My name is Asif

I sat in his autorickshaw.

When I left, he said his name was Asif.

When I sat in his autorickshaw, what struck me and amused me tremendously were the two identical photographs of film actor Preity Zinta stuck right on his photo identification which every autorickshaw driver in Bangalore has to display in the vehicle. Preity was dressed in a bridal outfit and stared prettily from the photo identification (in both the pictures). Amused I thought to myself, ‘urban closet desires’.

I was headed to National Market. Asif knew that National Market was somewhere close to Majestic, but he was unsure of the exact location. At one point he asked me which route I would like to take to get there and I gave him my preference. Then I asked him, ‘So you have Preity Zinta’s pictures on your photo id?’ He smiled and said, ‘Haan, woh Preity Zinta hai!’

As we crossed Corporation Circle, Asif started talking to me. ‘You know, there is an autorickshaw strike tomorrow.’

‘Why,’ I asked. Continue reading My name is Asif

Absent of the absent: The elusive stories of Naiyer Masud

By Gaurav Dikshit

The incantatory quality of Urdu writer Naiyer Masud’s ‘fictional universe’–as translator Muhammad Umar Memon puts it–would seem witchcraftish to isolated and uncertain readers. Brittle and fluid, the painstakingly imagined worlds of these short stories have no resemblance in world literature. As silent and palpable as a dream, they rustle the senses until one realizes they are quite unprecedented in form and as ambitious in their idea of fiction and of tragedy.

Masud has said his stories are based on his dreams, some recurring over months which he keeps recording on waking up. He has also confessed to be a ghar-ghusna (stayer-at-home), a phrase quintessentially of Lucknow, the city where he has lived all his life in the house his father built. Writing his first story at the age of 12, he retained its plot when he began publishing at 35. He has survived by teaching Persian at the Lucknow University, though he says “My true occupation, at any rate, is reading and, occasionally, writing.” Continue reading Absent of the absent: The elusive stories of Naiyer Masud

Medha Patkar on Singur and the Subversion of Truth

[A few days ago, CPM leader Brinda Karat wrote a piece entitled “The Truth of Singur” – a somewhat sanitized version of which was published in The Hindu. In the uncensored version circulating on email, she claimed quite unabashedly, that while her party stood with the peasants, workers and sharecroppers of Singur, Ms Roy (the reference here to the demonstration at the CPM office should not be missed) “is in the companyof Ms Mamata Banerjee, George Fernandes and Rajnath Singh and a 19-party alliance led by them (Krishi Jami Raksha Committee – KJRC) and has supported their campaign of anti-communist calumny.” The problem of course is that “anti-communist calumny” here is only a displaced effect of the struggle against the Tatas and in other contexts, Reliance and others – in short, corporate robbery of peasants’ land. If the communists have decided to stand with the corporations in West Bengal then it should be the CPM’s problem – not Ms Roy’s or Ms Patkar’s (about whose “political acumen” too, Brinda K is contemptuous). Parenthetically, we might refer to the extremely sexist, patriarchal and patronizing statement of her politburo colleague Biman Bose who reportedly said that “Mamata is behaving like an adamant little girl”. And presumably criticizing that would be indulging in “anti-communist calumny” as well, Ms Karat? Meanwhile, why forget that Buddhadeb Bhattacharya also made “communist” statements like saying that Medha Patkar is an outsider who just keeps going to different places creating trouble. Would you have been able to form a single union anywhere in a single place without “outsiders” ? This is the language used by the real anti-communists – to attack political activists by calling them “outsiders” is precisely anti-communist calumny. It just happens to be used by communists in this case! Apart from the matter of Singur, the fact is that Ms Brinda K’s piece confines itself to  the issue of compensation – a whole host of other issues that arise here are left unanswered. How can she or Biman babu for that matter, answer them? Medha’s response to the West Bengal government’s report raises, once again, all the issues that we need to keep in mind. – AN]

SINGUR: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Medha Patkar

Today when the world celebrates the 58th anniversary of the UN Charter of Human Rights as the International Human Rights Day, the people of Singur or Narmada or Raigad (Maharashtra), Dadri-Bajada (UP) cannot. They cannot be out of struggle for survival, for dignity, for life even for a moment to be able to breathe freedom and enjoy rights not just as citizens but as human beings.

The struggle of people of Singur continues at various fronts, ranging from the fasting group of women and men in Singur area itself to the one in Kolkata, from the everyday small and large actions by the representatives of various people’s organisations to the solidarity fora of the academics. It has gone beyond the heated Metropolis to the various districts of North & South Bengal since the voice raised from Singur is echoed in other places, why battlegrounds, and has
also effected other mass movements against similar onslaught of the corporatised State as in Midnapur district (against 2 SEZs & 1 Nuclear power plant). The prolonged violation of human rights and postponement of free, fair and informed dialogue on Singur is startling. A dialogue with a large alliance and network of people’s organisations, beyond electoral political allies or opponents of the West Bengal Government, could have been possible by now but for the over confident attitude and arrogance expressed by the West Bengal Government. The lack of initiative coming from anyone of the Left Front allies towards taking a serious cognizance and an urgent resolution through a decisive dialogue is certainly shocking.

Continue reading Medha Patkar on Singur and the Subversion of Truth

Thinking Kambalapalli in times of Khairlanji

M Venkatrayappa, a dalit from Kambalapalli, Kolar district, Karnataka still remebers the last glimpses of his wife Ramakka, sons Sriramappa and Anjaneya and daughter Papammas. It has been more than six years that they died a very tragic death. All of them with four others from their hamlet were burnt alive by the local Reddys.The police termed it revenge killing, supposedly in retaliation against the killing of Krishnappa Reddy, a village functionary belonging to upper castes.

Kambalapalli massacre in March 2000, had made national headlines.The tremendous public uproar compelled the then Congress government not only to apprehend the culprits but also shift the dalits to a new village which is situated around 40 kms from Kambalapalli.

Today all that is passe. The first week of December when the whole nation was debating the growing surge in atrocities against dalits came the damning verdict in this particular case. All the accused were acquitted.In legalese they call it the case getting settled as all ‘witnesses turned hostile’ during the court hearings. Continue reading Thinking Kambalapalli in times of Khairlanji

TRP: Television Rallying Point

Is Afzal now just a rallying point for intellectuals?

A day before the fifth anniversary of Parliament attack, some of country’s renowned journalists, activists and writers – led by Booker Prize-winner Arundhati Roy – came together to release a book that raises 13 “damning” questions about the attack. But is Afzal simply an intra-elite debate among India’s Left liberals or do the intellectuals actually have a public constituency outside the seminar halls of Delhi and Mumbai? [CNN-IBN]

A rallying point, says the dictionary, is “a point or principle on which scattered or opposing groups can come together.” So the question suggests that ‘intellectuals’ are merely exploiting Afzal to ‘come together’; the act of ‘coming together’ is the sole motive of the exercise. Continue reading TRP: Television Rallying Point

CPM In the Service of Capital

The cynicism of power, if you will, has got the so-called Left. In a sense, this is not very new – communists in power have always been diabolic to say the least. But this one takes the cake – pressed as it is in the service of capital. How else does one explain Sitaram Yechury’s insinuation that the entire struggle against forcible land acquisition in Singur, is motivated by corporate rivalry. How else can one read his statement that “There may be some whose interests would be hurt when the Rs 1 lakh car comes out. It is for the media to find out who could be behind all this”…There is of course a sense of deja vu in this cynical attempt to de-legitimize all opposition – such were the fairy stories fed to gullible followers about the soviet empire until one day, lo and behold! it vanished from the face of the earth.

Continue reading CPM In the Service of Capital

One Question

It is a matter of great satisfaction that our sluggish justice delivery system has bestirred itself and through a process of daily hearings found 100 people guilty of the conspiracy for the Bombay blasts. Almost 90% of them were Muslims, they as well as the remainder, have all been served their just desserts.

Justice has not only been done, more importantly, at least as far as our 24X7 media is concerned, it also appears to have been done. Every one knew from day one, who those fellows were, now the courts are saying that as well. So once these two basic requirements of appearance and deed have been met the national conscience, so gravely disturbed over the last several decades, can heave a collective sigh of relief and all men of good faith can take a well deserved rest.

One question, however, continues to bother me. Continue reading One Question

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