In the previous instalment of this series in Parapolitics, I had discussed the situation arising out of the Covid 19 pandemic in terms of the possible implications of the global lockdown and ‘quarantine of consumption’, for post-capitalist futures. In this part, I will discuss (a) the conditions that make such futures not just imaginable but possible and (b) indicate certain directions that such futures are already taking – for the paths that we tread now are the ones that lead to the future.
Theory/ Concept/ Discourse
Since all talk of post-capitalist futures only sounds outlandishly utopian and out of sync with what we see around us with the ‘naked eye’ as it were, it is necessary to first clear our field of vision a little. And, let us be very clear here that this ‘clearing of the field of vision’ is not, in the first instance, about practices on the ground but about the field of knowledge – and theory in general. And before any hard-boiled hysterical-materialist tries to tell us that all this is idealism and that the ‘real’ stuff is materiality and things only happen in practice, I want to make three general points here. First, for the more theologically oriented: it was Lenin who said repeatedly that ‘without revolutionary theory, there cannot be any revolutionary movement.’ (What is to be Done?) Not only that, he also insisted (after Kautsky) that left to its own, the working class movement could only produce ‘trade union consciousness’ and that ‘socialist theory’ had to be imported from outside (basically bourgeois intellectuals) into the working class movement. This understanding was to lead to all kinds of problems including vanguardism but we will let that be for now.
This post written by VISHWAS SATGAR was first published in Daily Maverick
With the coronavirus, we are really trying to mitigate the revenge blow from nature. It’s a moment to be humble and realise our finitude in a wondrous and infinite natural order.
Covid-19 has pushed an already weak and crisis-ridden global economy over the edge. Massive value has been erased from crashing stock market prices. Many commentators are talking about the return of economic conditions similar to the great financial crash of 2007-2009. The most powerful countries in the world from China to the US have ground to a halt.
This pathogen, possibly from delicate creatures like a pangolin or a bat, has engendered the worst global pandemic since the Spanish flu (1918-1920), which killed 100-million people. Death rates are going up globally. Right-wing nationalists in Europe and the USA have been confused as this virus has jumped racist border regimes, and infected all populations. Citizens are no longer concerned about their racist messages, but rather about how to survive.
A recent ‘Newshour’ non-debate on Times Now on whether or not an order emanating from the Ministry of Human Resources Development to erect 207 feet high steel flagpoles and giant tricolour flags in Central Universities across India featured a wonderful intervention by Sambit Patra, BJP spokesman and digital magician extraordinaire.
A Letter in solidarity with Library genesis and Sci-Hub
In Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s tale the Little Prince meets a businessman who accumulates stars with the sole purpose of being able to buy more stars. The Little Prince is perplexed. He owns only a flower, which he waters every day. Three volcanoes, which he cleans every week. “It is of some use to my volcanoes, and it is of some use to my flower, that I own them,” he says, “but you are of no use to the stars that you own”.
Why the Silicon Valley (Generally) Loves Narendra Modi
“Indians are the most prosperous group in the United States of America,” said comedian Rajiv Satyal, the compère of the Narendra Modi speech at the San Jose Arena in the Silicon Valley on Sept. 27. No flash of Gandhian embarrassment stood in the way of the booming cheer that followed. Later on when repeated technical bungling (ironic next to the tech bombast of the setting) led the compère to step back on stage, he kept repeating this idea alongside “Bharat Mata ki Jai!” to keep the ardor up among the 17,000-strong crowd. There appeared to be a few thousand more outside, either supporting or protesting the event. Several U.S. legislators were present, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“The manner in which the state is intervening in higher education is causing concern and even alarm in the academic community. Both the unlamented UPA—II regime and the current NDA government have been remarkably similar in their authoritarian impatience to introduce wholesale changes without adequate or careful preparation. This position paper is the collective product of roughly six months of discussion among teachers of several central universities in Delhi. It is an attempt to participate in the process of critical self evaluation of the university system as it is today. It is also our considered response to the many policy statements and directives issued by the MHRD and the UGC recently”
Please click on the link below for the complete position paper on proposed reforms in higher education, prepared by Delhi-based Academics for Creative Reform and released at a press conference today:
Political Social Media had a minor event this week. The world’s two most followed elected leaders on social media, shared the media centerstage. Barack Obama, with 45 million fans on Facebook and 54 million followers on Twitter, and his Indian counterpart Modi, with 27 million on Facebook and another 9.8 million on Twitter, together command the arguably most powerful political brands on social media. In a rare moment of realpolitik bromance, Narendra Modi sent Barack Obama a smiley for quoting Shah Rukh Khan in the Lok Sabha. A day later, Narendra Modi became the first Indian politician to use Twitter’s new video feature in a carefully cut 30-second monologue.
Modi campaign’s exceptional presence on social media is not news. He is India’s most “liked” person on Facebook. While he still trails actors Amitabh Bachchan the Khan troika and the Dalai Lama from among India’s resident Tweeters, his average of adding 20,000 followers daily for much of the last year should put him safely past his competition by the end of the year.
An Urgent Alert has been posted by NITYANAND JAYARAMAN in DiaNuke.org on an accident that occurred in Koodankulan sometime in the afternoon today.
After initially flashing news about the incident, the media is now reportedly playing NPCIL’s statements denying and downplaying the incident. If NPCIL’s past record is anything to go by, truth will be a while in coming. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was unavailable for comment.
Today’s accident comes less than a week after the Honourable Supreme Court ruled that it was satisfied with the safety features installed at the plant. Read the rest of the report here.
We have reported earlier in Kafila on the ongoing struggle of the local people against the establishment of the nuclear reactor in Koodankulan here, here and here.
A version of this essay appeared in the Kashmir Reader, 10 December 2013
Guest Post by Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh
On the road to the city from Srinagar Airport, I recently saw a billboard. Beneath the radiantly beaming faces of Manmohan Singh, and Sonia Gandhi, it bore the declaration ‘One Nation. One Card. AADHAR.’ Public Service advertisements in the same cheery vein have been airing on Radio Kashmir, and the state owned TV station Doordarshan- Kashir. Its critics assert that the AADHAR (‘its not a card, just a number!’) scheme exemplifies the financialisation of citizenship (each AADHAR number will require a corresponding bank account), a regime of biometric surveillance, the creation of a database nation and an expansion of the global corporate- military-intelligence empire. But AADHAR is only the latest chapter in the largely undocumented history of India’s intimate stranglehold over Kashmir through identity documents. It is a history told anecdotally, through stories about the sinking feeling of being stopped at a barricade and rifling through empty pockets, of cold hours spent pleading on a street or at a police station, of late night rescues of hapless friends from lonely check points, of miraculously narrow escapes despite having left home without it.
Though no Kashmiri adult I know leaves home without their ID, no one can seem to pin point exactly when the carrying of a photo-identity card became mandatory. Trying to understand the basis for the practice, I asked a friend under what law it was required that every person be able to prove their identity at all times. ‘Under the gun law!’ he replied succinctly. While its legal origins are uncertain, what is quite clear is that by the early 1990s no Kashmiri male could afford to be, quite literally, caught dead without one. As my plain speaking friend explained, “the most important reason for carrying one was if you were killed, somebody would hopefully find your card and inform your family.” The ID card was the tenuous piece of laminated paper that stood between him and an unmarked grave, an unmourned death.
In May 2013, makers of the erotic comic strip came out with the Savita Bhabhi movie, where apart from Savita Bhabhi doing what she is best at, she also helps the two nerds, who mistakenly teleport her into their Orwellian India of 2070, take their revenge upon the notorious I&B Minister who bans all online porn but engages in all offline porn. With this, Savita Bhabhi was back in our ever-so-fickle public memory after 4 years of ban, but yet not quite. Her resurfacing was not as resounding as her going away. One could ascribe this to the spoken language of the movie being Hindi instead of English, which is the original language of the strip and also the official language of all modern day revolutions of the middle class on social media. Perhaps they misjudged the ‘maximum reach’ bit, which rendered her an orphan. Nevertheless, that aside, why isn’t Savita Bhabhi missed enough anyway?
The People of Chutka and adjoining villages in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh won another victory against the Chutka (Madhya Pradesh) Nuclear Power Plant (being imposed on them by Congress-led Central government in active collusion with BJP-led state government) as the government was forced for the second time to postpone its farcical public-hearing on the project that was scheduled on 31st July. After a sustained protest by people of the region that was actively supported by almost every section of left-democratic forces in the state and beyond, the district administration called off the public-hearing on 29th July.
Guest post by MONOBINA GUPTA. DelhiUniversity teachers are fighting back to hold on to the fast vanishing autonomy of academics and academia. For me, this is a significant moment. Not just because the teachers are setting an example in their refusal to submit to the destructive moves disguised as ‘reform’, slammed through by well-connected and powerful authorities at the top. I must confess to my own selfish reasons for celebrating this moment. As a journalist, I can’t but think of all that we too could have held on to had only we walked this path of resistance, stalled the first assault on the newsroom, resisted the first strike, shrinking what I would describe as our ‘journalistic territory.’
Had we moved in that difficult yet honourable direction, we too might have guarded our space, not allowed non-journalists to take it over, bit by bit. Is it too late to recover and reclaim what was once an autonomous, if not a radical newsroom? Maybe. Maybe not.
For journalists like me who entered the newsroom in the 1980s, it’s the transformation of that space that I find both fascinating as well as frightening, in equal measure. Tune out the deafening noise of 24×7 news – cut the frills – journalism emerges in all its bare bones as the craft it really is or should be: an incisive tool for chronicling and analysing events. Ring side spectators or distant observers, members of the media, under all circumstances, are supposed to have their ear to the ground. In an ideal world, these couriers of news – mostly nasty and brutish these days – shouldn’t be attuned to corporate boardroom culture or its fiat. Continue reading The Changed Face of the Newsroom: Monobina Gupta→
‘It happens only in India’ – so goes the refrain. Because we are extra special. Yes we are. In our smugness and in our conceit. In our bloated sense of Self that will stop short of nothing less than the status of the next ‘superpower’ – without anything to show for it though. Wonder where all this actually comes from? Chala Murari Hero Banane. Years ago, we were told, we had colonized Silicon Valley. Our software writers, the best in the world, had placed India in the world map of rising powers. So much had it impressed the leaders of this country that they decided that all their higher education would be geared to producing more and more such labour for the new global economy (no offense meant to the software people). However that is another story. Right now I want to tell a different one – partly out of frustration but partly because I consider it my duty to forewarn others who might be in for a similar experience as mine. Continue reading On Passport Divas, ‘We are Like That Only, But We Want to be Superpower’!→
After the suppression of the 1857 Mutiny and the British take over of Delhi, Mirza Ghalib was once asked by a military official whether he were Muslim or not. Ghalib is said to have quipped: “Only half Muslim; I drink wine but refrain from swine.” For me, this ripost evinces a flippant disdain for modern forms of rule which essentialize persons and groups purely based on certain attributes which are deemed definitive and prioritized over others. As far as Ghalib’s case was concerned, the idea may have been to find out based on his religious identity if at all he could pose problems for the newly established colonial regime. In later years, this policy, which African intellectual Mahmood Mamdani has recently termed ‘define and rule’, gradually became integral to governmental practices in most parts of the modern world; today, populations are ever so readily classified and enumerated based on empirically observable characteristics in order to make them amenable to effective government. The Aadhaar project of the Unique Identification Authority of India clearly falls within the gamut of such practices, marking a transition to modernity in a radical break from the past. So my reservations with it are just the same as those with any other modernity inspired programme wherein personal and collective identities are reduced to a somewhat arbitrarily determined bare essence which may have no real connection with lived experiences of fuzzy and contextually constructed identities.
This is a guest post by NEHA SAIGAL: The Budget Session is upon us and we might be witness to one of UPA’s most ambitious flagship programmes, the National Food Security Bill (NFSB), becoming a reality. So it seems like Food Security is the flavour of this session with President, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, reiterating UPA 2’s commitment to food security in his maiden speech at the start of the Budget Session.
Until Nikhil Pahwa of Medianama.com informed me, I had no clue that India’s unjust and arbitrary internet censorship regime had finally affected Kafila. Medianama published on Friday 15 February a list of 78 URLs that the Department of Telecommunications had ordered ISPs to block. 73 of them were webpages critical of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), whose Arindam Chaudhuri has a long history of complaining about the Internet. Continue reading Arindam Chaudhuri promises to get Kafila page unblocked→
A young man wearing faded jeans and a t-shirt too unpleasantly tight around his middle, sits on his end in front of a laptop, weeping. The tears aren’t exactly the gushing springs of fresh grief, more the trickling of nostalgic streams. He misses his favourite website. Everything bookmarked in his browser that isn’t pornography is from that site. He contemplates an incalculable loss. Today, as many times before, he’s come home from a hard day of not doing anything at work, just wanting to lose himself in the magical world of user uploaded videos. Continue reading Life without YouTube: Haseeb Asif→
The death of the young girl brought incommensurable grief for the ‘Indian’ people. A national angst ensued with divergent voices seeking divergent ends: justice, death penalty, fast track courts, end to patriarchy, chemical castration, and a long list that cannot be spelt out here. There was a glimmer of hope that the discursiveness would ensue a quintessentially democratic process of debate, discussion, and deliberation amongst the people. The Indian state with its long-standing reputation wouldn’t allow for that to happen. It had to continue on its pet peeve of Breaking the Collective! The people’s movement in Koodankulam, the anti-corruption movement, the movement for seperate Telangana are some of the many instances that remind us of this pet avocation of the Indian state being pursued in recent times, almost, vocationally. However cynical it may sound, amidst the entire candle lighting and sloganeering, we failed to realise that the protest in Delhi was happening on the terrain that the government decided, in a manner that it wished for it to play out, and was party to the people it wanted to see there. I wish to argue that the closing down of the metro stations has a relation to the nature of the protests at Jantar Mantar. Furthermore it concurs with the tactics of chocking people’s movements logistically and stifling the collective by pathologizing the everyday life of masses. The tragedy of this lies in the fact that such actions of the state have become so recurrent that they have entered our common sense and they present themselves as normal and logical responses. Albeit they have been rationalized by invoking a specious reference to law, order, and safety, there is a need to unpack such a rationalization. My attempt is to extract these actions from that location of common sense and present them for public scrutiny. Through this essay, I would like to draw the connections between the democratic protests happening in locations across the country and state action in dealing with them. In doing so, I hope to bring to notice how the Indian state uses its machinery to purge protests of their democratic tenor and eventually, at least, attempts to break the collective. Continue reading Breaking the Collective – Notes from Jantar Mantar & Koodankulam: Vivek Vellanki→
Guest post byKAVITA, an activist with the Stree Mukti League
Translated from Hindi by Shuddhabrata Sengupta
It would be natural to expect that in the wake of the barbaric Delhi gang-rape of December 16 and subsequent popular upsurge of anger the police and the state machinery would betray a modicum of sensitivity and alertness. The reality is just the opposite of what you expect. We have heard this from many women in the past few days, and a few evenings ago, came face to face with this sad fact ourselves.
For the last few days, we (activists of the Stree Mukti League) have been going to different places in Delhi to hold meetings, demonstrations and to distribute leaflets against sexual violence. The leaflet has a contact phone number for the Stree Mukti League. Since the evening of the 1st of January this year a perverted male individual has been continuously ringing that number, abusing us, threatening us, using obscene and unprintable language. He even said ‘I know all you girls, and you cannot escape me. What I will do to you will terrify people…’, and several other things which cannot be repeated. Continue reading The Bitter Truth Regarding Delhi Police’s Womens’ Help-Line: Kavita→
A group of publishers (Oxford and Cambridge University Press and Francis & Taylor) have sued Delhi University & its agent, Rameshwari Photocopy Service for compiling short extracts from different textbooks into a digest for students to use as part of their study (commonly referred to as “course packs”).
Naturally, students, teachers and even authors of these text books have protested this aggressive law suit, particularly since this is perfectly acceptable under the Indian Copyright Act, which allows for “fair use” and permits any reproduction of copyrighted works, so long as it is done in the course of educational instruction.