The arrest of yet another alleged bomb-maker with right-wing links should lead to action at last.
When Crimes shoot up, they become invisible.
When pain becomes unbearable, cries are no longer heard.’
Can the provocations of a cabinet minister, who openly raises controversial slogans, be considered a “breach of peace” or are they merely attempts to “gauge people’s mood”, as the minister would have us believe? For more than a month, plenty of controversial slogans have been raised on the streets of India. People are being instigated to “kill the traitors to the country” by members of the ruling dispensation, who are issuing open threats in public as the masses are getting angrier against the CAA, NRC and the NPR.
As expected, till date, either no action has been taken by the law and order machinery or there is only an expectation of perfunctory action. This new normal is symptomatic of the rapid erosion of the rule of law in the country. A new normal wherein the chief minister of a state has no qualms in talking of taking “revenge” against protesters while his state’s police unleash unjustified violence on protesters and bystanders alike. Each of their tactics has, for this reason, received widespread condemnation. Even though the strong-arm tactics of the state are failing to pass the test of logic or reasonableness, there is still no change in the ruling dispensation’s attitude.
The question that is uppermost on most people’s minds today is what will happen to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and how long will the protests continue? The home minister Amit Shah declaring that the Act will not be withdrawn and the government will not move an inch, regardless of the protests, is a direct challenge to the people of India. With the Supreme Court looking the other way, taking up challenge thrown by Shah can only mean one thing now: if the Act does not go, the regime must. Mass movements have been known to bring down oppressive regimes, and even in the recent past, we have seen that happen in different parts of the world.
Subsequent developments, however, also indicate that often forces emerge that basically take advantage of the mass movements to hijack them and install equally unpopular regimes – a matter we need to discuss very seriously. I will briefly return to this ‘political question’ later as it is of utmost importance that we grasp the possibilities and dangers inherent in the present moment.
Hindutva is being embarrassed by the very people it has wooed, by means fair and foul.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt to further his deeply-sectarian and divisive agenda at Belur Math, global headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission founded by Swami Vivekananda, has backfired. His controversial defence of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 at the historic math in which he invoked Vivekananda himself has enraged a broad spectrum of people and formations. The CAA is, of course, the most contentious piece of legislation independent India has ever had, and it has sparked protests across the country.
What is rather noticeable is that not only the Opposition parties, but monks associated with the mission have also expressed tremendous displeasure over the political content of the PM’s speech. They have said that they found it “deeply hurtful” and they criticised it for tarnishing the “sanctity of the place”.
The very fact that Swami Suvirananda, general secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, was constrained to say that “we could not have whispered into the Prime Minister’s ears to stop midway…” or his emphasising the inclusive nature of the “only organisation in the world, only order in the world” which has “monks from Hindu, Islam and Christian communities. We live like brothers of the same parents…” says something.
Nobody put it in as many words, but what perturbed people was how Narendra Modi’s speech complete erased Swami Vivekananda’s legacy. A great rift was evident between what Vivekananda had said in his historic speech at Chicago in 1892 and Modi’s espousal of a law passed by the government he heads, which creates a basis to discriminate on the basis of religion. Here is what Vivekananda had espoused before the world: “I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth….”
Well, as far as close watchers of the Hindutva Right are concerned, they would underline that there was nothing unusual in Modi’s rather desperate attempts to appropriate Vivekananda and to recast him in the Hindutva mould.
Beginning this week, we are starting a column which will appear every Thursday. The name of this column, ‘Parapolitics’, is meant to indicate something that happens all the time, outside the formally designated sphere of politics, or what is sometimes called ‘the political’ by political theorists. As a matter of fact, most of such politics – parapolitics – takes place everyday and is deeply tied to our everyday lives. It is also what we may call ‘existential politics’: the dalit boys flogged by upper caste men inside a police station in Una, the woman of Unnao, whose family is decimated by the rapist’s henchmen, the mob-lynching to which Muslims are subjected on a daily basis, the farmer or the unemployed who commits suicide, the displaced adivasis or the workers who fight back – all these are instances of things deeply political but occurring away from or beneath the ‘proper’ domain of politics. The ‘proper domain of politics’ – that of state/government, parties, elections, alliances and so on – has repeatedly historically revealed its fundamental disconnect with such existential politics. Indeed, whenever faced by mass protests, the first response by the political class is to reduce it to the purported machinations of ‘opposition parties’. It cannot think of people, ordinary people, coming out in autonomous action. We might recall the response of the UPA government, at the height of the anti-corruption movement, challenging the locus standi of the protesters with the questions: ‘who are you?’ or ‘who has authorized you?’ etc Parapolitics is that unauthorized politics of everyday life, which often bursts out into the open but may also simply go on under the surface without any necessary public manifestation.
The most striking aspect of the present upsurge of popular anger around the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), as has been widely noticed, is the way defiant young women have become the face of the struggle. I am not referring here only to the women whose iconic images are circulating everywhere today, but also to the sheer number in which they have come out and the power with which they have been speaking their mind before the media. And they belong to all communities.
Sustained reportage by dogged and principled journalists and investigation by citizens’ groups have gradually begun to illuminate the terrible darkness around anti CAA protests in UP over December 2019. Every single one of these has exploded the narrative fostered by the UP government, police and compliant local media, of violent mobs destroying public property and attacking police.
We have all noted that massive marches against the CAA have taken place all over the country, but have “turned violent” only in BJP ruled states. The various reports that are now emerging, reveal the extent to which the UP police either acted as a violent mob itself, or used police informers or local RSS organizations to start stone pelting and other such acts to disrupt non-violent marches, and to provide an excuse for violent police action.
A public hearing on state action in UP will be held in Delhi on January 16th, 2020, bringing together all the information collected by different groups of people who have visited different parts of the state.
The outpouring of solidarity and generosity on the JNU campus, since the attack of 5th January 2020 has been overwhelming.
Hostels have organised guerilla dhabas at Sabarmati. They have sung revolutionary songs while making pans of maggi and distributing jhal muri and peanuts.
Men from the hostel that distributed peanuts, worried about the mess of the peanut shells at our hostel entrance, even offered to sweep up the place, brooms at the ready.
Three women in the women’s wing in Sabarmati threw all the women in the hostel a party two nights ago.
During and after the events of the 5th, neighbours have become friends.
Our teachers have been coming to meet us every day. Some have brought bags full of snacks. Some have organised trauma sessions for us. Some have just held us.
And tonight Brahmaputra hostel organised a Sadbhavna mela for the campus. Free snack stalls all around, dholak music to dance to and a large Lohri bonfire.
As some of us women from Sabarmati were walking back towards Ganga dhaba tonight, discussing how this is the first time our hostel has no Lohri celebrations, the men from Kaveri stopped us to offer popcorn from their Lohri celebrations.
This article that explores the enjoyment of violence, epsecially in the social media world, in the wake of the brutal violence perpetrated by the Yogi Adityanath regime in Uttar Pradesh. It should be read as a sequel to Jaya Sharma’s earlier article published in Kafila in June last year.
‘Maza aa gaya Yogiji maza…Lathi aisi lagi ki maza aa gaya…’
Maza is a word used often in tweets in response to police attacks on CAA-NRC protestors in UP. Unlike it’s staid, sanskritized counterpart anand, maza has a charge, a buzz and could translate into English as ‘thrill’. ‘Thrilling Yogiji thrilling’… ‘The way the lathi struck…thrilling’. I’ll return to such tweets to explore the following questions.
Might it be that there is an erotic charge to political violence? Might it be that the erotic charge is not limited to those who perform the violence but also animates the millions who hear, see or read that such violence has been meted out? Well beyond “not caring”, might it be that they “get off” on such violence? Can the proactive, enthusiastic support for political violence be understood only in terms of “ordinary folk” being corrupted by evil leaders? Might we also need to see what within the collective psyche could be pushing them towards a terrible kind of enjoyment of such violence? Continue reading The Yogi and the Erotics of Violence: Jaya Sharma→