Kashmir’s information bloackade: The Network of Women in Media, India and The Free Speech Collective

Report from Kashmir by a team from the Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) and the Free Speech Collective (FSC) .

A month after the 5 August abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the continuing shutdown of communication in the Kashmir valley has resulted in the throttling of independent media. As journalists continue to face severe restrictions in all the processes of news-gathering, verification and dissemination, the free flow of information has been blocked, leaving in its wake a troubled silence that bodes ill for freedom of expression and media freedom.

In this, the latest and most intense phase in the ongoing conflict on Kashmir, the government of India has pulled out all the stops – political, legislative, militaristic and punitive. It has detained and arrested scores of people, including leaders of mainstream political parties. No other democratic government has attempted a communication blockade of this scale in Kashmir.

In an effort to determine the impact of the severe crackdown on communication on the media in Kashmir, a two-member team from the Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) and the Free Speech Collective (FSC) spent five days in the Valley between 30 August and 3 September. The team spoke* to more than 70 journalists, correspondents and editors of newspapers and news-sites in Srinagar and South Kashmir, members of the local administration and citizens.

Key findings : Curbs on the media and its implications

Who Needs Romila Thapar’s CV?

Thapar questioned imperialist versions of Indian history, which the Hindutva Brigade still goes by.

Romila Thapar

..an historian who is indefatigable in the pursuit of knowledge and prolific in its publication, and who is above all a devoted partisan of the truth. … The early history of the country has been illuminated by Professor Thapar, whom I now present, more than by almost any other scholar. An historian of that period who seriously wishes to refute accepted fictions and dispel the general darkness will need several high qualities. (From a citation presented by Oxford University to Romila Thapar while conferring on her an honorary Doctorate of Letters in 2002.)

It was 1960, when Romila Thapar, a young historian at the time, wrote a 400 plus-page monograph on Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas. According to Oxford University Press, which published it in 2017, it tried to “trace virtually the entire span of Indian history.” The monograph is considered a classic today.

Thapar’s scholarly journey continues unabated at the age of 88. She is among the world’s foremost intellectuals, known for path-breaking work on Indian ancient history, as this interview acknowledges. Undoubtedly, her work has informed and inspired at least three generations of history students.

It hardly needs mention that Thapar has prestigious prizes to her credit for the scores of books and academic papers she has published. Twice, she declined the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award granted by the government.

Now Thapar is in the news because of a strange query from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) administration, where she has held teaching and administrative positions for roughly three decades.

( Read the full article here : https://www.newsclick.in/Romila-Thapar-CV-JNU-Historian-Hindutva-Brigade-Indian-History)

 

Exclusion of 19 Lakh People Shows the Irrationality of #NRC Exercise: Joint Forum Against NRC

The Final NRC published today has excluded a whopping 19.06 lakh persons in Assam. The NRC process had shifted the burden of proof of citizenship on to the entire population of Assam, with people undergoing deep travails over the past four years to get their names included. In a poor country like ours and in a state which witnesses frequent floods, it is not unnatural that lakhs of people were unable to produce documents to prove that they or their ancestors were inhabitants of Assam before 24th March 1971. To rob people of their citizenship and rendering them stateless on the basis of this flawed process would be a gross violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

Continue reading Exclusion of 19 Lakh People Shows the Irrationality of #NRC Exercise: Joint Forum Against NRC

Books About Wars in Your Country

A brief history of books, resistance, the police and politicians.

War and Peace

It is humanly impossible for even the most learned judge to have read every book referred to in their court. For a brief while this week, the judge conducting the trial of activist Vernon Gonsalves, an accused in the Bhima Koregaon incident of 2018, became an example of this. That was until the judge clarified that he is, in fact, aware of the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy and his epical novel War and Peace.

His response when the Bhima Koregaon charge sheet was placed before his court proves he knew of the provenance and contents of War and Peace. The confusion, it now appears, arose because the charge sheet had mentioned another book with a similar title. That is how the judge had ended up asking Gonsalves’ lawyers why their client possessed a book about wars in “other countries.”

It is not the judge’s knowledge of great literature but his belief that books about wars in other countries should not be owned (or read) by Indians that is a bigger surprise. Of course, since that remark, many commentators have pointed out that Tolstoy’s writings supported peace and not war. Accordingly, Mahatma Gandhi’s long correspondence with the literary legend is being highlighted afresh.

That said, this is not the first time that judges have expressed a curious indifference to the value of the written word, whether fictional or literary. The question arises, how can we tell if this incident is an aberration or the tip of an iceberg of flimsy excuses to keep people behind bars.

( Read the full article here : https://www.newsclick.in/books-about-wars-your-country)

Two Reports and Many Strategic Agents: Post-Disaster Thinking in Kerala

Two massive calamities, tremendous losses, continuing signs of serious ecological destruction impending — yet all we Malayalis seem to have produced in response: two reports, and even more frenzied strategic calculation. There is little doubt that the disasters happened in the first place at least partially because of the latter, but there seems to be no rethinking. Instead, we have strategic agents refurbishing their strategies to the new circumstances.

What else explains the Kerala government’s  Rebuilding Kerala Development Programme Report (RKDPR)? It popped up all of a sudden around the end of last year, after the UN-led Post-Disaster Needs Assessment Report (PDNAR), and even members of the Chief Minister’s Advisory Council were caught unawares.  The economist K P Kannan, whose life’s work has been focused on Kerala’s economy, a member of the Council, remarked in a recent interview in the Sastragathy that they did not know of it until the third meeting of the council. None knew who put it together, and there is no mention of this in the report itself. It draws heavily but selectively on the PDNAR, but also perhaps on the projects that were prepared for World Bank funding – and Kannan reaffirms this impression. The draft report was made available online for comments but there is no clear idea about these experts or the public consultations. Continue reading Two Reports and Many Strategic Agents: Post-Disaster Thinking in Kerala

Against Aachaaram: Lalitambika Antharjanam

This is the second in a series titled Against Aachaaram: A Dossier from Malayalam on Kafila. The note on Lalithambika Antharjanam is by J Devika. The excerpt from her story Vidhibalam (The Power of Fate) is translated by GEORVIN JOSEPH.

Lalitambika Antharjanam (1909-1987) was the first Malayali woman to achieve prominence in the field of modern Malayalam literature, and also among the first thinkers to reflect critically on modern gender as a framework for social existence in Malayali society. Born in the notoriously-aachaaram-bound Malayala brahmin community, she grew up to become one of its strongest and most vocal opponents. Her powerful short stories exposed the horrors that women suffered in conservative Malayala brahmin households. They indicted aachaaram again and again of dehumanising women, through heartbreaking accounts of their emotional and physical suffering, all sanctioned by the cold and ruthless workings of aachaaram.

Continue reading Against Aachaaram: Lalitambika Antharjanam

Kashmir, a phone call away? Ramnik Mohan

Guest post by RAMNIK MOHAN

“The number you are calling is currently switched off. Please try again later.” This has been the stock computerized response I have heard on calling a friend in Jammu and Kashmir over the last twenty odd days, and still counting. The chirpy, happily surprised voice I heard across our mobiles when I informed my young friend about my sudden arrival in Srinagar last January is too stark a contrast to register today. ‘Lockdown’ is the new buzzword for Kashmir these days.

All links of communication with the rest of the country having been snapped in one fell swoop, it doesn’t quite require much of an effort for any sensitive human being to imagine how life must be for all the folk out there. Nor should it take much of an imagination for such a human being to think of the plight of Kashmiris in the rest of the country dying to hear the voices of near and dear ones separated thus.

Continue reading Kashmir, a phone call away? Ramnik Mohan

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