual capitalism had led to aacharam’s resurrection as the vehicle of gendered savarna power — and as the provider of opening gambits for the Hindu fundamentalists — in Kerala .
In this series, I will post translations of selections/excerpts from the writings of the critics of aachaaram from early 20th century Kerala, with short reflections on each for the present. The many different readings of Hinduism that arose in that period when the Brahmin-sudra nexus was thrown into confusion, as well as the many different dreams of social liberation from different parts of the world that entered Malayali society then — from C Krishnan’s Buddhism to Marxism — produced powerful critical exposures that revealed aachaaram to be nothing but a vehicle and instrument of the power of certain groups over others. The effort made by these voices to point to the danger that it posed to a dream of a just society was largely ignored by the mainstream, especially the mainstream left.
The first of these is an excerpt from a conversation between the well-known social revolutionary, the avarna-born seer, spiritual leader, and philosopher, Srinarayana Guru and his disciples in which the annual pilgrimage to Sivagiri was planned, which I will post separately.
Guest post by ZAKIA SOMAN
The wedding of Nusrat Jahan the TMC MP to Nikhil Jain is refreshing news. It is heartening to see two young Indians from different faith backgrounds uniting and celebrating their marriage in the times of religious hate and division.
The mixing of politics and religion has led to a climate where marrying a person from another faith has become extremely difficult specially for young people. The case of Hadiya may have been highlighted in the media but it is certainly not the only instance where a couple had to undergo tremendous hardships for falling in love. The self-appointed guardians of religion who seem omnipresent in family, community, police, judiciary, government, media would walk great lengths to prevent inter-faith marriages from taking place. Continue reading Why I Celebrate the Wedding of Nusrat Jahan: Zakia Soman
Letter to the Election Commission of India written by 64 former civil servants, endorsed by 83 veterans, academics and other concerned citizens.
Shri Sunil Arora, Chief Election Commissioner, Shri Ashok Lavasa, Election Commissioner, and Shri Sushil Chandra, Election Commissioner.
Election Commission of India.
Serious Irregularities in the Conduct of General Elections, 2019
- We are a group of former civil servants that takes up, from time to time, matters of exceptional national interest, seeking to remind our cherished democratic institutions of their responsibility to uphold the lofty ideals of the Constitution. We write to you today to draw your attention to the several very troubling and still unexplained issues pertaining to the conduct of the General Elections, 2019, by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
- From time to time, the media has reported on various irregularities in the conduct of the 2019 General Elections. While we accept that not every media report is accurate or true, the ECI’s non-rebuttal of an untrue or inaccurate story leaves the public to draw its own conclusion: that the ECI has no valid explanation to offer. The mere dismissal of the allegations as baseless, without an explanation as to why they should be so considered, is unsatisfactory. As the custodian of the most precious commodity in a democracy – the people’s mandate – it is your duty to be transparent, and accountable to the Constitution and the people of India. Continue reading Lok Sabha Elections 2019 – Calling the Election Commission to account: Statement by retired civil servants, veterans, academics and concerned citizens